Jan 2008
Uglycousin Interview
Posted in Interviews by Lieb at 5:45 pm | No Comments »

Howdy folks,

Today we have the first in what will, hopefully, be a long line of fun and productive (scratch that, let’s just go with “fun”) interviews. We are doing our best to say hello to, and to shamelessly ride on the coattails of, fledgling web journals and web-literary luminaries alike. It’s our way of saying “Happy MLK day!” to all of you, completely by accident but sincerely nonetheless. Those of you with gub’mint or university gigs, enjoy your slack.

Our honored guests this evening are Angie Palsak and Scott Topping, editors of the journal uglycousin. Their main thing is publishing good work that was, for reasons often inexplicable after reading, rejected from other journals. They have two issues online at the moment, both of which you should read if you’re into things like “enjoying yourself” and tossing your head-noodle a bit. Definitely check out the Frankenpoem at the beginning of Issue 3. Some of the stories frankly shocked me when I remembered that someone else had originally passed on them first – no accounting for taste, I suppose. Anyhow, give our illustrious uglycousins a look-see, and read on to the end of this blurb for the interview link.

By the way, uglycousin’s current deadline for submissions is April 7th, 2008, so if you have a rejected gem sitting around, why not have a gander at their submissions page while you’re at it?

On to the interview!

The first question is the obvious one, I suppose—why create a journal specifically for stuff other people didn’t want?

Angie: Well, as a proud Salvation Army and Goodwill shopper I have come to realize that there is big business in supposed junk. I also know the thrill I get when I find something really cool that somebody else took for junk. Screw Crate and Barrel! My house is decorated with found treasure. That’s the philosophy behind uglycousin…found treasure.

Scott: I like that. I guess in Angie’s analogy I’m both the Goodwill shopper and, hopefully, some day an old four dollar jacket that someone thinks is a treasure. After looking at many people’s houses, I’d rather have the cool stuff they threw away than the cookie-cutter crap they kept. I suppose the connection to literary magazines is obvious.

We have to admit, the first thing we did after discovering your journal was frantically scan all the issues to see if there was an author or story we remembered from the Conte rejection pile. Provided, there are valid reasons for a publication to decline an otherwise solid piece, but there was still that initial moment of panicthe fear that we had missed something and were about to pay the mental price for it. Do you want other editors to have that kind of reactionespecially since you link the journals who initially did the rejection? Is there an intent to shake up some complacency implicit in your mission statement?

Scott: That wasn’t my intention, but it sure sounds fun. I’ve never really shaken anything up before. The links to the rejectors are plugs for them, basically. The links are an incomplete list, by the way. Some people send us lists of rejections longer than my bar tab.

Angie: I’ve seen Scott’s bar tab, it curls up like a grocery store receipt. Yes, the links to the rejectors are plugs. We both view uglycousin as an educational resource. In fact, I never buy any of those writer marketplace books because I learn about all the magazines out there from our submissions. It is really very self-serving to ask where else a submission was solicited.

What are your thoughts on rejection as a natural part of the publishing process?

Angie: Rejection is part of life. I used to take rejection very personally but now I am at the point where I can separate my writing from me. Rejection is wonderful—you can learn from it and grow. It’s kinda like growing up in a “modern urban crime environment” instead of the ‘burbs. Makes you strong. Very Nietzsche and all that.

Scott: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, unless it leaves you in a coma. Anyway, I agree. I don’t mind rejection. I prefer criticism. I really like acceptance.

When you reject a story, about how how often do you issue criticism or comments?

Scott: Not as often as I’d like. I had high hopes of writing thoughtful remarks to everyone who submitted something, but that quickly became a chore. Still, I try to write a line that highlights what I liked in a story. Usually, I have time to write only to those that we deem “close.”

Angie: I don’t offer any “literary” criticism or comments because I don’t feel I have the publications to support such commentary. While I have an MFA and have taught creative writing courses, I still don’t think I have the credentials to tell someone “why” they are not up to par. I do let them know (and anyone who reads the blog) what floats my boat and what I don’t really dig.

Uglycousin is one of a meager handful of online journals where the editors maintain a blog. Do you think this helps the journal feel more personal, or somehow less stoically removed from the selection process?

Angie: No, I don’t. A blog is a pretty narcissistic thing, perhaps even the act of an exhibitionist. I mean, why would someone want to read anyone’s day-to-day thoughts about anything? My hope is that my blog is personable and is a peek into the mind and experiences of not only an unpublished writer but an unpublished reader who really wants to publish some good writing! I like to think of it as the notebook accompanying the science experiment.

Scott: Angie is all alone on that part of uglycousin. I’m just an appreciative reader. I love it and steal many ideas from it. If either of the two of us should be an exhibitionist, it is her.

Has internet publishing changed how up-and-coming poets and writers publish their work? Do you feel it challenges the “old guard” of university-subsidized print publications?

Scott: There are certainly more places to get published now, which means more diversity, more talent, more opportunities, more rejections, and more crap. University publications need to focus on whatever will bring them prestige, positive recognition for their programs and their students; we get to focus on readers.

Angie: I agree with Scott— lot’s more crap out there because anyone can start an online literary site. However, there are also a lot more really good online lit mags which are neither pretentious nor academic. I am so tired of pretentious academics.

Would you like to see uglycousin in print someday? Do you think that’s the eventual goal of a successful online journal, or is that missing the point, and the value, of publishing electronically?

Angie: I would only want to see uglycousin in print if it meant that we could make a profit and not go broke printing it. I doubt if any of this could happen.

Scott: I still prefer to hold what I’m reading, so a big part of me would love to see uglycousin in print. I agree, though, that I wouldn’t want to do it as a vanity sort of thing. Seeing stacks of unwanted uglycousins would make me sad. Besides, we can do things on the web with links and such that we could never do in print. When we misspell someone’s name online, it is easy to fix.

You’re very sly about self-promotionthe handmade gifts for authors, the downloadable promo packs, etc. are all ingenious. That’s not really a question, but please tell us how those came about and how they’re working out for you.

Scott: Angie will tell you that she came up with those ideas, made the promo packs and the magnets and all that–probably because she did. All I did was hang a cool black sheep magnet on my refrigerator after she gave it to me. I did it in a sly manner, though.

Angie: Wow, thanks for the compliment! I have never been referred to in my whole life as sly. I am not sure how they are working for us but my hopes are that when a contributor has his or her uglycousin magnet on the fridge, that whomever drinks beer from that fridge will see the little magnet and think: “Mental note. I gotta see what uglycousin.com is all about”. I have some drinking-related propaganda to give away for Issue #4 which I am already excited about.

What are your long-term goals for Ugly Cousin? Where do you see the journal a year or two from now?

Angie: Hopefully we will have a bigger audience…I would like to continue what we are doing, but get much more audience participation. I guess I would like an uglyclique to form.

Scott: Shoot higher, Angie. I want an uglycult. Really, though, I just hope we’re around and active. It makes me sad to find those sites that have been left dead online.

Bonus question: Do either of you have particularly ugly cousins?

Scott: If you were familiar with the area I live in, you wouldn’t have to ask the question. None of us are very pretty. Fortunately it’s overcast most of the time so we don’t have to see.

Angie: Yeah, its always cloudy here in Michiana. That is why I pop Vitamin D like Pez. Well, all my cousins have really uglyfeet. There is a genetic mutation somewhere down the line. None of them wear sandals.

Thanks again to Angie and Scott for being such good sports and granting us our first interview – hopefully we can repay them eventually with a trickle of web traffic. In the meantime, Adam and I are going to work hard at getting our work dismissed by other journals, so we can maybe get our hands on one of them cool sheep magnets.

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