For my Z post I am lucky enough to have been able to ask a good friend if mine a little about the online journal she has started with her friend fittingly for this challenge her E-zine is called Zest
What inspired you to create your own online journal and how does it differ from the others out there?
Amy – For me personally, I knew this was the project I wanted to take on so that I could use the skills I’d gained in my previous life as an Acquisitions Editor at a textbook company for good in the creative writing community. I left publishing to pursue my life-long dream of being a writer, and eventually an author. I wanted (and still want) to be on the other side of the desk…getting my own work published. But, while I work towards that goal, I have a lot of resources to draw from, from my 10 years in publishing. So, why not put some good writing karma out there and make space for others also trying to pursue the same dream of being published?
Kate – Let’s face it, there is a myriad of online journals out there and, at first glance, many appear to be easily accessible to all types of creative people. However, the reality is often quite different. There can be specific criteria that potential contributors need to meet on a personal level before they can even contemplate submitting their work. And the guidelines are often sketchy. As a writer, I’ve found it can be hard to really understand what some editors’ expectations are. I wanted to be able to create an online journal that was a little more inclusive and less rigid. We don’t have set criteria regarding ‘desirable’ contributors. That’s just not what we’re about. Regarding the submissions, we are genuinely interested in diverse, quirky, original writing and artwork that inspires us. It feels great being able to create artistic space for others.
Can you quickly sum up each of the people working behind the scenes on Zest?
Amy – I am definitely the neurotic, obsessive, probably-too-organized for my own good one. I’m a list-maker. So, I constantly had a list, or multiple lists, going – whether it be a list for a meeting agenda, or an ‘action-item’ list for after the meeting, or just general to-do’s, stuff to remember, etc.
Kate – It’s funny that Amy’s the neurotic type. She’s from California but I guess I’m the one who’s more laid back. I was very good at turning up to all of the meetings on time but I always followed Amy’s agenda! Don’t get me wrong, I can stress about things but I think we work well together and keep each other balanced and calm. Tea helps. So does wine. The other thing is that this whole process (little hurdles aside!) has been such a blast and we’ve had so much fun working together and learning from one another as we’ve both brought different skills to our project.
How hard is it to decide what goes in and what hasn’t made the grade?
Amy – I think at first it was really hard, but then we put on our editor hats, reminded ourselves that if we had to ‘justify’ keeping the piece, or felt it needed lots of changes, or had too long of a think/discussion on it that it probably wasn’t the right fit for our journal then. So, we started off going through submissions slowly and then as we reminded ourselves of these things we started deciding ‘yes’ or ‘no’ much more quickly. That being said a big part of deciding to be editors of a journal was to provide an experience different than you might get at other, or larger – more established, journals. With any pieces we rejected we made sure to give a minimum of a couple sentences feedback on what didn’t work for us. We did a mini-workshop of the piece in a way. This way the author would know why it didn’t work for us and if they wanted to could take that feedback to rework the piece. We also encouraged all those we rejected to submit again, and we meant it wholeheartedly! We know the pressure to submit, and sometimes the only reason for getting rejected is that the piece isn’t quite there – just needs a bit more revision.
Kate – It’s pretty easy figuring out the difference between something that’s outstanding and something which hasn’t quite made the grade. For me, the hardest part, is figuring out those borderline pieces. The ones which maybe you can see potential in but they’re just missing something. It’s also difficult because, as writers, we can empathise with the folk who are trusting us with their work. It would be unfair to suggest making changes to a submission which would make it entirely unrecognisable from its original self. If it looks like that will happen, then the piece isn’t right.
Providing feedback was essential for me. There are few things that piss me off more than submitting work to an editor and either never getting a response or waiting a ridiculously long time (sometimes over a year) just to receive a basic rejection. The quick rejections suck as well! Personally I think that if a writer/artist has taken that risk of sharing their work with you then it needs to be treated with respect. An editor may think that work is utter mince but I believe it’s their duty to provide some constructive feedback. Similarly, I find it a little frustrating to have a piece of work accepted with no explanation as to why the editor enjoyed it… Maybe this will sound controversial but I just don’t see the point of being an editor if you’re not prepared to do that.
There has just been one issue so far but if you could have an article written by anyone for your 100th issue who would you choose?
Amy – OMG that’s a hard one (that’s what she said…sorry :))…. um, I guess being a creative non fiction/memoir/personal essayist type of writer it would have to be someone I admire from that corner of the literary world. There are so many, but if I had to choose one then I would have to say David Shields.
Kate– Oh gosh, that’s difficult. How much power do I have here? Can I bring back someone from the grave? If so, I would love to have an article written by Scottish author Muriel Spark, she’s such an inspiration; such a dark, enviable talent. If that’s not allowed, then I have no hesitation in wishing for a little something from American author Paul Auster – fabulous writer!
Zest is currently accepting submissions for its second edition and guess who has had a poem accepted Yay!!!!!! I have to point out when I did this interview I hadn’t even written it let alone submitted it so this interview was totally impartial but if you would like to submit something check out the guidelines as Submissions
You can check out the First edition here ( the only comment I will make for this first edition is that you need to read it on the computer rather than download it for the kindle as at the minute the format does not work well on the basic Kindle I own)