Lit Mag Spotlight: Gulf Coast
by Treehouse Editors
Treehouse nonfiction editor Casey Mills interviewed Karyna McGlynn of Gulf Coast, a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.
Q: In a sentence or two, how would you best describe Gulf Coast’s aesthetic?
A: Describing Gulf Coast’s aesthetic is always tricky since we’re a whopping 250+ page journal with a rotating editorship that publishes poetry, nonfiction, fiction, hybrid work, art criticism, reviews, interviews, and visual art. That said, our founding fathers were Donald Barthelme and Phillip Lopate, and I think we’ve strived to keep their vision alive—both with the type of writing we publish and our commitment to visual art. We like work that is well crafted and considerate of the reader, of course, but we want that same work to unnerve us, to flirt with possible failure. Many of our favorite pieces end up being the ones that shouldn’t have worked, but did.
Q: That said, what is a piece in the current issue that encompasses that idea?
A: In our Winter/Spring 2013 Issue see “Marie Antoinette’s Husband Was a Total Baller” by Jess Novak, or “Approximately 36 Toilets” by Rebecca Evanhoe. In our Summer/Fall 2013 Issue see Craig Reinbold’s “Holding the Plank” or Simeon Berry’s series from Monograph.
Q: Your issue section includes “Nonfiction/Lyric Essay.” Beyond the lyric essay, what other types of nonfiction writing fit into the Gulf Coast world?
A: We publish a lot of lyric essays—and don’t get me wrong; we like them!—but that’s just what a lot of writers are shopping around these days. We’d love to get more travel writing, reportage, memoir, science writing, and food writing.
Q: Many online literary venues publish work under a category that defies “genre.” With so many lines blurred and so many hybrid forms (flash fiction, lyrics essay, prose poem), what do you believe constitutes genre-bending?
A: Gulf Coast has always appreciated and published hybrid forms. In fact, our annual Barthelme Prize for Short Prose is geared specifically toward flash fiction, micro-essays, and prose poems. That said, we have a more conservative reputation than journals like Ninth Letter or DIAGRAM, so people don’t tend to send much truly genre-defiant work our way. The fact is, we have a dropdown menu on our submissions page where people have to choose a genre. That’s telling. But I think we all read between genres quite fluidly. We try to take people at their word—if they say it’s nonfiction, it’s nonfiction—but occasionally we’ll forward stuff around between genres. That’s when you know you’ve got a true hybrid on your hands—when you don’t know which editor to send it to!
Q: What distinguishes Gulf Coast from some other high-quality lit journals out there?
A: Aside from what I’ve already mentioned, a couple of new developments come to mind. First and foremost, I think our commitment to visual art sets us apart. It’s never an afterthought for us; rather, it’s an integral part of how we put an issue together. In fact, we’ve recently partnered with Art Lies to curate an ongoing expanded art section that will feature critical art writing, retrospectives, and textual/visual hybrids. Another development (which has been rather hush-hush until recently) is our increased contributors payments. We now pay a minimum of $50 per page in all genres, which makes us the highest paying student-run literary journal in the country.
Q: Beyond the world of online publishing, in your opinion, what was the best new book of 2013?
A: I think it’s still too early for Best of 2013 lists! But I can tell you what our favorite books of 2012 were: in fiction, Julian Barnes’ Sense of an Ending, and in poetry, S.E. Smith’s I Live in a Hut.