The Matador Review is a new online literary magazine based in Chicago. We contacted co-founder and editor-in-chief JT Lachausse to find what this new publication has in store for 2016 and beyond.
What made you decide to establish the Matador Review?
I had been interested in the literary magazine communities for a while and felt that there was something my team could offer. I won’t say that there was anything missing, because the online and print culture is vast and diverse; however, we wanted to dig a hole – welcomed or not – into both the literature and art world. There are great publications out there, namely The Adirondack Review and Bat City Review, that are unquestionably doing the Magazine Lord’s work; we are just cocky enough to think that we could have a place behind them, if not beside them, or somewhere upon the landscape of what they do and represent. We sat at a little glass table in my apartment and began tapping out questions, ideas, hopes, issues, things like: “What if we were The Paris Review’s ‘evil, rotten twin’?” That’s what really started it. Yes, there are countless houses for alternative art and literature, but we wanted to build something really special of our own. We wanted a style for our magazine akin to the recognition level of, say, The New Yorker or Paper Darts; we believed and believe that there are not enough characters in the magazine world. It’s difficult to really go on about all of the conversations we had during the conception phase without sounding all jumped-up – and maybe that’s because we really are jumped-up about this project – but that’s the nature of this team. We saw enough big and beautiful dogs in the fight that we wanted to jump in with our own scrawny, overweening chihuahua. But enough of the caveats and metaphors; in summary, we want to assemble a publication of “alternative” art and literature, both forms represented equally in quality and attention, and we want the magazine to be of real significance to the communities we are working with.
You describe yourself as being an ‘alternative art and literature magazine’: why alternative?
For every piece of quality art or literature, there is a home. Some “homes” include work that is regionally or culturally inspired, and some are reserved for particular genders, sexualities, or ethnicities. This sort of exclusivity creates an environment for distinct voices, and due to its distinction, these magazines are considered “alternative” (syn: “different”, “nonstandard”). What we wanted to do was to open up a home for art and literature that is, in every capacity, unconventional; this could mean a “fresh” voice, or perhaps a peculiar style, or maybe a bizarre subject that would otherwise struggle to find a place willing to parade it. As stated in our “About” section: “…our purpose is to promote work that is thought-provoking and unconventional; we want the controversial and the radical, the unhinged and the bizarre; we want the obsessive, the compulsive, the pervasive, the combative, and the seductive.” The Matador Review wants all of your redheaded stepchildren, but we want them on a damn good hair day. And they better not behave.
What advantages do you think there are in being an online-only journal?
First, and most obviously: it’s cheaper. Second: the time that normally goes into developing a print publication can instead be used to further develop the online presentation for our contributors. Lastly: once an issue is completed, the work is immediately available to our readers. This allows our contributors to have their work in a wider circulation and with instant access to it for sharing and referencing.
And the disadvantages? Would you like to evolve into a print publication at some stage in the future?
The disadvantages to online-only publications, I believe, are mostly rooted in preference. I love the smell and feel and look of books, so of course, it would be nice to hold any publication in my hand. Then there’s the issue of “lesser prestige” when it comes to online publishing. Getting published in a print journal is commonly seen as a greater accomplishment than getting published online (and this could be said of publishing in general). We can’t change this common notion overnight, but that is a long-term plan; we want to raise the perspective on online-only journals. This is part of the reason why we have focused on the uniqueness of our magazine’s design; if publication sources that are predominantly digital do not offer an attractive or distinct brand style, it will likely be difficult to stand tall beside the glory of the print world. All of that being said, we have had talk about potentially doing print anthologies, but that would be some time from now.
What piece of writing have you read recently that you wished you published (and why)?
‘No Telling,’ a poem by Sarah Lindsay that was featured in Volume 20 of Quarter After Eight. I’ve been a fan of Sarah’s work since I picked up a poetry collection of hers entitled Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower a few years ago on a chance grab in Barnes & Noble. Her work, and it can be said of “No Telling”, tends to examine the human race through the lens of things that are not human, particularly in the way that these creatures or elements affect us, and vice-versa. ‘No Telling’ takes a look at what is referred to as “water piglets”, a type of micro-animal, to explore our relationship with the microscopic world. It’s such an interesting theme to consider that I rarely get to read outside of Sarah’s work, so I guess I’m a tad jealous of Quarter After Eight.
Does being a writer yourself impact the way you are approaching running the Matador Review?
In certain ways, absolutely. I want to build a publication that I would be excited and proud to be a part of as a contributor. That’s particularly difficult now, considering we are still a newborn, but I ask that question to myself: “What would make me enthusiastic to submit to a magazine’s premier issue?” As a writer, I would want to believe in their mission or purpose. I would want to see a sincere, promising team and I would want the magazine to have a good soul about it. I believe that the Matador Review is on that path, but only because of the dedication and passion of the entire team. We’re all writers and artists, and we’re all looking at this budding flower, asking ourselves: “Would I want my work here?” Hell yeah – we would.
What tips do you have for writers who have not been published before or who may be submitting their work to a literary journal for the first time?
If you have work that you are proud of, work that you have spent time with and have learned it to be representative of your voice, seek publication. At first, it may seem daunting or tiresome, but once you have your work beside other great artists and on display for the world, it does change you. You will have officially begun your journey into the world of saying something – and yes, you do have something to say. Every person does. No person can write the things that you have within you, and it is important for you to share those experiences and feelings and questions. Seek a home that your work feels right in; read as many journals and magazines that you can and get to know what landscape of work they each tend to publish. Join the community, because there will always a spot for you. You’ve just gotta get up, get ready, and come to the party.
The Matador Review is accepting submissions for its first issue until 31 May 2016. It will consider fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, flash fiction, poetry, book reviews and visual art. Visit the Matador Review website for further details or follow the magazine on Twitter for news and updates.