Editor Interview: Scott Bugher, Split Lip Magazine
1. In a world of many, many literary magazines, what made you want to create another one?
I was a reader for Bull: Men’s Fiction for a short while and it was during that short while I discovered I enjoyed the hunt for fresh stories that hadn’t been told yet. It got to the point I began saying to myself, “If I were Bull, I’d publish this one,” so I figured why not gather some friends in the literary world and launch our own project. You’re right, the world has plenty of literary magazine, but Split Lip likes to think we bring something new to the table.
2. Follow up: How do you see Split Lip defining its own literary space?
Our hope is to help incorporate the literary and fine arts into pop culture, a culture that seems to give its attention exclusively to music and film anymore. So, we pay attention to both the mainstream (music and film) and the underground (literature and fine art). Split Lip isn’t only a good place to find great writing, but also serves as a venue for independent music, fine art, and film. We want to take what Paste Magazine did for independent songwriters and apply that to independent storytellers and poets by presenting the full scope of pop culture.
3. What causes you despair?
Fox’s cancellation of Arrested Development.
4. Do you require a cover letter with submissions? Why or why not?
We’re pretty laid back about stuff like that, but do ask for one. Why? I suppose there are two reasons. First, it simply shows if the guidelines were read. Second, it keeps things professional. We get subs as stripped down as the attachment of the work alone. No “hello’ or anything.” That’s just inconsiderate.
5. Have you had any conflicts with writers? Any spicy stories?
Can’t say I’ve had any conflicts with writers, but I’ve had a few complaints by readers. And by “readers,” I mean writers who later submit with claims that they’ve got something better. It’s a pompous move on their part and I won’t consider what they send if they take that approach. Really. Why would you do that?
6. Do you work with authors to edit their texts?
Not when it comes to dotting an I or crossing a T, but when I feel a section of a piece is too wordy or don’t like some odd things like an intentional change in tense, I’ll send an email containing my thoughts to the author and see what they think before I make any serious amendments. I haven’t had a disagreement yet. I suppose that’s a good thing.
7. Do you use social media to stir up interest in Split Lip? How so?
Man. Social media is used for sure, but I must say it’s a difficult thing to keep on top of. I go for an organic approach. I’m not going to “pay for likes” as some businesses do. I want real people digging on Split Lip. The whole façade thing really bothers me. I do like how social media spreads the word, but don’t care for the whole idea of measuring our worth according to the number of likes or followers we have. I just hope that those who do like or follow us will spread the word to others. Basically, social media is used to announce new blog posts and upcoming magazine features. I, along with a few others, maintain a blog and we post on topics ranging from literary news to professional wrestling.
8. Already, in just a few issues, you have some really strong writing. What kind of writing do you look for? Do you solicit?
All I want for fiction and memoir is a good story that is written well and maintains my interest until the ending. I also keep in mind what are readers might have an appetite for as well and consider stories based on an innovative use of language or form. For things like that, I lean on the opinion of our fiction editor, Zach Arnett. With poetry, I leave it all up to our editor, Scott Siders. He’s got quite a discerning eye and I trust his decisions. We also solicit, which is fun. Sometimes I’ll reach out to heroes and sometimes I’ll read other journals, find pieces I like, and track down the writer. I’ll work out a deal where I’ll bake the writer a quiche in exchange for a contribution. Anyway, we enjoy reading subs and enjoy connecting with other writers we find on our own.
9. What does coffee mean in your life, if anything?
Hm. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear “coffee” is a bad joke from the movie Airplane. I do drink it, but can’t say I have a daily relationship with the beverage.
10. What other magazines do you admire and respect?
My favorites are Atticus Review, PANK and Monkey Bicycle. There are several others, but I’ve been taking liberties with some of your questions. I’m sorry, but I’m a chatterbox.
11. The site looks great. Can you talk about how aesthetics matter. The pairing of design and images and words?
Thank you. As vain as it sounds, aesthetics matter quite a lot to me. When designing the site, I kept the idea of a magazine in mind. I wanted the simplicity of a table of contents, a few columns, and a few photos for the homepage. Little things as well like justified text for columns and crazy, ADHD alignment. I just want the magazine to be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Each contributor gets their own page, which is handy for them in case they want to link their story to their own website. I think I achieved what I had in mind for the most part.
12. Talk about online versus print, as far as literary magazines.
Online is where it’s at today. I order a print magazine from time to time, but you can’t bookmark a print journal on your web browser. Then there’s a matter of money for both the producer and the consumer. I can afford a monthly fee, but the cost of printing is difficult to cover considering I have no money coming in. On the consumer end, most online journals are free or require a membership only. And there’s the instant gratification working for the online journals. No need to wait on a Paypal transaction to go through and for the journal to come in the mail. This is much like the print book versus Kindle thing. It just depends on how you take your tea. This is an issue worthy of debate, but I’m afraid digital is ultimately going to win. When’s the last time you bought a hard copy of a CD? It’s been years for me. I’m an iTunes junky though, as a musician myself, tried to maintain purity and buy hard copies, but when music sections at retailers become narrowed down to two or three rows of product, what can you do? I believe that literature is on the same path as music.
13. What do you think is the future of publishing poems, stories, essays, the like?
The main concern is to promote the literary arts as much as possible, to maintain an audience for poetry and stories, to maintain enthusiasm and, most importantly, getting new people excited about reading. That’s why Split Lip tries to incorporate literature with music, fine art, and film—to provide the full scope of pop culture and/or entertainment. Literature is the forgotten art that falls into pop culture. This is a matter of resurgence.
14. Do you like nachos?
Does the pope wear a funny hat?