SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Chris Talbot-Heindl: After graduating college with an art degree, I looked around me in rural Central Wisconsin and realized that there weren't a lot of opportunities in my area to show the kind of artwork I tended to make (polarizing, political commentary art). My husband, Dana, and I were brainstorming things we could do to make sure that I still got to do the creative thing but could also pay off the substantial student loan debt. The Bitchin' Kitsch started out as a joke idea – a late night brainstorm, that ended with "…and we could totally call it The Bitchin' Kitsch! Like, it's totally rad junk!" The next morning, when the idea didn't sound half bad, we decided to go with it. We wanted to focus on people who normally didn't get to have their work out there – pieces with a little grit, things that were slightly subversive, or had a level of kitschiness or silliness that "traditional" publications would reject. And we've been going strong ever since.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
CT-H: As the volume of submissions have increased, we've had to elevate our expectations slightly from where they were in the beginning. On top of being creative and different than the usual (our raison d'être), it now has to be done with purpose. That's the second most important thing we look for. We look to see if it brought something new to the table. A lot of times, we review submissions that were created to get something off the chest of the creator, and I have to search it for more. Does it have relevance to someone else, or is it more for self gratification? Self gratification is great, don't get me wrong, but it might not be the best fit for our publication. We want to save the pages for something that draws the reader/viewer in. The third biggest thing we look for is the style and skill. If it is poetry, were the line breaks arbitrary, or did they serve a purpose? If there is rhyme, did it add something to the poem, or did it cause it to be unreadable? Did it force bad grammar? Does the piece have verbal nuance, but not so much as to be unnecessarily vague? Etc. For most of the third thing(s), it is obviously hugely subjective. But, generally, if a piece feels thought out – if it properly makes use of or demolishes conventions and it feels like it was done on purpose, it passes that particular test.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
CT-H: Spelling and grammar mistakes turn me off the most. If a piece is rife with simple mistakes like that, it signals to me that the author or artist didn't take the time necessary to put together a completed piece. If they don't want to take the time to give me a polished piece, why should I take the time to read it?
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
CT-H: I do provide comments if requested. I know that some artists would rather not know, and some would. I like to provide the option so as to work with the artist or writer in the manner they want to be worked with. If there is no indication, I just let them know yes or no. If they've been rejected more than once, I send them a webpage we made that illustrates what we are looking for, and offer to provide them specific critiques.
SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors, who would they be?
CT-H: Aldous Huxley, Sherman Alexie, and Kurt Vonnegut. Hands down. I'm a huge fan of dystopian future and contemporary social commentary.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
CT-H: Probably, what is the most rewarding thing to being an editor?
The most rewarding thing for me is getting up in the morning and opening my email and seeing all of the submissions. Every morning, there are people who want to share their work with me and with The Bitchin' Kitsch. About once or twice a week, there's an email in there telling me how The Bitchin' Kitsch made someone feel this or that, or they saw their piece or a friend's piece in it and it made them happy. That is some serious feels, especially before the first cup of coffee. And it's totally awesome to me that we've been doing this for five years and we still get to do it every day.
Thank you, Chris. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.