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Starting a Literary Journal

Fourteen Hills chats with former San Francisco State University MFA student, Alisa Golden, about starting literary journal Star 82.

Fourteen Hills: Tell us about your inspiration to start a literary journal.

Alisa Golden: Once I graduated [from San Francisco State University’s MFA program], I began seriously researching and reading other magazines hoping to find a home for my stories. But I wasn't finding much of anything that was similar to what I was writing. This was perplexing. I found quite a bit of realism, quite a bit of what I thought was overly dramatic work. Where was the humor? Where was the work I wanted to read? So that was one impetus to start my own magazine.

A second reason had to do with my lifelong feeling of being divided. I've always written and always made art, constantly shifting between the two worlds. I know there are other magazines that feature writing and art but for Star 82 I decided that I'd like to encourage more works that combine writing and art. There seem to be plenty of artists who are writers and writers who are artists, but we don't always get to see them in both contexts simultaneously. And my hope is that the writers will see and appreciate what the artists are doing and vice versa.

FH: You are a writer of short fiction, so how is being an editor different or the same as being a writer?

Golden: The editorial process is an extension of the writing process. As an editor I've got the distance I need to look at a work critically; I'm seeing the work for the first time and have to respond to what is in front of me. I can see fairly quickly where I'm tripped up, where the language is bumpy. As a writer I think it is hard to get that distance; it is hard to know what is conveyed on the page and what remains in my head. After reading so many pieces by other people, my work is becoming both more distant and more clear to me. I'm starting to see why certain pieces haven't gotten accepted and I'm beginning to understand how to make them better. Weirdly, this isn't something I was able to learn in workshops. I'm guessing that being on staff at Fourteen Hills would have been helpful. When you read a huge number of stories you start recognizing your own mistakes in them…

FH: Fourteen Hills is also a small press. What has it been like venturing into the world of the small press?

Golden: I've been in the small press world since I began making letterpress printed books in 1983, so it is not really new to me. What is different, however, are all the ways we can publish, and I'm exploring publishing online and through print-on-demand. My venturing has been in learning html and InDesign, since conceiving, designing, and making it happen are all things I've done under the imprint, never mind the press, for thirty years. Print-on-demand works for me: I upload a file and it is instantly available to the reader. No more boxes of books to store and sell and ship! I've found on which to advertise (we just got a nice review: ) and Duotrope [on-line listing of most literary journals] found me. The small press is now part of a very large world.

FH: How did going through the MFA program at San Francisco State University inspire or prepare you for this?

Golden: After I graduated I really missed the people, the teachers, and the discussions at SFSU. I wanted to stay connected to the writing community, to have a reason to stay involved, to keep reading new work weekly. From Peter Orner's classes I learned how to love reading again, and how to read better—excellent training for an editor! Bob Glück taught me to see on the micro level and make sure each word is the right word for the job. From Alice LaPlante I learned to ask, "What does this writing DO?" In Michelle Carter's classes I learned how to critique. It is important to know that you can really appreciate a piece and see the good writing but that you may not LIKE the work. The MFA program brings up many good questions that I continue to think about including the most obvious: what makes a good subject and what makes good writing?

FH: What is the meaning behind the title, Star 82?

Golden: Star 82 is the code you press to unblock your phone number (if you have it blocked in the first place) so the recipient can see who you are. I like that a writer's voice is revealed in a written piece.

FH: Are you currently accepting submissions? What kind of work are you looking for?

Golden: Yes, send! Submissions are rolling, with issues planned seasonally. The inaugural issue was launched in March, and I'd like it to continue as a quarterly. Check out the website and submission guidelines at:

Star 82 has a few categories that I hope will spark interest. With "Postcard Lit" I am interested in stories with photos: either photographers who write or writers who take pictures. "Art Post" was initially created because I love art on postage stamps and would like to see artist stamps, but have now expanded it to include any art. "Erasure Text" is a visual representation of writing, more like editing or discovering text within text; I'd like to see artistic ways of blocking out the unwanted words like Tom Phillips has been doing in A Humument. Then we have the "Shorts" category, flash under 1000 words, and "Hidden Gems" which has become the catch-all for poetry.

FH: Where can people buy a copy of Star 82?

Golden: The online version is always free and will remain on the Home page as long as there is a web. The print edition may be purchased for $9.95 from CreateSpace or you can search for it and buy it from Amazon.

For news and updates, check out the Star 82 Facebook page.

Alisa Golden writes, makes art, and teaches bookmaking in the Printmaking Program at California College of the Arts. She is also a letterpress printer and has been working under the imprint, never mind the press, since 1983. Her book art may be found in the Special Collections departments of libraries nationwide, and she is the author of five instructional books including, Making Handmade Books (Lark Crafts, 2011). Her work has been published in many literary magazines, including, 100 Word Story, NANO Fiction, Generations, Transfer, The Monthly, and Flash (UK) and is upcoming in Safety Pin Review, among others. She lives in the one-square-mile city of Albany, California.

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