Hot Street is a literary journal started by New School alumni Emily Jacobs, Elisha Wagman, Sarah Smetana, and Ian Brown. Their first issue is now available for order online. (You can also check in with Hot Street via their website, Facebook or Twitter.) Recently, I caught up with the Hot Street editorial team about their first issue, the unseen obstacles of publishing, and the community they hope to engender.
Roberto Montes: What separates Hot Street from other literary journals?
Emily Jacobs: In terms of looks and personality, literary magazines are as unique as individual people. If Hot Street were a person, it would always remember to take out the recycling and have a library even bigger than mine with rolling stepladders and table lamps with green shades. It would read on the train, at night in bed, and when it’s supposed to be doing other things like cutting the grass or having sex.
In addition to being editors, we are also writers and we know what it feels like to work in isolation and then send the product of that mighty labor out into a void. As writers, we rarely get the encouragement and appreciation we need. At Hot Street, we collaborate during the editorial process and work with writers on fine-tuning their craft. In my experience, this isn’t a far-fetched model in literary publishing. Many journals do place their focus on building life-long relationships with writers and work with them on revising for publication. It’s a privilege for Hot Street to offer this kind of attention to each author that we publish. Coming from a background in commercial publishing, I love being in a position to edit writing that inspires me and spend the time on the work that it deserves. It is our belief that literary journals are still the place where the truly interesting things are happening, and provide a home for exploration of form and aesthetic. We’re dedicated to keeping that space open for writers in print and online.
RM: Publishing a literary journal in print seems like a monumental task nowadays. What is something you learned during the process that you wish you knew beforehand?
EJ: Launching a literary magazine is like floating a business that has no profit margin. Alongside the more creative aspects of publishing, there are a host of other mundane tasks to attend to and a lot of expense. While this is a reality that we were prepared for, we could not exist without the support of an active reading and writing community. In its relatively short life-span, Hot Street has been greeted with even more support than we could have hoped for, those willing to help out with their time, energy, and resources, and sloppy metaphorical kisses from writers with excel spreadsheets mired in submission lists, but who tell us Yes, I really do need one more place to send my work to. This is in fact where the name of our magazine originated: from a desire to construct another physical location for a community that is already vigorous and thriving, eager to support each others’ creative endeavors.
RM: I noticed you have an interview up with issue #1 contributor David Lehman on hotstreet.org. Will there be additional content on the website that’s not in the issue?
Sarah Nicole Smetana: We are committed to the print format, but interested in exploring an online component as well. Because print is a slow-moving beast and we publish only two issues a year, we plan to supplement the print magazine with frequent online content.
Fostering a real-world and virtual community is important to us, both in the editing process before publication and involvement with our contributors through readings and other events after acceptance. It is in this spirit of collaboration that we hope to curate our web content. We want to stay connected to the writers that we publish in the magazine, and we also want to provide them with opportunities to stay connected to each other. The website will be a showcase for new and exclusive materials (and words of wisdom) from our phenomenal contributors—both established and emerging.
RM: What is a moment or line in the first issue that you think exemplifies the Hot Street aesthetic?
EW: From “Black Silk, Black Milk,” by Merlin Ural:
Mahrus stood facing an unfamiliar grave with his head bowed in reverence. I could swear he was praying under his breath in Arabic for the soul that had long left the untended earth spreading before him. But then again he could have been rolling in his mouth one of his famous tongue-twisters: Se l'arcivescovo di Costantinopoli si disarcivescovisconstantinopoli
zzasse tu ti disarcivescoviscostantinopoliz zeresti come si è disarcivescoviscostantinopoliz zato l' arcivescovo di Costantinopoli. “If you speak a language, you’d better speak the hell out of it,” he often said.
The editors at Hot Street embrace all literary forms and genres. We resist labels like slipstream, fabulism, psychological realism, language poetry, and free verse. Like the last line of the excerpt above, we believe that if you're going to speak a language, be it poetry or short stories, you must do it as skillfully as you can, in a way that’s authentic and true to your own experience. That's our aesthetic: well-told stories, and carefully crafted poems that transport our readers to a different place, or mindset.
RM: At the Hot Street reading at KGB Bar, Elisha mentioned the importance of cultivating a space for established, experienced writers to come together with emerging writers. How will you continue reaching out to established members of the literary community and those who are outside of or new to it?
EW: Our marketing strategy employs traditional and grassroots methods. This year, we operated a booth at AWP where we engaged emerging and established writers. Next year, we hope to host a reading at AWP in addition to a booth. We also advertise Hot Street via channels with a wide reach like the literary journal listing on the Poets & Writers website. What’s proven most successful at reaching writers is a combination of an online platform (Facebook) and word of mouth referrals. We’ve seen a direct relationship between a writer “liking” our post or photograph on Facebook and increased submissions to the journal.
Creating opportunities for emerging writers to build sustainable relationships with established writers is paramount, and while the journal achieves this textually, we seek to provide opportunities for this to occur in real life. At our reading in April, where esteemed authors read alongside about-to-be-published writers, we witnessed relationships bud between members of the two groups. We were delighted when a few of the revered writers, who are also editors of literary journals, solicited work from emerging writers. Others swapped email addresses and have since been in contact. We are committed to providing these opportunities, not just while the journal launches, but far into the future.