Friday, March 7, 2014

Six Questions for Owen Kaelin, Editor, Gone Lawn

Gone Lawn publishes well-crafted, innovative, unusual and/or daring fiction, prose, prose poetry, visual narrative and other media that walk the difficult landscapes and ruin the safe ones, works which incite surprising and unexpected feelings and thoughts. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

Owen Kaelin: These would, of course, be language, ideas and feeling.

Language is, to me, more than simply a tool for telling a story. Language is part of the experience, and for some pieces it’s the experience.

Ideas: Conceptually speaking: confusion, disruption, discordance and uncertainty particularly interest me, but I think I’m open to approximately anything that gets me thinking.

Feeling: I’m big on sincerity and honesty in literature, and genuine feeling.

In particular, I often emphasize my desire for submissions to introduce me to feelings or thoughts that are “new” to me. Making discoveries in a piece I’m reading — entering the piece with no expectations and then coming out on the opposite end just a little bit changed — has always been, to me, an important part of the experience of literary art. If I feel like a story is parroting others I’ve read before, then I won’t feel quite so motivated to publish it. If, on the other hand, a piece hits me with an odd thought or feeling or perspective that I’ve never really considered before, or at least not in that particular way — or, if you like, draws it out of me — then I’m much more likely to want to show the piece to the whole world so they can experience that, too.

SQF: Your guidelines state you want "unusual and/or daring works” Are there topics that are out-of-bounds, or does it depend on the author’s approach?

OK: I don’t want people to take this to mean that I look for, or am asking for, subject matter that irritates boundaries or rips envelopes; I tend to look for works that explore and illuminate what is hazy or difficult to reach. This sort of exploration can be done with language alone as much as with narrative, character and dialogue.

That said, context and approach, as you mention, are always, of course, critical in designing any topic for the reader. I think I’m prejudiced much less by particular subject matter than the way it’s presented or expressed. For example, I tend to be turned off by stories of a “gritty” nature, stories with an ‘attitude’ or stories written in vernacular. Also, if I can picture a story in your typical academic journal — if the author has ‘done everything right’, so to speak, nothing less and nothing more — then I’m also unlikely to want to show it to people.

SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog? 

OK: No. I want what people read in Gone Lawn to be new to them.

SQF: When you gaze into your crystal ball, where do you see Gone Lawn five years from now?

OK: I feel like Gone Lawn is already about where it needs to be. I established the journal largely as a venue for works that might tend to be difficult to place, stylistically, and I hope to keep providing it probably for quite a while, at least so long as it’s needed. Occasionally, I guess, editors will start a webjournal hoping for it to lead at some point to a print venture, but print does not interest me much, anymore. I imagine the effort to navigate the print market, secure funding and get writers’ voices into the culture at the same time as being stressful and disappointing. Anyway, I don’t think I’d be very good at it.

SQF: What magazines do you read most often?

OK: These days, partially because of money constraints, exclusively online journals. Online is also where you’ll tend to find more often the more unusual, daring and unique things. Some extant journals that I like are Café Irreal;; Cease, Cows; A-Minor Magazine; Map Literary; The Bad Futurist; No Posit; Threadbare… .

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

OK: Well… maybe this: People rarely seem to talk about the design of any particular webjournal — unless, I suppose, it’s really bothersome… and I find the design of a webjournal to be especially important. I was talking to my coeditor, Yarrow Paisley, about this, recently, so it’s been on my mind, lately — he, by the way, suggests that if a reader doesn’t think about the design of a journal that they’re reading then the journal’s probably been designed well. Anyway… when I was putting Gone Lawn together, there were some things I knew I wanted right away, and other things I realized I wanted after scrutinizing the design elements of other journals I liked. I figured Gone Lawn ought to be easily navigable, the works should be easily read and well presented, there ought to be no distracting elements, the presentation art ought to be well integrated with the journal, the reader should never have to leave the index page to read a piece, and, of course, the journal should look nice. I hope that for most people I did a good job with it. I designed it the way I’d prefer it myself, as a reader, anyhow.

Thank you, Owen. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 3/11--Six Questions for Victor Rohm, Editor, Not Your Eyes

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