So Say We All recently announced the launch of our new literary journal, The Radvocate. We are so proud of the work published in the new issue, which you can purchase here. Or! Come to our release party and reading this Saturday, 7/25, at 7:30pm at James Coffee Company in Little Italy. We’ll have lots of copies to sell to you!
To get you all amped up for the party, our own Julia Evans spent a little time with our dear friend Matt Lewis, the founder and editor of The Radvocate, and a long time volunteer, producer, writer, and coach for So Say We All. See what Matt has to say about publishing, stories, and (of course) a little rollerblading:
So Say We All: Hi Matt! What got you into publishing zines?
Matt Lewis: Around 2006 or so, a well-known rollerblading magazine based in San Diego (called Daily Bread) shut down. It was replaced by something called One Magazine, which I went on to write a few reviews for. But the loss of Daily Bread within the community was too big for just one other media source to fill. A lot of corporations started to print off their own ‘magazines’ which were basically shameless plugging for the products and riders and marketed as a a publication. This irritated me to no end. I knew that there were a ton of people with the talent, in writing, art, and journalism, to make genuinely interesting media, who weren’t getting an chance because they didn’t know the right people. Daily Bread had always seemed to offer a space for weirdness and creativity alongside their content, but the new media that replaced it just seemed to sterile and formal, I guess because they wanted to project an image of professionalism. But around this time, my close friends and I had been talking about creating a parody zine that would lampoon the seriousness of these publications. My friend Geoff came up with the name: The Radvocate.
The parody zine never happened, but years later when I graduated from college, I saw the same exact thing happening with other writers, artists, and poets in my community. There were a few opportunities, but very few of them were for publication of any kind. Then San Diego Writers Ink offered a class on Zine-making, which was hosted by Todd Taylor, Jim Ruland, & Mike Faloon. Although I had been dimly aware of them, in the form of music zines my friends in high school passed around (Cometbus, Automatic, Maximum Rock n’ Roll, etc.) it never occurred to me that this was the avenue I had been looking for. Zines are unique in that they offer a platform to concepts that are typically cut out of mainstream media: in the 1930’s it was Sci-Fi, in the 50’s it was Pop Art, in the 60’s & 70’s it was queer & feminist issues, in the 80’s it was Punk Rock. Even in the present day, the zine community offers media that can inform you about important issues like Veganism, Animal Rights, Transgender issues, and DIY solutions to live a more sustainable and independent life. I was electrified by the fact that these people were communicating the media they wanted to despite indifference from the mainstream. It was all the motivation I needed to create the first, badly-photocopied issue of The Radvocate.
SSWA: What were some of your more formative zines?
ML: My early influence came from two different publications that were released when I was still in High School. I didn’t even know what a zine was when I saw them, or had even thought about independent publications at all. The first was called Any Given Day, which came from El Cajon and was created by Zeb Huset. He was a photographer for a few different rollerblading magazines, but he wanted a separate space to display his photos and give updates on local skating news (pre-internet, when we got all our information via magazines or word of mouth). The other was called Scum Magazine, which was created by Jan Welch. Scum basically had the same function as AGD, but for the Texas scene instead. Jan went on to move to San Diego and work for Daily Bread, which is how I found those for the first time. This was the first place I saw punk rock aesthetics being used outside of a music context, which went on to influence the early design/attitude of The Radvocate.
SSWA: What about literary journals? What are some of your favorites?
ML: As far as lit journals go, you can’t fuck with Hobart. They’ve done incredible work over the years and continue to do so with their online format. I love how they continually find the freshest talent and introduce the world to a lot of people who go on to write/do amazing things. I also like the format of NOÖ journal, in that they have literary content but they maintain a kind of traditional magazine aesthetic, which feels less stuffy then other traditional lit journals. And you can’t talk about unique without mentioning Carrier Pigeon; I found out about them at AWP this year and can’t believe what they’re doing with their graphic design. It’s revolutionary how they experiment with form and function, creating some really unique publications.
SSWA: What draws you to a story?
ML: There are two things I look for, and they could either be in tandem or separate. One is a visceral reaction. If a story makes me feel a certain way, physically – disgusted, depressed, devastated, terrified, ecstatic, inspired – I love to process why the story did that to me and what kind of truth is lying in it that causes these feelings. The second is a fusion of intellectualism & lyricism within the story. A good example of this would be Ray Bradbury’s writing, where you read something that is not only intelligent, but just spills off the page effortlessly. Of course, not all stories have these things, but when they possess elements of them, it really stands out.
SSWA: What draws you to live readings?
ML: I love the fact that live readings offer an opportunity to connect with a community of people. Real-life meetups are so rare now within any sort of thing, and they can often be notoriously awkward. But at a reading, everyone knows why they’re there and what their going to do: listen to some people whose work they enjoy. It not only becomes a place to hear the author, but to connect with people who have similar interests who live relatively close, without all the weirdness of ice-breaking. Not to mention they can be damn entertaining. When we had Scott McClanahan out for our December reading, he brought an entire noisy bar full of football fans to a dead silence. It was amazing to watch, but even more amazing was to hear from people who attended afterward about how much it inspired them and galvanized their own work. That’s why live readings can be so special. We’re hoping to replicate a moment like that for our Issue #13 Premier Show (7/25, 7pm @ James Coffee Co.) which will feature some contributors that are not only amazing writers, but incredible storytellers.
SSWA: What kind of content does The Radvocate seek out?
ML: Generally speaking, we’re looking for people whose work strives to reflect with raw intimacy the world as it is understood and lived by its inhabitants. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, interviews, photography, and art are accepted.
SSWA: What do you want to contribute to the literary journal landscape today?
ML: I can only hope that we will carve out a unique space where we can introduce some rad people & unique content to the world and not bore anyone to death.
SSWA: What’s next for The Radvocate? When are you reading submissions for the next issue? Any advice for hopeful contributors?
ML: We are currently taking submissions for Issue #14, which I’m hoping will come out in early 2016. We take and read submissions year-round, with the average response time being a month. My advice would be not to worry so much about what category your work fits into; just send in your best and if it’s rad, we’ll feature it.