Magazine: Lucky Jefferson
“An award-winning literary journal that generates interactive conversations around poetry and art by reforming the way journals are produced and shared. Lucky Jefferson is proud to feature poets and writers who have never been published, marginalized perspectives, and those who sought to pursue writing later in life.”
Talking with: NaBeela Washington, Editor-in-Chief
If you could sum up your magazine’s vibe in six words or less, what would they be?
Maybe, ‘Taco Bell Quarterly’s Long Lost Sister’ (lol)?
Lucky Jefferson is a space for all. We’re fun, bold, we lead with community first and are future-forward. We are the difference.
Who are four or five writers you see as typifying the kind of work you look for at your magazine?
- Natalie Diaz
- Danez Smith
- Safia Elhillo
- Marie Howe (or Li Young Lee)
- Morgan Parker
Are there any common mistakes writers make when they submit to your magazine?
I believe the first and most common mistake writers make is treating every literary publication like they all operate and publish equally. Literature and art are incredibly subjective meaning that the vision and tastes of the Masthead often dictate what will and will not be published.
Sadly this means that you could read a dozen back issues (you should really prioritize reading the most recently published issue), and still not receive that glorified acceptance simply because your work falls outside the interests of the Masthead.
A better way to understand the likelihood of your work gaining acceptance is by looking at the spirit of our magazine—what does our personality on social media tell you? What themes take up the most space in our issues? What type of work are the folks on our Masthead involved in and what are we passionately writing about?
This may be too bluntly stated, but I believe that Editors like to see their perspectives affirmed in the writers they publish. The work they enjoy reading most (individually) and the work that embodies and aligns with their vision for the future of their magazine (and the world at large) might be prioritized over writing that falls outside of that. We know writers hate receiving the dreaded “your work is not a good fit for us” or “there’s just not enough space for your amazingness this go around” and so we work diligently to find a space for the pieces we adore in our publication.
One other critical mistake you should avoid is not reviewing the submission guidelines in full. We made our guidelines short and sweet just to make things easier for you. And please share work you’re proud of. Sharing work that is in-progress or sharing something for the sake of submitting doesn’t help anyone.
The lit mag scene is massive. What did you want to bring to the community with your magazines that is different from what others are offering?
What sets Lucky Jefferson apart from other publications is our ability to create experiences that bring writers together in fun and intentional ways. We do an excellent job cultivating spaces where non-writers can experience writing in a new form; especially since writing can be super formal, creating barriers to access. So we use art as a vehicle to translate contemporary literature and give it new energy. We’re also doing research to generate new publishing standards when publishing BIPOC authors. And most of the art you see on our socials (and website) was created by students. Supporting young and emerging creatives is so important to us!
What is your ideal cover letter to see for a submission? Simple and sweet? Professional? A few kind words peppered in?
Definitely short and sweet! We honestly don’t care if someone has been published 50+ times. Your merit begins with the words you took a risk in sharing with us. Be yourself and own your truth and artistry!
Is there a specific kind of project you haven’t seen in your current submissions that you’d love to see come in?
Would love to see more dramatic writing; we were lucky that we were able to produce a one-act play (Aria), once upon a time, and want to see more stories and experimental ways of writing break through within the realm of drama.
We’d also love to receive more nerdy subs. Subs about anime. Subs about comics (including comic art)! Send us your quirky!
What do you see as a deal-breaker in a submission, regardless of the quality of the writing? (For example, poor formatting, vulgarity, etc.)
Receiving someone’s full manuscript—we’re not quite a press yet. That immediately signals to us that the author did not do their homework and might be spam submitting.
We don’t tolerate any work that promotes harmful stereotypes and perspectives including: racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, antisemitism, ableism.
We also don’t care for sexually explicit pieces, or works highlighting extreme violence. Hate to say it but insta poems or super cheesy love poems are also not typically pieces we publish. We can count on one hand how many times we’ve given love a chance. There’s a poem by Safia Elhillo called “A Memory of Us” that is an example of a “love” poem we’d publish, if you even want to label that a love piece or ode to it. Please review our guidelines on what we don’t publish.
What is a recent piece published in your magazine that you think would make a great short film?
Deaf House, by Paul Hostovsky, in our Gibberish issue!
Please give that piece/issue a read on our website: luckyjefferson.com/gibberish
Many writers struggle to decide what to say about themselves in a bio. What is an example, either made up or from a writer you’ve published, of the ideal literary bio?
Someone once wrote their bio in the form of a haiku and we loved it! Keep it simple, avoid hiding behind your publications and accolades. Tell us about who you are in 50 words or less and how your work is suited for Lucky Jefferson.
If you could add one question to this interview, what would it be, and how would you answer it?
Maybe “what do you dislike about being an editor.”
There are so many things to enjoy about being an editor but one thing I’ve come to dislike is how people treat me like a publishing machine instead of a human being. “Oh you’re an editor? I’ve been working on this project/book, can you take a read when you have a chance?”
No and no. We are more than this practice. We are more than our labor.
NaBeela Washington is an Alabama-raised poet, editor, and budding art collector. Learn more at nabeelawashington.com