If you could sum up your magazine's vibe in six words or less, what would they be?
Part visitor’s guide, part literary journal.
Editors notoriously don’t get paid much (if at all) and tend to take a lot of flack. So, why do it? Is there a moment you can remember in your time with your magazine where you thought: ‘this, this is why I do it’?
Every so often I get to visit the places that contributors have written about in Scrawl Place and re-read their pieces while I’m there. I’ve already enjoyed traveling vicariously through their writing; being in the place adds a whole new dimension.
Every time that happens, I’m reminded “this is why I do it.” Writing about place is a way of sharing an experience. I like the idea that the meanings of a place can be shared, contested, negotiated, dialogued, and so on through creative work.
What inspired you to marry travel writing with a literary journal?
I enjoy mainstream, commercial travel publications and individual travel bloggers, but the writing is pretty much confined to the same genre. It’s usually cast as service journalism, advice, reviews, rankings, tips and tricks – that sort of thing. It rarely inspires me to visit a place or to think differently about places I’ve been.
I love when people tell me about their favorite places – where they live or where they’ve visited. I never get tired of hearing people talk about what to do while I’m in town. I cherish the stories and memories they share with me, and the interpretations of their experiences. I wanted to capture some of that magic in a literary journal.
What is your favorite place to write about?
My favorite geographic places to write about are places in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, because I grew up there; Washington, D.C., because I lived there for nearly two decades; Las Vegas; and a few different parts of Spain with which I’m infatuated.
My favorite types of places to write about are public art installations, art museums, breweries, rest stops, transportation hubs, and offbeat attractions.
I’m committed to being a traveler in my own town, so I like exploring and writing about places in the places where I live. Still, I’m not entirely happy if I’ve been at home too long. There’s a threshold, and when I reach it, I’ve got to go somewhere else.
What are some countries you haven’t published about in Scrawl Place that you’d love to see work from?
Scrawl Place has only been around for a year, so there are lots of countries that aren’t represented. Most of submissions are about places in Europe and the United States, so I’m hoping to get more submissions from outside those areas (although, there are still lots of places in both those areas that aren’t represented.)
That said, I never accept or decline a piece based on the place itself. I’m more interested in the writing and whether it would be of interest to the audience for Scrawl Place.
What made you decide to pay writers? (A lot of magazine don’t or are unable to)
I’m a full-time freelance writer. I get paid to write, so it was important to me that I try to pay writers something. I understand why journals don’t pay, but so long as the journal is still going and I can scrape up the money, I want to pay something.
In fact, one of my motivations to pay was in case the journal doesn’t make it. I’m sensitive to the way life could change, and suddenly it wouldn’t be possible for me to keep Scrawl Place going. I think the main role of a publisher is to bring writers and audience together. I figured that if for some reason I couldn’t keep doing that, at least the writers will have been compensated at least a little bit.
When people see “travel” they might assume it means a story must involve a far-off place—is there anywhere too far or close that you wouldn’t be interested in?
The “travel” part of the journal is more for readers than writers. I think writers can and should write about places close to home, but with an audience in mind that includes people who might travel there.
But, yes, some places are too far and too close. Mars or any other place outside the earth’s atmosphere is too far. Your bedroom or your backyard is too close. I have even gotten submissions where the “place” is someone’s mind.
So here are some rules of thumb for prospective contributors: 1) Can you pin the place on a map? 2) Realistically, is it a place readers could visit if they wanted to?
You spent a lot of time in the publishing industry. Is there an aspect of the industry that writers don’t get a lot of exposure to but would be useful for them to pursue learning themselves, as you did?
Most writers only get exposed to the editorial side of publishing. I often wonder how their attitudes about publishing would change if they were exposed to other aspects – finance, sales, distribution, manufacturing, promotion, etc. My opinions about publishing certainly have been shaped by my experiences in those areas.
But I don’t think they’re necessary to be an author or writer. However, if you want to be a publisher or a self-employed freelance writer, some sales experience can be very helpful.
Are there any common mistakes writers make when they submit to your magazine?
No. If someone doesn’t follow the guidelines, that’s okay. I’ll still give the work some attention, because maybe I’ll read something that makes me want to change the guidelines?
I want the submissions process to be as easy and open as possible. To that end, Scrawl Place is open for submissions pretty much all the time (with occasional one week breaks here and there). There are no reading fees. You can simultaneously submit to your heart’s content, and I welcome previously published work that fits the journal’s theme and audience.
There are the well-worn (for good reason) pieces of advice like "read submissions guidelines" and "read the journal you're submitting to," but do you have any other advice for prospective writers looking to get their work published?
Self-publish. If you can’t find a journal to publish your work, don’t sit on it. Publish it on a blog. Share it on social media. I grieve for all the great work that’s not getting published simply because journals don’t have enough space, time, or money to put it out there. So do it yourself. Try to find your own audience.
If you could add one question to this interview, what would it be, and how would you answer it?
The question would be “What’s next for Scrawl Place?”
The answer is, I’m not sure. The journal is approaching its one-year anniversary. I didn’t know when I started whether it would resonate, whether people would want to submit or read it. I didn’t know how long I’d want to keep doing it, so I didn’t think much further out than a year.
Right now, I feel the same way about Scrawl Place that I did when I first started working for myself. Every year, I didn’t know if it would be the last, until after about four years passed. In my fifth year of freelancing, I felt for the first time that I could keep doing it for as long as I wanted. Before then, I didn’t know.
So, I’m pretty certain Scrawl Place will celebrate a second anniversary, but after that? I don’t know. I’m still approaching it one year at a time.