Interview with Editor: J.W. Wang

J.W. Wang is the editor of Juked.  He lives in Tallahassee, Florida with musical instruments he wishes could play themselves.

Natasha Stagg: Tell us about Juked.

J.W. Wang: Juked is an independent literary journal that began online in 1999.  Our first print issue came out around 2002, and we continue to publish an annual print issue with content separate from the website.  Our work has been anthologized in W.W. Norton’s New Sudden Fiction, DZANC Books’ Best of the Web, and elsewhere.  Unlike most other journals, we don’t rely on solicitations.  In fact, I’d say 99% of what we publish comes unsolicited.

NS: Where are you from, and where do you live now?

JWW: I’m from Los Angeles (though I’ve also spent a good amount of time in the San Francisco Bay Area), and currently I live in Tallahassee, Florida.

NS: How does your magazine fit into the world of publishing today?

JWW: We believe in delivering good writing online.  Historically there’s been a strong resistance to the idea, but I think we’re part of a movement that helps disprove that idea.  We’re also part of the mechanism of independent publishing, giving time and attention to writing that may not be favored by the old guard.

NS: Does it do anything that no one else is doing?

JWW: I guess we’re unique in that we believe in putting out longer stories online, when most other journals tend to go for lighter, quicker pieces.  Our print issues come with illustrations, which isn’t something nobody else is doing, but it’s not very frequent, either.  Our online edition features photography, which isn’t unheard of, but not ubiquitous, either.

NS: How do you feel about literary journals in general: simply a necessary means to an end, or something more worthwhile than even anthologies these days?

JWW: I think literary journals are crucial fixtures in the writing landscape.  We’re at the forefront, often the first to stumble on new talent and sharing them with the world.  I wouldn’t say they’re “more worthwhile” than anthologies; we’re different parts of a larger apparatus.  So long as there are new writers putting out new work, there will be journals out there seeking to find it.

NS: What kind of stuff does your journal publish?

JWW: Fiction, poetry, non-fiction.  Our website also features photography.  We have a pretty wide editorial range:  you’ll find “experimental” works as well as more “traditional” ones.  We don’t do much short short fiction these days (what many people call “flash fiction”) but we’ll look at anything.  If we love it, we’ll publish it.  A good, compelling voice will get our attention immediately.  We love sympathy and empathy, and we’re not so big on overt cleverness.

NS: How do we submit?

JWW: All our submissions are done online.  No reading fees.  For our online edition, we read constantly.  For our print issues, we generally read during the summer months.  You can find specific guidelines for the website here and for the print issue here.  As for word limits: we don’t have any restrictions, but of course the longer the work, the more it has to justify the space it’s taking up.  Again, for our online edition, we tend to favor pieces longer than what you’d normally read in other online journals.

NS: Do you think literary journals are endangered?

JWW: Literary journals generally are not very good at making money, so they’re frequently under threat of extinction.  Journals that survive off of institutional funding are at the mercy of the schools that fund them, so while it’s nice to have that support, it’s also deadly when the school decides it no longer wants to foot the bill.  (See what happened to TriQuarterly, for instance.)  I suppose another way to look at it is: I don’t think literary journals ever were not endangered.  Sure, yes, it feels like people are reading less these days, but it’s not like people ever really read literary journals before.  Because journals have always had to scrape by, we’re actually better prepared for survival than, say, print newspapers that are struggling with diminishing advertising revenue.

NS: Is becoming “online only” something to be worried about?

JWW: Goodness, no.  It’s how things are going.  Why be worried about it when you can embrace it and make it work for you?  Eventually everyone will be reading books and websites off of their tablets anyway (or even already doing so), so it’s not like there will be that big a difference between “online” and “print.”

NS: Will only the fittest survive, and could this be a good thing?

JWW: What do you mean by the fittest?  Those that survive will be the ones who find a way to adequately monetize their content, or find other revenue streams, or get by on shoestring budgets.  I don’t know if that necessarily means delivering the best writing, but I have hope it’ll do a good enough job.

NS: What about book-publishing?

JWW: Likely to end up like the music industry.  There will be people who care about the physical artifact, a niche industry, but seems to me the majority will become digital.

NS: Had you heard of Sonora Review before this?

JWW: Yes, of course.

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