Friday, March 4, 2016

Six Questions for Elizabeth Bradfield, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Broadsided Press

Every month Broadsided Press publishes a literary/visual collaboration that is posted online (free!) for anyone to download and print.  Broadsides are posted in communities around the world  by "vectors." By harnessing an old tradition to modern technology, we hope to transform public space and put literature and art on streets. Submissions of short poems and prose are open to all.  We welcome new and established voices. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start Broadsided Press?

Elizabeth Bradfield: I started Broadsided Press in 2005 while living in Alaska.  At that time, a few things were on my mind: I was frustrated with the lack of access I had to literary publications.  I also felt sure that, while poetry might have a reputation for being inaccessible or esoteric, it really wasn't.  I wanted to do something to counter that. I had enjoyed working on literary journals, but I didn't see how I could put yet another conventional journal in the world when there were so many amazing ones out there already. I had just finished graduate school, and I wanted to build an artistic community that would inspire me as a writer, and what rose to mind was the hugely inspiring residency I'd had at the Vermont Studio Center surrounded by visual artists: their brushes and paper and sketches and tangible making.  In the late 1990s, I worked for an online parenting community, and I was struck by the way participants took ownership of the site, the way it connected people who felt isolated in their local communities.

Out of all that, Broadsided Press was born.

I love seeing what inspires visual artists in the writing that we choose, and I love being able to offer people the ability to insert a counter-voice into the visual conversations in their communities, which are usually commercial.  It's been exciting to see the press grow with new editors, platforms, and features -- the addition of our "Responses" features and the brand new "Vector Stories" we're sharing on our Tumblr (note: we're looking for more people to share their stories.  So far, we've featured photo-essays by Oliver Bendorf and Aimee Nezhukumatathil.  Anyone is welcome, poet, artist, or fan!).

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

EB: We look for writing that is artful, direct, and powerful.  We want work with strong literary merit that might also "sing" for readers who are not used to reading poems or flash fiction.  We strongly believe that good literature welcomes all readers to come to a new conversation with the subjects we all wrestle with or gives a window to experiences utterly foreign to us.  We want, quite simply, work that matters.  Work that is vital and necessary.  We want to be surprised.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

EB: Self-indulgence and sentimentality.

SQF: What is a Vector, and how does someone become one?

EB: Becoming a Vector is as simple as printing a broadside and putting it up on a notice board.  Vectors spread poetry and art to communities around the globe, and while we hope they will share their stories with us and tell us where they are posting, it's not required.  What is required is a spirit of transgressive joy, a love of art in the world, and a community-minded generosity.

SQF: If Broadsided had a theme song, what would it be and why?

EB: Maybe a combo of the "Mission Impossible" theme, "Double Dare Ya" by Bikini Kill, Bach's "Cello Suite No. 1" (performed by Yo Yo Ma) and the Mary Lou Williams Trio's "My Blue Heaven."  I feel we're part surreptitious mission, part rebellion, part sophisticated and delicately exacting art, part improvisational jazz.  In short, I guess I believe we're an unexpected combination of things that must be held in the mind loosely, shimmering and strange.

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

EB: Often, we are asked about how we choose the art for our broadsides.  We have a pool of visual artists who have agreed to work with Broadsided Press -- they are far-flung and talented people whose work we admire deeply.  Once the editors have chosen a piece of literature to publish, we send it out to the artists, and one of them speaks out to "dibs" it. We don't see their work as illustration, but as an artistic response.  The writing and art rest together, creating a whole greater than the sum of their parts.  Once the art is made, a designer puts the writing and art into a single, letter-sized pdf -- neither writer nor artist have any input beyond that point, but we do want to give them a chance to talk about the process.  To that end, we publish a "Collaborators' Q&A" with each broadside. This has become a rich trove of conversations about art, inspiration, and process.

Also, how do we keep the press going?  Broadsided Press is all-volunteer-run. Submission fees (which we just started charging this past year) cover our operating costs -- it's important, I think, to be clear about how a press keeps the wheels turning. We've set ourselves up to be a publication that can operate in the leanest of times, because we want to put our energy into finding and publishing great work, not fundraising.  And we want to be publishing for a long time to come.

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

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