Interview With Atticus Review
Author: Dan Cafaro
1. How did you come up with the idea for the magazine? What was the inspiration for Atticus Review? Tell us all about how this mission started.
Atticus Review is a natural extension of the mission/impetus behind Atticus Books. The primary motivation behind Atticus is to support writers whose works are overlooked or head-scratchingly ignored by mainstream media. For very selfish reasons everyone involved with Atticus wants the journal to thrive because we believe in the power of the written word (and, by association, the magic of the independent press).
Atticus Books novelist John Minichillo and AR Mixed Media Editor Matt Mullins ignited the flame and John’s wife, Katrina Gray, shouldered the burden of becoming the publication’s first editor-in-chief. She promptly grabbed the rhino by the horns and helped establish the quirky personality that persists today under the tutelage of Joe Gross and our wildly talented editorial staff.
2. What inspires the design of each issue?
Inspired by the writings, the managing editor pieces together the design of each issue, with the EIC or featured editor choosing the weekly theme or contents. Our first managing editor, Libby O’Neill, had a tremendous eye for finding complementary photos and artwork, and her successor, Zoë Henry, has shown the same keen talent. Poetry Editor Michael Meyerhofer also inspires the design, in part because of his monthly “Featured Poet” selection and in part because he’s just that kind of awesome.
3. What have you gained from working for Atticus? How has this experience changed your perspective of reading literature and the process of creating a literary magazine?
For better or worse, Atticus has helped shape my cultural perspective and has reinforced my belief in the artistic genius of the underground. It’s not just the impact of the writing, but the reverberating, interconnected effect of all creation. It may sound melodramatic (I’m prone to hyperbole), but I enjoy likening the delivery of a book (or journal) to the delivery of a child. Every creation contains its own genetic code. It cannot be duplicated and is the main reason I prefer art over science. What separates literary writing from formulaic drivel is the same thing that distinguishes human DNA from a soup recipe. I prefer unconventional narrative because it reflects not life as a predictable outcome, but life as an ongoing experiment.
4. What authors are your editors fans of? Does that have a bearing on how they select submissions?
We can’t help but be shaped by what we read, but what I dig so much about our editors is their openness to new voices. We have a tight handle on the contemporary scene because our editors are living, breathing examples of writers who do their homework every day even though the course we’re taking is an elective and homework is optional. We’re people who love words, love reading, love people, love truth, and we really loathe bullshit. I may be sidestepping the “author influence” question because we’re influenced by everything we engulf and our appetites are too damn large to limit our tastes to a list of names.
5. What do you look for in a publishable piece of writing? Since you publish on a weekly basis, does this allow the staff more flexibility with selecting works with varying aesthetics and themes?
There are weeks we prefer the tango to the jitterbug and other weeks where dancing with partners is out and losing your religion in the corner is in. Other weeks we’re an improvisational jazz/skiffle band, skipping the dance floor for the stage, all beating to a different drum, all learning a new chord. Every week is a dance lesson. Sometimes we’re the instructors; other times we’re the students. Most of the time we show up.
6. How has Atticus changed since its inception?
I think we’ve gradually grown more confident in what we’re doing because we’ve all accepted by now that we have no fecking clue what we’re doing. We are attracting a higher caliber of writers than the early days, just in the sheer number of people who are on board with whatever it is we’re doing. We apparently do this indecipherable thing pretty well. Either that or we’re at least good at pretending to do this thing and when all is said and done, this thing keeps looking better and better.
We’re sort of like a floating life raft of unattached drunks providing solace to the afflicted at last call. No matter how much you verbally abuse us, we forgive you for throwing us overboard. We’re in your meandering thoughts late at night and we’ll be there again in the morning, as long as you’re not too hungover to type in the URL.
7. Tell us about a piece you recently published that got you and the staff excited. Why did you love it?
Fiction Editor Jamie Iredell selects a monthly Featured Fiction Writer whose work we spotlight and in January we shone the light on Michael Seidlinger and his splendorific press, Civil Coping Mechanisms. We dig Michael’s writing (and his taste in writers) because we both abhor virgin Kool-Aid but delight in the same rum punch. We spike it differently every time, so we never experience the same high. Substance, style, it all depends on that given day’s mood and the bartender’s choice of concoction.
8. What is the next exciting thing happening at Atticus?
I’m going to take this opportunity to promote a few of our lesser known departments, namely Lea Graham‘s lovechild, “Boo’s Hollow,” a place for poets to write about place in their poetry, “Book Reviews,” which has a new editor (Mark Cronin) and is seeking material, and “From the Attic,” our creative non-fiction department. I occasionally write and regularly curate pieces for “From the Attic” and am always on the hunt for new writers with something profound to say in an unusual manner.