Interview With Split Lip Magazine

Split Lip Magazine

Author: J. Scott Bugher

How did you come up with the idea for the magazine?  What makes Split Lip a unique part of the publishing community?

I was serving on the editorial board at Bull: Men’s Fiction for a period of time and fell in love with seeking good literature, stories I had never read before. As my new passion developed, I was prodded to launch my own project. I’ve lived most of my adult life as a creative: a retired session musician / songwriter, practicing oil painter and developing writer. I just couldn’t resist the idea of diving into the literary, music and art communities to help promote new voices, new sounds and new sights. In short, I’d say the idea for the magazine was an extension of who I am as an artist.

I like to believe Split Lip has its own personality and is a unique part of the publishing world. When working on Split Lip, I keep Paste Magazine in mind. Though Paste’s primary focus is music, I want to take what they have been doing for indie songwriters and apply that to pop culture in its entirety with an emphasis on literature and fine art. I believe pop culture has been reduced to music and film, two mediums well worth engaging in, but what happened to reading stories and viewing paintings or photographs? Didn’t literature and art play a significant role in pop culture for centuries? When did they burn out? How? I don’t know, but as I’ve said to others, literature and fine art need to rise again. This is a matter of resurgence and that’s what motivates Split Lip to do what we do. Pardon the rant and digression. Let me get back on subject with a summary. Split Lip is unique because we believe it is pointless to maintain the idea that literature and fine art are somehow exalted, that they have no business mingling with the mainstream. That notion is utter bullshit. Our goal is to not only promote literature and art, but to merge them back with mainstream pop culture, to make a story or painting just as hip as the latest Wes Anderson film or the record by The Shins.

How did you begin to gather materials for the first issue of Split Lip?  How did you go about the process of solicitation and advertising the journal?  

Getting anything done these days requires outreach and networking. I was fortunate to have learned the ropes of outreach while working in Nashville as a musician. My primary rule is to reach out to those I desire to be in my network. I’m not out to beat my high score when building a network; I’m seeking to meet quality individuals who are great people and strive for artistic excellence. When I was in Nashville, I wasn’t approaching everybody with a guitar to exchange business cards with hopes that I’d meet the right person at the right time. I was doing my research, finding the people who would make for a mutually beneficial relationship. The research paid off and my career went well. In order for Split Lip to go well, I need such individuals that I met in the music world, but this time in the literary world. When starting Split Lip, I’d read my favorite online journals like PANK, Atticus Review, and Monkey Bicycle to name a few and seek the contact info of writers I enjoyed. So, soliciting was all a matter of simply emailing writers I liked, both emerging and acclaimed. Not only has the magazine benefited from these outreaches, but also more community has developed. The first writer I contacted was Meredith Turits after finding her in an issue of Anobium. She didn’t have any work to contribute at the time, but she turned me on to Jenny Halper, Split Lip’s first contributor. It’s a chain reaction, word of mouth, networking in motion. By soliciting, I’ve developed amazing relationships with poets like David Tomaloff and Todd McKinney, along with prose geniuses like Janet Burroway and Jared Yates Sexton among several others.

So, yes, much of Split Lip’s beginning content was solicited. We attempted to call for submissions through Craigslist and a few universities, which wasn’t very fruitful, but once we hit our required two months of existence, we’ve been listed on all the mega writer resources sites, which now has us overwhelmed with submissions, leaving us with little time to solicit anymore. I’d say out of about ten published pieces per issue, two are solicited.

Sorry. Forgot about advertising. In sum, I prefer word-of-mouth but still do the whole social media empire thing and whatnot. I just don’t like to get caught up in the numbers of it all. We have maybe 325 likes on Facebook and about the same on Twitter. If Split Lip’s value is going to be measured based on how many people click a “like” or “follow” button, so be it. We don’t chase after “likes” to build a façade of credibility. Maybe I’m wrong in maintaining that school of thought, but word is spreading and according to our website stats, traffic increases each month. I suppose we’re doing something right. Our blog is helpful, along with our small zine-style handout pamphlets we pass out locally (Indianapolis) from time to time.

What reader do you hope will happen upon Split Lip?  What do you hope they’ll find there?

We want a bunch of lofty and smug snots visiting our site. I’m kidding. I promise. That’s a hard question to answer. We want a “general” audience I suppose. We want each medium we promote to trigger an interest in another medium. By this I mean, for example, we hope for a fan of one of our musical guests to stumble upon us and then check out a poem or watch a short film while on the site. The same applies to fans of our contributing writers and artists. Regarding what I hope they’ll find at Split Lip? I hope they’ll find a world-class venue for the arts and will want to spend an office break on the site or browse us in the late evening instead of watching Conan. But if they watch Conan, we’ll forgive them. Conan’s a badass.

What do you look for in a publishable piece of writing? 

Personally? I want a great story. I react best to good storytelling, the straight up kind in the likes of Carver, Yates and Cheever. However, Split Lip wants to serve a variety of readers and satisfy each taste for literature. That’s why there are multiple editors. If I’m looking for more lyrical prose for readers who are moved by language and lyricism, I trust my fiction editor, Zach Arnett. If I’m looking for surreal and experimental writing, I trust my poetry editor, Scott Siders. If I can’t make a decision, I trust my managing editor, Elysia Smith. We’re a diverse bunch, but very agreeable.

What is the next exciting thing happening at Split Lip?

Well, I wish I had some amazing news to report, but it’s business as usual at the moment. One thing the literary world can look forward to is that we’ll be asking for money soon. Ha! I suppose that’s a politically incorrect way of stating that we’ll be administrating a fundraiser here in the next couple of months through We’re not going into print or anything, so our funding goal won’t be very high. We’re just seeking help with the basics: monthly charges from a variety of online services, blog upgrades, producing promotional materials like our sampler pamphlets and such, plus to help make appearances at small writer’s conferences like the upcoming Midwest Writer’s Conference. So wish us well in finding some dough from the art-loving world!

Split Lip’s scope as a magazine is something we truly admire.  The magazine focuses on three artistic mediums: literature, music, and the visual arts.  They also provide interviews about ongoing events from each of these arts.  Although their range is wide, the crew at Split Lip is dedicated to sharing quality work in all arenas.  Every issue is sure to open another door into the local artistic community.  Check out this terrific magazine and consider submitting work if you feel it might be a good fit! – LitBridge