Interview With 1966: A Journal of Creative Nonfiction
How did you come up with the idea for 1966? What was the inspiration for the name of the journal? Tell us all about how this mission started.
Although I’m primarily a memoirist, I’ve always loved nonfiction with an element of research in it–say, immersion writing or journalism from the New Yorker or perhaps a personal essay that uses facts in an interesting way. I always knew that if I ever had a chance to start a journal, I’d want to publish stuff like that. I named the journal 1966 after the year that In Cold Blood came out in book form, Gay Talese’s Frank Sinatra Has a Cold was published, and Oranges by John McPhee was published in the New Yorker.
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?
We select the images collaboratively from artwork submitted by our staff, friends, and local artists. We don’t necessarily try to match the image to a particular moment in the essay, rather we hope the image evokes the emotional content of the piece. We try to make our design mimic a book as closely as possible, while still paying attention to the fact that it will be read online.
What have you gained from working for 1966? How has this experience changed your perspective of reading literature?
We have a wider understanding of what people are writing now–what their aesthetic and intellectual and emotional concerns are at the moment. We also didn’t realize how many people love to write and we’ve learned that “creative nonfiction with a research component” can take many different forms. We’ve also learned a lot about the world, even from submissions we didn’t take–about foreign lands, scientific concepts, historical events, and ideas. Finally, we understand that the “literature” we read in published forms is only small snapshot of what’s actually being written.
What do you look for in a publishable piece of writing? What tips would you give to a submitter?
Read the submission guidelines first, especially the part about including a research component, and please don’t send us scholarly papers that would be better suited to an academic journal. We think it’s also advisable not to simply tack on a research component just because you think it would make your piece suitable for 1966. The research should be an organic part of the essay.
Beyond that, we look for well-written essays that compel us in some way–either intellectually or emotionally or technically–and which connect to larger questions beyond one individual’s experience. We also seem to value narrative and sensory detail, although we’re open to the occasional experimentation.
Tell us about a piece you recently published that got you and the staff excited. Why did you love it?
We’re about to publish a piece by Natalie Vestin called “Sea of Crises,” a meditation on the moon, astronomy, physics, God, and personal experience. It is lovely and lyrical and smart. There are also some great essays about penguins, crawfish, and the way language changes the way you think.
What is the next exciting thing happening at 1966? What are other areas the journal would like to explore?
We have a very small staff and very little funding, so although we have big dreams, getting our next issue out is about all the excitement we can handle right now.