My 2000th visitor
A few weeks ago I received an email from Jamie Wasserman, a 25-year-old woman from Baltimore. Jamie is the managing editor of The Alsop Review, one of the oldest ezines on the web, a writer herself, and coincidentally the 2000th visitor to my website. How do I know she was the 2000th visitor? Because Jamie, bless her nerdy heart, actually took a screen snapshot and sent it to me to prove it. Jamie and I sat down this week over our emails and talked about writing, the internet, and how wonderful my website is.
Firstly, let's admit that anyone taking snapshots of their screen is probably fairly computer savvy. What is your history with computers? When did you first get interested in the web?
I've been involved with desktop publishing for about 10 years--newspaper and yearbook in high school, a radio station magazine in college. When I graduated, no one wanted an English major so I started to sell what little computer skills I had, picked up the rest along the way. I work as a technical writer and a web designer now. It's boring but it pays the bills and gives me plenty of free time. I think it was in those periods of 'down-time' at work that I started to really play around on the web, see what kind of opportunities were out there.
How does one go to being a 25-year-old managing editor of Alsop Review? Did you get a degree in a related field? How did you go from where you were to where you are?
Though I'm only 25, I've really been at it for quite a while. In college, aside from organizing a student writers' group I also coordinated all visiting poets. I had a chance to meet and work with Larry Levis, Carolyn Forche, and Mary Oliver. After college (and after bumming about England), I worked for a small press newspaper (Lite, Baltimore's Literary Newspaper). In the course of things, I discovered a literary movement on the world wide web. How I made it as managing editor of The Alsop Review is still beyond me. You'd have to ask Jaimes Alsop exactly what he was thinking ;-)
Do you find most of your contributors through the web, or is it still the age-old process of meeting people, random occurrences and the like? Where do you go to look at writers on the web? Why do you go there?
Generally, we don't solicit material. AR has been around for quite a bit (in web years) and we have some incredible writers sending us manuscripts. I'm very proud of the fact that Alsop and our monthly magazine Octavo has been the first web publication for a tremendous amount of established 'print' writers. When I do search about the web, I look for writers' homepages. I'm generally not interested in writers whose work appears all over the internet. Rather, I'm looking to expose writers who are new to the web to our audience.
You sent a very charming quote to me regarding the difficulties of being both a writer and a literary editor. I was hoping you'd repeat the quote and explain a little bit about the difficulties. Do you find it hard to write when you are looking and being influenced by so many others?
"An editor is like a eunuch--he knows what to do, he sees how to do it, he just can't..." I laugh when I say it but it's really a rather sad state of affairs. It's a bit overwhelming to spend a week reading and coding the work of writers like Robert Sward or Lola Haskins and then return to my own work. To edit is to doubt. Once you start editing the work of others, you never really stop. The little voice in the back of your head just does not shut up--it becomes crippling when it comes to getting that first draft on paper.
Do you yourself run a personal website? What do you think some of the issues are/will be concerning the traditional literary industry as it applies to ever-increasing technology? How do we solve these issues?
I don't keep a personal website but I am involved in several web projects. It just hasn't allowed me the time to put up a page specifically of moi. I don't think the web will ever replace books which is what some people seem to fear. What's exciting is how it will supplement it--allow you to hear the writer speak, see images (artwork, photography) that small press publishers don't have the cost to reprint, even put the reader in direct contact with the author. The web is opening doors that would have just been unheard of 10 years ago. There's a lot of anxiety and nothing is going to quell that--birth is always painful. I think the conveniences in the long run will outweigh its draw-backs and the web will find its niche as a supplement to the literary print world.
Finally, the most important question of all--what did you think of my website? More appropriately, how do you think it compares to the hundreds of personal lit websites you obviously peruse as part of your job? As a person who has to look at a lot of these, what tips would you have for all those self-programmers out there?
I was, as they say, suitably impressed. The design was lovely and easy to navigate and organized very clearly. You let the presentation and the excerpts sell your work without resorting to cheesy banners or pleas to purchase. You also offer original content which is nice and a means for readers to interact. Certainly one of the better homepages I've seen and I've probably combed through thousands and thousands of them. Most homepages infected with distracting backgrounds, animations, stolen graphics, or over-top-self-promotion. Less is always more.
Copyright 2000, Jason Pettus. All rights reserved.