Interview With Mikrokosmos (Mojo)

Kallie, mojo’s editor; Katelyn, mojo’s most recent poetry editor; and Soon, mojo’s most recent nonfiction editor answered the following questions.

Mojo Cover

1. How did you come up with the idea for mojo? Tell us all about how this mission started. 

I didn’t actually come up with the idea for mojo. The Wichita State MFA students run a literary journal called Mikrokosmos, which features mostly WSU alumni. A few years ago, the editors of Mikrokosmos wanted to open the scene to artists and authors all over the world, so mojo (Mikrokosmos’s online companion) was born.

2. You have beautiful designs for each issue. I love how each issue is filled with lovely images that mesh well with the content. What inspires the design of each issue? How do you select the artwork?

Each issue is largely dependent upon the current editor. Every year, a new editor steps up. This year, I have been actively scouting the Internet and local art events to find art that is suitable for our aesthetics. The design is partially dictated by the type of writing we’ve selected, and partially dictated by what we like.

3. What have you gained from working for mojo? How has this experience changed your perspective of reading literature?

Soon– I’ve gained insight into the current stay of creative writing while working on mojo. Reading submissions for fiction and non-fiction allows me to see creative and thematic trends. Despite the fact that mojo does not publish themed issues, we always find commonalities between various pieces, and it’s exciting to see those similarities come about organically. in terms of changing my perspective, I think the biggest things is that I realize the importance of voice. If a story doesn’t have a voice it’s not going to work, no matter what.

Katelyn– Every once in a while I think we all need a reminder of the humanity behind writing. Too often we flip through a journal and dog ear the poems we like, scoff at the ones we don’t, but how often do you stop and think of the life and experience that gave way to that particular piece of writing? Not just the authors, but the staff that saw themselves in those words. Working on mojo for the last three years has left me with a stronger sense of the people involved in this process, and now I can’t help but see faces on pages.

4. What authors are your editors fans of?  

Kallie– Recently, I’ve been obsessed with Olivia Cronk and Anais Nin.

Soon– Andre Dubus, Richard Yates, Paul Auster, and Nina Boutsikaris.

Katelyn– Recently, I’ve found my reading list featuring Katayoon Zandvakili, Major Jackson, Aimee Nezhukumatathiln, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Tracy K. Smith. It’s silly to say that someone you’ve read has no bearing on your work; poetry doesn’t leave you once you turn the page. But it’s certainly not a conscious effort to replicate—mojo is a collaborative effort with no one staff member’s perspective reaching above the others.

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

Soon– With reference to nonfiction, I look for something that is aware of itself, that doesn’t make me sick with self-indulgence. There is nothing worse than a non-fiction author who assumes that their audience is interested in their work just because. Hyper aware non-fiction that isn’t afraid to show the author in an ugly or painful light is what I like to read, but it should also make me laugh at the brutal honesty of everything that is life.

Katelyn– Soul. Sometimes it’s a little funky, other times it’s depressing—either way, we want the grit and gravel and beauty of life.

6. How has mojo changed since its inception over fifty years ago?

 Although mojo is only five issues old, Mikrokosmos, our print journal, is over fifty. The history of Mikrokosmos is huge and difficult to track down. The first issue of Mikrokosmos started as a class project and then it became a Wichita staple. We have published people like William Stafford, Albert Goldbarth, and Charles Plymell among others. The first issue of Mikrokosmos, in 1958, featured a simple cover. Everything was hand typed and copied so they have a really cool vintage look. Some issues have been over fifty pages, while others are no more than fifteen. The layout really depends on that year’s current editor.

7. Tell us about a piece you recently published that got you and the staff excited. Why did you love it? 

Soon– I can’t tell you specifics, because the issue hasn’t come out, but I’m incredibly proud of the two non-fiction pieces that mojo is publishing next. I think they are our best yet.

Katelyn– This next issue features a few really cool pieces, but the one that comes to mind describes some of the more insane aspects of the human mind and how peculiar we are in our routines.

8. What is the next exciting thing happening at mojo?

At mojo, we are getting ready to publish our fifth online issue that features Sam Bradford, Rae Hoffman, Heather Bell, Megan Cass, Christine Hamm, and Mary Stone Dockery. Mikrokosmos, on the other hand, is celebrating its 60th issue in April. We are planning an awesome launch party that will be held at the Ulrich Museum at Wichita State University. We are hoping to reach out to past contributors and editors so we can look back on the history of Mikrokosmos.

9. How has working with mojo changed your experience as a graduate student at Wichita State University’s MFA program.

Kallie– Working with mojo and Mikrokosmos has been wild. I have been able to get a sense for design and publishing in a really hands-on way, and I’ve been able to connect with some great authors, artists, and graphic designers. mojo is really a collaborative project.

Soon– It’s made me busier, which is always a good thing.

Katelyn– Aside from giving me another way to procrastinate on my own writing? It has allowed me a peek into the lives of other poets blindly submitting their work and hoping something sticks.