INTERVIEWS


by Joanne Jagoda

Joanne Jagoda

I suppose I owe a debt of gratitude to my young bitchy boss with her ice pick style of management. When I finally had enough of her poking away at me, I decided it was time to retire at the age of 59. So there I was, at a new juncture of my life, a youngish senior, trying to figure out what the hell to do with the rest of my life. I found several volunteer jobs right away, including teaching English as a second language to Chinese seniors and working with children in a poor school in East Oakland. I needed something else. I knew I could only exercise, go out to lunch, and shop for so many days until I’d be bored. I needed to find something to keep me feeling vital and alive. What would open the magic gate to lead me on a journey I had not ventured on before?

I had always liked to write, and as a history major and English minor had done endless term papers, but I never attempted any serious creative writing. I was fortunate, or maybe a better word is the Yiddish expression, that it was beshert or destined for me to find a daytime writing class, Lakeshore Writers in Oakland, which had a spot in the spring class. It was a writing workshop using the Amherst method. The class met Thursday mornings for two and a half hours. I was willing to give it a try. One class…it couldn’t hurt. If I hated it I just wouldn’t continue, lose the deposit, whatever.

I got to the class early that Thursday, chatted with the facilitator as the other women rolled in. We eyed each other. I was the oldest. What the hell am I doing here? I sat down on the mismatched chairs, clutching my lemon ginger tea listening to the instructions. We would write on three prompts during the class time, read our work out loud and give positive feedback to each other. We were to treat everything we heard as fiction. My first prompt, I still remember it … “write about hair.” Oh shit, I’ve got nothing to say. I take a breath, gulp my tea, stare at my blank yellow legal pad. Maybe I could write something about my daughter’s mane of wild curly hair which has always been a source of drama for her. It had a life of its own, and I had my story.

And that one class was enough. I was hooked. Who would have ever believed that I had words, and sentences, and images and memories waiting to burst forth out of me. It was as if I had new glasses on and could see for the first time. I started to look at things differently. I started to hear snippets of conversations everywhere which I wanted to incorporate in my work. I found colorful characters lurking in the supermarket checkout line, on the BART train, in the jury pool when I had jury duty. I went back to my childhood in my head, remembering the poppies Mrs. Mialocq used to give me over the fence and the neighbors down the street who had a drunken brawl and my tap dancing class. I wrote fiction, nonfiction, and found I had a gift to write poetry.

I had discovered a new world like some intrepid explorer stumbling upon the universe of literary magazines, online submissions and contests, and a whole new vocabulary of “simultaneous submissions” and “flash fiction.” I started to submit and was in a writing frenzy. I was like an addict hooked on a drug which gave me a fulfilling high. In the beginning, I had some surprising successes even placing in the Writer’s Digest contest with an honorable mention. I didn’t realize that was a pretty big deal. There were other first place and second place wins, and it was a thrill seeing my work published. Then came the Rejections…there have been plenty of those sometimes arriving on a half sheet of paper. I mean really, couldn’t they at least send it on a whole sheet?

Now five years later I am still on this writing journey, and there are days when it is not easy. The most difficult challenge is making writing part of my daily routine. This requires a steely resolve to make time to write no matter how busy I am and treating my writing as a job. It is easy to put it aside when life gets too full. I still struggle in believing in myself. There are days when I’m a “writer” not a WRITER. One of the nicest things that happened to me early on was when a friend who encouraged me tremendously held a “Salon” for me to read some of my work at a tea. It was a thrill to share my writings with a rapt and appreciative audience.

I have been fortunate to become involved with the website, Pure Slush, and have written a number of pieces, which have been published by editor Matt Potter, who lives in Adelaide, Australia. I am one of the thirty-one writers in his ambitious 2014 project where a monthly anthology will be published for the twelve months of 2014. Each writer takes a different day. Mine is the thirtieth of the month, and I wrote a mystery. It has been amazing to become part of a group of writers from all over the world. A reading is in the works for November in New York City, and I’m thinking of attending to read one of my chapters. Maybe then I will finally consider myself a WRITER and not just a “writer.”

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Since retiring in 2009, it took one inspiring writing workshop to launch Joanne Jagoda of Oakland California on a long-postponed creative writing journey. Since discovering her passion for writing, she has been working on short stories, poetry and nonfiction. Her work has been published widely online and in print magazines and anthologies including Pure Slush 2014; 52/250, a Year of Flash; Persimmon Tree Literary Magazine; Women’s Memoir-Seasons of Our Lives, Summer; and Still Crazy. Joanne was the poet of the month for the J, a Jewish news weekly. She continues taking writing workshops and classes in the Bay Area, enjoys tap dancing and Zumba, traveling with her husband and visiting her four grandchildren, who call her Savta.

 

by Susan Tepper

RStratten

Robin has been a writing coach for almost 25 years. Her first novel, On Air, was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Award. She is the author of Of Zen and Men and In His Genes, and co-author of Then She Ran. She also has two full-length collections of poetry and short fiction: Dealing with Men and Interference from an Unwitting Species. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she’s been published in Word Riot, 63 Channels, Antithesis Common, Poor Richard’s Almanac(k), Blink-Ink, and many others. Her short story, “Ma Writing,” was a finalist in The Lascaux Review flash fiction award, and appeared in their 2014 Anthology. In her spare time, Robin edits the Boston Literary Magazine. Learn more about Robin at http://www.robinstratton.com/

Susan Tepper: Your novel In His Genes opens in a most unique way. What underlying forces or personal drama drew you toward a medical-mystery as the book’s focal point?

Hiding in Plain Sight — the elusive Carina Dwarf Galaxy

Robin Stratton: It’s a bit of a long story… I have had a passion for genetics for years, and I read a book called Decoding Darkness by Dr. Rudy Tanzi – about the race to figure out what gene mutation causes early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

ST: A pretty heavy topic.

RS: Tanzi’s book, which I highly recommend, is also his story as a young researcher, and the story of a family stricken with the disease… the early onset type can begin in your late 30s… and if you’ve got the gene, not only are you absolutely going to get AD, but there is a 50% chance that you’ll pass it on to your children.

So I contacted Dr. Tanzi, and asked if we could work together on the movie of his book. He said yes! And so we did… I got most of the way through before the family who’d been featured in the book got cold feet. I think Rudy did, too. Anyway… so I had to let go of the project.

ST: Oh what a pity! I hate to see good work go down the drain.

But your book In His Genes is also a love story. Did you find it difficult placing genetics into the context of a love story? Or, are genetics also about love? Or is it the other way around?

RS: This is the perfect question for this book, Susan! I think romance and love are essential in any novel about human dynamics, which is the topic I prefer, and so there was no question that there would be a romance. Cassandra (Cassie) is very much like me (all my female leads are) and so when I crafted her love interest, I described the man I would be in love with— scientific, kind, warm, great conversationalist, and passionate.

FRONT COVER(1)

ST: The title is great, though I must admit I kept thinking jeans…

RS: I really wanted a blockbuster title, and I had a lot of trouble… there were these three things going on: the science of the story, the romance, and the supernatural theme. I wanted a title that would reflect all those things. When I hit up In His Genes I felt that it was reminiscent of that old book, In His Steps— it directly referred to genes, and it had that nifty sexual innuendo. 

ST:  I wasn’t going to bring up the supernatural theme, don’t want to give too much away… but since you already gave us a whiff…  did you know at the outset you would bring the supernatural into the book?

RS: My boyfriend is a UFO freak and buys into everything alien, and when we started going out, he wanted me to write a book about an alien titled “My Boyfriend Wasn’t From Here.” I am not a big alien believer, but thought it would be interesting to have a character that leaves people thinking, Is he… or isn’t he…. ? For a little while that was the working title, until my writing partners begged me to change it. My boyfriend had to settle for a short poem I wrote with that title that was published in my chapbook Dealing with Men. So, yes, I began with those two intersecting/contrasting themes: rigid scientific testing of data vs. faith without evidence of any kind.

ST: That’s a very cool contrast of themes in a book since they are (traditionally) diametrically opposed. I was captivated by this character you introduced, Palmer, but also leery of him. I am leery by nature. I wasn’t born that way, but over time… I think one tends to grow leery and time-worn. Too many struggles and let downs and you just start to see things differently.

Do you feel your protagonist Cassie becomes leery or time-worn as the book moves along?

RS: I think the whole point is that she starts out by being leery. Cynical, I guess is the word I’d use. To me, she’s a reflection of people today who are cautious about allowing mystery and beauty… what if you’re wrong about something? You’ll feel so let down! Best to just doubt everything.

ST: It is a tough world out there in a lot of ways. Trust can be difficult. It’s sad.

RS: Yes, and that’s typical of a particular scene when her car won’t start, and this guy Palmer (who she just met) comes outside of the bar to see if he can get it going. All she can think about is how she always complains that no one wants to help and yet when someone does… it all becomes suspicious! So her character arc had to involve learning to trust— without using scientific data which is the nucleus of her work life and her thought patterns.   

ST: This book, with its unusual and compelling focus on science, also manages to be character driven. I found Cassie an endearing character. She is flawed like all of us, yet she allows us into that dark space that most people (in real life) work hard at covering up. Do you, as her creator, identify with her?

RS: Cassie is a woman who hasn’t been able to find The One, and is mystified at the ease with which all her friends have accomplished this romantic feat. Like so many single women, she got ditched by her friends when they got married. I think of her as very strong and independent. She’s smart and knows what she wants. Her dedication in the lab and her passion for genetics would have happened even if she weren’t madly in love with her boss.

ST: Ah… her boss. A strange fellow in many regards, because he feels so ‘perfect’… (may I have his number please.) And speaking of please, she goes out of her way to please his every whim, or so it seems.

RS: I think that Cassie was raised to think of others first, the way I was, but I don’t think she goes overboard. She’s not suffering in silence about anything; I think she acts out of love. I sandwiched her between an older sibling and a younger sibling so that age wouldn’t be an “excuse” for her station in life, ie, no money, as compared with her “successful” brother and sister. I wanted to touch on the idea that success doesn’t have to mean money or a great marriage and kids. It can be about personal fulfillment. In fact, it should be about personal fulfillment. (But money and a great marriage are nice, too!)

ST: Not too many people would argue that point, Robin. No spoiler alert here: I just want to say I found the characters and plot fascinating. This book really held me. As we all want to be held.

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 Susan-Tepper200wSusan Tepper has authored 5 published books. The latest is a novel in stories called The Merrill Diaries, from Pure Slush Books. She is a named finalist in storySouth Million Writers Award for 2014, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction (2010), and nine times for the Pushcart Prize. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the interview series UNCOV/rd. www.susantepper.com

By Andree Robinson-Neal

Andree Robinson-Neal

Back in January, Bonnie ZoBell interviewed Pure Slush founding editor Matt Potter and because FFC readers were interested in learning more about him and the Pure Slush chapbooks and authors, your intrepid FFC staffers grabbed Matt and threw a few more questions at him. Also, a number of his authors from the Year in Stories series came along for the ride.

First off, let’s hear from Matt:

So Matt, what was the seed for the idea of the Year in Stories project?

I was reflecting on my wish to have Pure Slush publish a book a month in 2013, and realizing very early in the year that this was not going to happen. I first thought one story a day, 365 writers … and then thought, no. But 31 writers each taking the same day of the month, allows writers to develop longer stories across a wider arc. And it snowballed very quickly from there, and the next day, I think, I sent emails asking writers to be involved.

We are now about halfway through the project; has it gone as you envisioned?

As of April, there were 92 stories yet to be submitted and signed off, so while 2014 June Vol. 6 was released in early April, 273 of the 365 stories have been written and accepted. Parts have been more difficult – writers saying “Hey, I need to change something in a story I submitted some time ago” – while other parts have been easier. Five of the 31 writers have finished all their stories, with a few not far behind. Some however, are still only half way through writing all their stories. How best to approach these writers and hurry them along is individual, and a challenge. Sometimes it feels a little like I’m cracking a whip.

Have there been any surprises?

The biggest surprise is the unprompted diversity in stories and styles. Each story cycle really is different from all the others. If I was to do this again (and I’m not) I would start even earlier, 10 months earlier rather than seven months earlier.

What hints (topic ideas, voice, etc.) can you give the readers (and perhaps those who would like to contribute their writing) to your next project?

Come prepared to work on your stories. If a requirement is that the stories be written in the present tense, then write them in the present tense! Keep to deadlines and communicate with the editor. Once the twelve 2014 volumes are complete, I will be returning to 2 smaller projects I have put on hold for much of the last year.

There are plans for something new online in 2015, and another large print project in 2016 … so stay tuned. And in the meantime, Pure Slush is still accepting submissions for online publication in 2014. The theme is travel, and you can find details here: http://pureslush.webs.com/themessubmissions.htm#831675008

The Year in Stories would not have been possible if it weren’t for the authors who, well, wrote stories. We asked a few questions and here are the thoughtful responses from some of this year’s writers:

Why did you want to be a part of this project?

Mandy Nichol: First off it’s a terrific concept, and Matt is fabulous to work with. I usually write very short stories, so to continue to write about the same characters, to get to know them more than I usually would, seemed like a great way to push beyond my normal. I’ve always played it pretty safe and felt it was time to have a peep over the parapet. Now there’s no way I’m jumping out of an aeroplane but with this project I thought hey, this could be my leap into the blue yonder.

Shane Simmons: Quite simply, I noticed the initial posting on the Pure Slush Facebook page, which outlined the idea for the project and was calling for participants. My first thought was “I love this idea!” My second thought was that it seemed ridiculously ambitious! A single person (Matt Potter of Pure Slush) collating and editing THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE STORIES himself (!) but the opportunity to get involved alongside thirty other creative minds, all working on this mammoth project was the huge attraction.

What’s been the toughest challenge?

Vanessa ParisFor me, the toughest challenge has been maintaining the narrative while ensuring each individual story can stand alone. It’s harder than I expected, because each time I start a new month, I have to think, “Okay, what do I have to make sure is included – or at least implied – or risk losing the reader?” Sometimes it’s easy stuff, like making it clear that two characters are in a romantic relationship, but other details are more subtle. In those cases, not only does it have to be conveyed again, you have to find a new way to do it so it doesn’t get redundant over the course of months. Also, there were points where I wished I could go back and tweak a detail or two from previous months, so it would work better with the month I was working on, but that wasn’t possible.

Jessica McHugh: I’ve encountered a handful of challenges along the way, but I think I’m experiencing the toughest right now, at the end. I’ve written the last two stories in my serial, but I haven’t revised them yet, partly because I don’t want to let go. Unlike most short stories, the serial allowed me to spend as much time with my main character, Edward McKenzie, as I do with novel characters. I know him. I care about him. Edward was plucked from a failed piece I wrote when I was nineteen, and after so many revisions that still led to rejections, I thought I might never have the chance to introduce him to the public. But thanks to 2014: A Year in Stories, he’s experienced more than ‘a day in the sun.’ It gave me the opportunity to explore his personality so much more, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. It going to be tough saying goodbye.

Was there a point where you thought “I must be crazy for agreeing to do this?”

Michael Webb: Towards the end of the project, it got more difficult to come up with events for each story that were plausible and compelling in and of themselves while still furthering the overall yearlong growth of the characters. It was like playing chess against multiple opponents at once.

What, if any, affect has this project had on your writing?

John Wentworth Chapin: I thought this would be a side project. It’s not. It’s a tremendous project, and it has swelled like a gas to fill its container: 2014. I am excited to see where it ends up. Moral of the story: be prepared.

Lynn Beighley: I’m more of a short story writer than a novelist, and while these are essentially connected short stories, there is a feel of the novel about them. I’m learning.

What was the best piece of advice you received from Matt about your work through this project?

Gill Hoffs: I wish I could remember – to be honest, I usually absorb what Matt says so it’s hard to bear particular comments in mind.  When I first worked with him he sent me a lengthy email full of tips and advice which I printed off, highlighted, and taped inside my workbook.  I used to tell Matt working with him was like a mini-MFA!

But wait! There’s more!

Each writer answered all of these probing questions; Matt will be posting the full interviews soon so keep an eye on Pure Slush and his blog for details.

____________

Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury–both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at starvingartist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

 

by Aliza Greenblatt

Jessi Cole Jackson

Jessi Cole Jackson lives and works in the prettiest part of New Jersey, though she’s not from there. By day she builds costumes for a Tony Award-winning theatre. By night she writes stories, questionable poetry and lots of abandoned outlines. She’s currently up to her elbows designing costumes for a children’s theatre camp and writing an MG novel. When she’s not working she enjoys cooking, reading, and exploring local farms. You can read more about her sometimes exciting (but mostly just normal) life at jessicolejackson.com. Her story, Remnants of a Quilter’s Memory, was EDF’s highest-rated story for June.

Aliza Greenblatt: According to your blog, you are mostly a science fiction/fantasy writer for middle grade readers. What draws you to speculative fiction? When did you first decide to write stories? For you, what is the appeal of flash fiction?

Jessi Cole Jackson: I love the juxtaposition of “other” and “same” in speculative fiction. As a reader, I can experience whole worlds outside of who or where I am (or could ever be). As a writer, I can explore class, religion, nationality, gender, race, illness without getting tied up in contemporary politics. And I can make the exploration fun.

I first started writing in school, but gave it up in college, because I didn’t think it was practical…instead I went into professional theatre—ha! I started writing stories again seriously in the winter of 2013.

Flash fiction gives me a chance to explore. I can try new styles, new techniques, non-traditional narratives without worrying that I’ll “waste” too much time on a draft. And it gives me a chance to practice my craft in small bursts.

AG: When you sit down to write a new story, what is your process like?

JCJ: Usually stories come to me as ideas or situations, so the first thing I struggle with is plot—what’s the beginning? What’s the end? What happens in between that isn’t too expected, but still fits the characters and their lives? I outline it all in the broadest of strokes.

Then I often start writing longhand—pen to paper. I like how visceral and visual it is. Plus, it gives me time to think. Writing everything out takes time. Sometimes, I’ll finish the story in my notebook and then edit it while transferring it to Word or Google Drive or Scrivener. Other times, I’ll get frustrated with the slow going of writing, and I’ll switch to the computer to finish the initial draft.

I’m not disciplined about when I write, though thoughts flow easier for me in the early mornings when the world is still not quite awake.

AG: When I first read this, I was smiling because I know in your day job you are a costumer and spend a lot of time working with different fabrics. And I couldn’t help wondering—do you have bits of cloth from costumes lying around? Do you ever re-purpose them?

JCJ: During a show at work there are often bits of costumes everywhere! But those don’t ever come home with me—they get bundled up with the show in case there is a tear or hole that needs repaired.

But I do have lots of fabrics from personal projects through the years. So far, I’ve only slipped them into a few baby quilts for friends—a bit from an old apron, a strip from a favorite shirt. Quilts are the best places for those well-loved fabrics to land. If only they weren’t so time-consuming!

AG: Using remnants from her own life not only helped Louise remember but made sure the people she loved didn’t forget. But as I read, I wondered, did Louise know that her memory was failing her? Did she sew as much for herself as for others, to hold onto those old threads and memories for just a little longer?

JCJ: I think Louise knew something was wrong, but wasn’t entirely sure what it was. I think she was angry. More than that though, I think she was frightened. Especially as she got older and lost both the ability to create and the enjoyment in her art.

As with all artists, I think Louise quilted as much for herself as for her “audience.” Fabric was her medium. The quilts were a tangible way to pass on what was most meaningful to her, since she couldn’t hang onto them herself.

AG: I liked the use of repetition in this story. It emphasized not only what Louise recalled, but what she needed to remember. But the tragedy of the story was she remembered the repetition, but not its meaning. Was it tricky balancing the repetition and suspense in the piece? What were some of the challenges in writing such a short story?

JCJ: Thank you! I think Remnants’ super-short length is necessary for both the suspense and the repetition to work. If it were much longer, the poetry of it would quickly become a formula and it would start to grate on the reader…or at least on me!

When I originally submitted this to EDF it was only 300 words. It didn’t quite work at that length—it was more of a vignette than an actual story, which is a common problem for me. But the editors must’ve seen something in it, because they asked for a rewrite. Taking into account their feedback, I added the scenes where Louise, Margreet and Ruthie interact. These gave the quilting sections more of a framework and doubled the length. It’s still not the most traditional narrative, but I think it’s a more cohesive story.

AG: What other projects are you currently working on? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

JCJ: I’m currently working on expanding a few flash stories that don’t quite work (that whole plot thing!). I’m also (very patiently) waiting for feedback from beta readers on a draft of a middle grade novel based on my first ever published story, The Rum Cake Runner, available over at Crossed Genres Magazine.

AG: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.

JCJ: Thank you.

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Aliza Greenblatt

Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night. Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper. She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreenblatt.

 

 

submittable-logo-02

I recently sat down with Michael Fitzgerald of Submittable to talk about the service and business, alongside his personal writing. While it’s been a long path for the company, I believe there are key insights in the interview and Michael’s path to help entrepreneurs and artists alike.

MF

Christopher Bowen: Thanks for giving me some of your time, Michael.  For those not aware of it, could you give a brief history of Submittable over the last five or so years?

Michael Fitzgerald: Thanks, Chris. I appreciate your interest.

History: My partners, Bruce and John, and I were friends through our day jobs as software developers. In 2008, Bruce and I were bored and thought starting a company together would help. (We had previously worked on a film together about people who climb mountains with letters on them.) So we went out to lunch one day and made a list of things that we thought sucked. One of them was the various ways you send out work. We didn’t know exactly how to fix it, but we came up with the name “Submishmash” because we thought it described the crappiness of the existing process, and we started writing code that afternoon.

We went in the wrong direction for about a year.

During this time, our friend John joined us. He’s a musician and an incredible developer. By early 2010, we had the first version of Submittable (then still  Submishmash). It started to get some traction with literary and academic publishers. Then we just kept working and working (we didn’t really pay ourselves until 2012) and added video and audio transcoding, worked to make the UI better and better. We added the ability to share among multiple people and multi-file usage which is great for poetry. We basically just asked the people using it how to make it better and did whatever they told us.

Also, in 2012,  we applied and were accepted into arguably the most elite start-up accelerator, YCombinator. It was an amazing experience. YCombinator helped launch Dropbox, Airbnb, and a few other billion-dollar companies. They really got us to focus and grow up a little as a company. Before that it was all pretty much by the seat of our pants. No one was being paid and the company was always inches away from combustion. We’re on a much more solid foundation now. We have an office and 10 employees.

CB: You’re a writer yourself. How did this concept develop for you and how do you handle or separate your life as an author from that as a ‘techie’ or business owner?

MF: I don’t really separate my life as an author or developer or business owner. In the beginning, I used to try to turn things on and off, but slowly it became apparent all these things are more or less the same process. You’re making things that didn’t exist. You’re trying to get strangers to spend time with your thing and hopefully pay you so you can keep the thing going. You’re living without any kind of safety net. It’s all the same process.

 I remember when I finished my first novel, Radiant Days, I was completely exhilarated for the first few days, but then it began to dawn on me that no one actually asked me to write it. This was a sort of blunt and obvious thing that just wasn’t crystal clear until I had the 400 or so pages in my hand and the words “The End” typed on the last page.

I’ve also since realized that the best business minds are similar to artists. Most truly successful business people are total freaks. Before starting Submittable, I assumed “business” meant playing around in Excel sheets and honing insincere marketing slogans. I assumed I needed an MBA to start a company, but it’s a little known secret in Silicon Valley that MBAs actually suck at starting companies. They’re good at working within large companies, they’re good with asking bullshit questions that make you feel like they know something you don’t, but ultimately they are horrible at making something out of nothing. Starting a company is a weird, personal, and organic process. You’re doing it with no money, no support, no marketing budget. It’s just you and your friends in your basement desperately trying to get a stranger to give you a dollar for this weird thing you may have spent years working on. You have to be constantly resourceful. You have to thrive on rejection. You have to be, not just comfortable, but enthusiastically working in the face of almost certain failure.

Incidentally, the most successful artists generally have a bit of business savvy.

Also, after trying both, I’m finding both art and start-ups are horrible ways to make money.

Regarding the “idea”: I knew as a writer (and previously an editor at Cutbank and having started a magazine in college) that the existing process sucked a little and that as electronic communication became ubiquitous, the problem was going to get bigger and bigger. Also, any developer understood that cloud computing was going to make processes like this less and less expensive.

CB: Where do you see Submittable headed to in the future?

MF: With Submittable, we’re going to keep adding new features while desperately trying to keep the UI simple and hopefully beautiful.

But the biggest thing on the horizon is Submishmash… an intergalactic creative content marketplace that will allow creators to sell anything they make.

CB: Where do you see your writing headed?

MF: I’ve continued to publish fiction and non-fiction here and there, but my big project is a non-fiction book called Startdown. It’s mostly about the process of starting a company in the middle of nowhere. (We live in Montana.) The nuts and bolts: how to create a life that lets you work on something for 2-3 years without going bankrupt, how and when to raise capital, how to hire (and fire) people in a small town where everyone knows each other. How and when to get an office. The aim of the book is to show people how to do it outside existing tech and financial hubs like Silicon Valley or New York.

Also, I’ve found a new appreciation for “writing” in the process of building Submittable. Writing well is so undervalued in our world, oddly enough, especially by writers. I think there’s a huge opportunity to infuse art into what we traditionally call the “business world.” “Content marketing” has become kind of a bullshitty buzzword. The vision isn’t to have poets doing marketing as much as to make businesses understand that eclectic and interesting writing has a huge value to them. Businesses can gain so much from demonstrating personality. An example would be to have a poet or novelist on staff at a shoe company, but not to write a blog post about the company’s innovative new lacing system, but about some general and interesting story like the history of the high heel.

____________

Bowen

Christopher Bowen is an Ohio author and culinary chef. His recently-released personal fiction chapbook, We Were Giants, is available from the publisher, Sunnyoutside Press. He blogs at burningriver.info.

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