Wednesday, May 14, 2014

TCR Literary Journals Series: Newfound (An Interview with Newfound's Managing Editor Daniel Levis Keltner)

"The world doesn’t need another literary journal," says Daniel Levis Keltner, managing editor of Newfound. "This was my canned response to friends proposing to start journals. It takes a tremendous amount of work to accomplish the very basics—to publish hip, stirring, and quality work. So many already established journals out there need helping hands—why not pitch in? I’m no more original than anyone else. So, for me, to get into publishing meant the journal had to strive to achieve more."

Newfound is an online publication devoted to literary, visual, and artistic perspectives and interpretations of the physical world. Using fiction, essays, poetry, and visual art Newfound explores how place shapes identity, imagination, and understanding.

Daniel Levis Keltner, managing editor of Newfound.
A recent issue offers "Engagement," a short story by Darrin Doyle, in which a stable, middle-aged couple finds their lives unraveling when -- emboldened by drink and, perhaps more importantly, by the strangeness of being out very late at night -- they finally confront noisy neighbors.

Jaime Groetsema begins her review of a Chicago poetry reading by James Franco and Frank Bidart with a prelude about being interrupted by a fellow passenger while reading As I Lay Dying on a grimy city bus -- "He leaned over. He said what I was reading was his favorite book. His pleasure made me nervous...The man I thought I recognized was getting up. Was whispering in my ear. Was whispering and grinning: 'enjoy the book.' I couldn't read it anymore. The book was no longer mine."

Joseph Giordano's Newfound story "Arab Spring," about the peculiarities of doing business in Egypt, was selected as TCR Story of the Month for February 2014.

Mock-up of forthcoming Newfound print
"Our focus allows each issue to reveal place as more than an influence, but a reflection of ourselves, our culture, our humanity," Keltner explained to The Committee Room."We are the world; the world is we (I’d put it on a tote bag if it had the same ring). I think our commitment to inquiry instead of advocacy makes Newfound a little less bleeding-heart than the idea of environmentalist writing. Really, we’re (sub)urban kids who’ve grown up loving the complicated (can I say “fucked up” here?) beauty of a hybrid, and largely constructed, world. We’re rep-ing our home here, people—but not in simple celebration. We’re much too wise (read: jaded) and ask too many questions for that business. We’re modern day explorers. Does that make our issues field notes?"

Newfound was established by Gwynne Middleton and Eric Stottlemeyer in 2009 under the title Precipitate. Middleton and Stottlemeyer, whose backgrounds are in Literature and Environmental Studies respectively, sought to combine their expertise and start a discourse on place-based writing, art, and environmental activism. Keltner came on board as "web dude" and then took on the role of visual arts editor. "We only knew lit folks then and someone had to do it," Keltner says about the visual arts job, adding that he found the job "surprisingly satisfying."

Newfound PR Director Jennifer Taylor and
Keltner at AWP conference, Seattle, 2014.
In 2012, Precipate was revamped into Newfound, with Keltner as managing editor. "The simple answer to why we went through a Madonna-esque makeover is that we weren’t reaching our potential," Keltner says. "If we wanted to affect lives, we had to lean hard into the arts and leave the academic analysis to others or to another project." He adds that "looking back, it was damn worth every hair I pulled out of my head and that I couldn’t have managed the transition without Rujuta Paradkar, our excellent executive director."

Keltner points to Flyway and Terrain as journals that come closest to what Newfound is doing. "Somehow Newfound has been able to cross similar territory without using the word environment  (laughs)," says Keltner. "We’re not trying very hard to be deep. The work speaks for itself. I like to think that’s what our readers love about us and why our writers are proud to call Newfound home for their work. Whatever we’re doing, it’s allowed us to stay true to ourselves and publish some of the very best authors."

Flyer for Newfound's poetry
chapbook contest.
Newfound aims to release its first annual print issue, which will include work not published on the web, later in 2014. There are also plans to start a press and to publish a chapbook of the winner of Newfound's annual Gloria E. Anzaldúa Poetry Prize. "If you don’t know Anzaldúa’s work, go now and read Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Then let us publish you," says Keltner. 

Keltner explains that "print is costly, labor intensive, and returns little revenue, at least on our level. The major benefit of print is increasing our readers’ joy. As we’ve come to learn from the music industry, the print vs. digital debate was less about technological replacement as it was about liberating a work of art from a single medium and providing choices to suit your audience’s lifestyle. There will always be 'vinyl' readers and 'Spotify' readers out there. So, for us, caring about our readership means tailoring our content for print publication. Now is just the best time to release an exciting, quality print issue in terms of our growth as a journal."

Newfound executive director
Rujuta Paradkar.
Newfound is based in Austin, Texas. Several of Newfound's volunteers are graduates of the creative writing MFA program at Texas State University in nearby San Marcos but there is no connection between the journal and university. Keltner says that the major advantage to being an independent publication is "a dedicated and talented staff—no yearly turnover here. We have an interest in contributing to Newfound’s success because giving back to the literary community through nonprofit publishing is our dream. We’re also working writers and that experience guides all that we do at Newfound. Of course, the disadvantage is no steady economic backing or services (printing, event space, student labor, etc.) that some university journals get gratis. Luckily, I’m shrewd when it comes to money (laughs)."

Newfound receives approximately fifty submissions each month. About half of what is published is from emerging writers and the other half is solicited. "It's our job as a publisher to spread buzz-worthy work that enacts our mission," Keltner says. "Yes, we solicit popular writers and artists that we're reading and excited about. But we also want to share new voices. We've been lucky in that many unsolicited submissions of talent grace our desks each issue. For me, great journals are inspirational as well as aspirational. Publishing both popular writers and up-and-comers validates the endeavor in a manner that would be impossible otherwise."

Hothouse,also published by the Newfound non-profit organization.
"It’s not a matter of style," Keltner says in regard to what gets accepted for publication. "The work in Newfound ranges from experimental to utterly classic. Quality, depth, and relevance to our reader’s lived experience of the world are my guiding lights as managing editor. I want to read work that matters. Each section editor has, and should have, their unique tastes."

Hothouse, a news and opinion magazine, is a sister publication of Newfound. Both publications are projects of the Newfound non-profit umbrella organization established in 2013. "Hothouse is a web magazine born out of our passion for politically charged non-fiction. Though it also contains a section called 'Hotshots' that publishes odd and lovely bits of fiction and poetry," Keltner explains.

Keltner's greatest challenge with Newfound is "accomplishing topnotch literary feats on a shoestring budget" but, he adds "it’s also half the fun."

Here's more information --

Newfound listing in The Review Review.

TCR Literary Journals series: aaduna (2013); African-American Review (2012); Beloit Fiction Journal (2012); Bellingham Review (2012); Blue Lake Review (2012); Gargoyle (2013); Glimmer Train (2013); The Journal -- Ohio State (2012); Notre Dame Review (2011).

The Committee Room.  Time Spent with TCR is Never Wasted.


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