“We both, without knowing each other beyond being IG mutuals, were sort of longing for something to do. In one of our earliest conversations, Monica said something along the lines of “Remember when the internet was fun?” We pretty much ran with that and tried to create a space that we ourselves would want to be browsing.”
Could you introduce the team behind Talk Vomit?
Monica: I’m Monica and I am the prose editor at Talk Vomit. I am also a co-founder, along with Mary. I live in Central Massachusetts, where I grew up. I’ve spent most of my post-college life working as a journalist, but I’ve started to teach in the last few years, which I’m leaning into these days. Outside of work and writing stuff, I recently became a mother to twins, live in a fixer-upper full of animals, and have gotten really into gardening.
Mary: And I’m Mary, the creative editor and also co-founder. I live in Somerville which is about 10 minutes away from where I grew up. I am a crisis therapist at a mental health urgent care facility on the North Shore. The response I almost always get to that is “wow that’s so tough!” And it is sometimes, which is why I do Talk Vomit and other creative projects to keep the balance in my life. I spend a lot of my free time in my yard with my cats and posting photos of them on the internet. I’m also involved in tenants organizing and Boston DSA. My recent motto is “I want to do absolutely everything and also nothing at all.”
How did the idea for Talk Vomit come up, and what has the road been like from the kick-off to where you are today?
Monica: I was a year or two out of the MFA, where I studied nonfiction, and feeling frustrated creatively. In particular, I was feeling really resentful at how much of this kind of life relies on gatekeepers to open doors for you, how competitive it is, and how impersonal publishing can be. I felt like if I didn’t stake out my own island, I was going to just explode. So, I posted to my Instagram stories that I was thinking about starting some sort of lit-zine-website thing, and then Mary DM’d me and I found, out of the blue, my Talk Vomit co-pilot and best friend. She can color that bit in.
Since then, it’s been a journey of fine-tuning and honing, as buzzword-y as that is. We’ve since changed our name, redone our website twice, and this year, are shifting to a quarterly publishing schedule and launching a print edition. We’re not a team afraid of making adjustments and I think that’s one of our greatest strengths.
Mary: Monica summed this up pretty well. We both, without knowing each other beyond being IG mutuals, were sort of longing for something to do. In one of our earliest conversations, Monica said something along the lines of “Remember when the internet was fun?” We pretty much ran with that and tried to create a space that we ourselves would want to be browsing. I think the earlier versions of the site were a lot less “us.” I think our main goal was to create something that felt fun, accessible and legitimate without feeling pretentious.
How would you describe Talk Vomit's vibe in 6 words or less?
Monica: Convivial and straightforward.
Mary: I’m actually gonna use the last line of my last answer here: fun, accessible and legitimate, not pretentious
One thing Karina & I always love is when we see a literary website where a lot of thought has been put into the design. Did you intentionally want Talk Vomit to have a bomb-ass look & feel, or is this just some natural talent at play?
Monica: So, yes, I definitely wanted the site to be lively, minimal-ish and fun. But the result is all Mary’s doing, so credit where credit is due. I think we’re both nostalgic for the days when the only social media anyone really had was a blog, so we do pay homage to that stylistically.
Mary: This is such a funny thing to answer. I texted Monica laughing when I read this question because I take so much pride in the site and have largely learned how to use illustrator for the purpose of making Talk Vomit look cool. I just had a real vision of how I wanted the site to look, that was definitely intentional. I want someone to click on our site and say “I want my work published here” or “I want to click around on this site, there’s probably some cool stuff.” I also wanted it to reflect our styles. I joke a lot about DIY vs DIW (Do It Well) so I’ll take some credit for natural talent perhaps but will also dish out some to Pinterest “Vibrant Color Pallet” boards, Google Fonts and Youtube tutorials.
Could you elaborate what you mean in your 'About' by 'genre-bending' and maybe provide an example or two for people looking to submit?
Monica: For me, that’s always meant a piece that isn’t afraid to be two things at once. That might mean autofiction, or an essay with absurdist elements, or a piece of writing that isn’t quite poetry but also isn’t quite prose. I like seeing writers really push themselves because I think that helps get at emotions that are otherwise hard to explain.
Here is an example of nonfiction: https://talkvomit.com/2021/03/01/a-grand-vision/, and here is one of fiction: https://talkvomit.com/2021/09/30/december-14th-1922/
You also have a book club. Could you tell us about it?
Monica: Our book club started out as a perk for supporting our now-defunct Patreon, but we’ve since made it free. To be completely honest, I’ve always wanted to be part of a book club, so I fully jumped on the opportunity to start one as a way to build Talk Vomit’s community. One simple pleasure in life is reading the same thing as your friends and then picking it apart together. We also want to be a place where both our readers and writers come back, not a passing ship in the night.
Mary: This is such a “be the change you want to see in this world” answer but it is true, I have nothing to add.
Awesome feature: "Random Read." What inspired this? Did you see it done somewhere or did it emerge out of an epiphany?
Monica: This is a Mary idea!
Mary: This was an epiphany. I think I called Monica on New Year's Eve about this, actually. I remember I did not even know if the technology existed to do this on a smaller website. I just wanted a way to show off some older pieces of work and more easily keep things in the rotation once the homepage became a static page.
What made you switch to a quarterly publication schedule & what were some of the challenges you faced while publishing online without a set schedule before?
Monica: A couple things. Balancing the rest of life with running an online magazine requires a lot of care. This simplifies things. It also gives writers and artists a deadline to aspire to, and I think it also can feel special to be published alongside a bunch of other writers at the same time. It certainly feels special as an editor to work on a more tangible product. Publishing nonstop, or trying to, started to reek of some of the things I like least about digital media, especially a lot of the more capitalism-driven parts.
Mary: Monica summed this up well. One thing I will add that I have found makes Talk Vomit feel special is that I create artwork for each of the stories we publish. It is hard to do this when you aren’t publishing to a deadline or trying to constantly be pushing new material through to the site. Circling back to our “Remember when the internet was fun?” inspo -- it is also really important to us that it feels fun and sustainable. We’re actually super excited about the first print issue.
I've seen Talk Vomit evolve over the past couple of years with different designs & publishing schedules. If you could go back to the beginning with some lessons already learned for anyone looking to start a lit mag, what would those lessons be? Or, if these changes were not from 'lessons learned' but more as a natural progression, could you speak a bit on that?
Monica: The quarterly publishing bit, for sure. I remember debating that way back in the earliest days, and I wish I’d followed my gut. There’s no reason to be on all the time, and that includes the publishing world, despite what the industry may suggest. Also, make sure your editorial check-in meetings are regularly scheduled, and meet — even when you think there’s nothing on your agenda. There’s always something you’re forgetting about, or some great idea that wouldn’t have otherwise come to fruition without a regular conversation.
Mary: I don’t think I would go back in time and do anything differently. So much of what Talk Vomit is today is the natural progression of trying things on and seeing what works. Because this is a collaborative project with Monica and I, there are two people on board who are constantly changing and evolving and I love that Talk Vomit has been able to grow with us into something I am quite proud of. I think my biggest lesson learned would really be to not be afraid to change it up. This was a brand new experience for me when we first launched in 2019. I had a lot of ideas but could never have come up with what we have now back then. I think it’s almost akin to picking a “career path” when you’re 17 years old. You might change your mind somewhere along the way and that’s okay. It is impossible to know how things are going to look 2 or 3 years down the line and it’s okay to shape it and learn as you go.
What makes a great co-editor? Good literature can be so subjective. How do you work as a team to choose what get's published? Is there a method or more of a feeling you both get about a piece and discuss?
Monica: We’ve ebbed and flowed over the years. If I have a gut feeling about something, I will often just make that decision on my own. Mary is so busy doing art and design, truly, it would be so unfair to expect her to read every single thing at the same time as me. We both screen submissions in general, but it’s sort of my ‘A’ responsibility, if that makes sense. We both generally read and/or discuss pieces where I am on the fence. I think we listen pretty closely to each other’s feedback, so this method has worked well for us.
As for a good co-editor, running Talk Vomit feels like a see-saw a lot. One of us is always doing a little bit more because everything can’t be equal every day, especially when we both have different strengths and non-Talk Vomit lives. So, a good co-editor has really clear strengths (ideally different ones from yours), and also works with you as your to-do list grows and shrinks from week to week. I think co-editing is largely about equity.
Mary: Yes, I will be honest, Monica reads all of the submissions. I read some of them but Monica does the leg work of bringing through what we are going to publish more than 99% of the time. I will echo the balance though and the importance of working with someone who knows that it’s never an even split for the workload all of the time. Monica alluded to this earlier but the best thing that we do is that we meet virtually every week to keep everything organized and stay on the same page.