BLACK RABBIT interview by Duotrope
Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.
A: Desire & nostalgia.
Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?
A: ERRR, Adbusters, Gargoyle, Milkfist, Dazed & Confused, i-D, NYT Modern Love column, & Vice.
Q: Who are your favorite writers?
A: James Baldwin, Leo Tolstoy, Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, Hélène Cixous, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, Carole Maso, Anton Chekhov, D.H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, David Sedaris, Henrik Ibsen, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath, Bei Dao, George Bernard Shaw, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Junot Diaz, Allen Ginsberg, Cormac McCarthy, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Miranda July, e.e. cummings, and John Edgar Wideman.
Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?
A: We serve fidelity for breakfast. We're a home for all the weirdos and misfits who are used to being outliers. When I founded this magazine, it was an act of faith.
I thought if I was transparent and honest with how I wanted to see the world, in all its monstrosity and beauty (but always, at the end beauty, even if it is a tragic or melancholy beauty) others who desired the same would come. And they did. I now have a small tribe of prolific and courageous artists and writers I call my "rabbits". They have been made visible to one other because of the magazine. They now, we now, feel a little less alone. That was the point of our publication. To serve as a platform that united text and aesthetic in a way that would represent this artistic community made up of punks and lone rangers. The hardest part about making decisions based off longevity is we have to have a solid understanding and holistic faith in each artist. The conviction and endorsement of our artists isn't hard to do, but there are few artists that are willing to risk their ego in order to be honest and transparent about their character and their struggles. A lot of bad art is facade. We don't do that whole idol worship thing with people or philosophies that are trending. Our staff and our contributors are people we whole-heartedly endorse and defend. So we're anally selective. But when people do stumble over to us, we get the good ones. The artists who have been braving their own battles and have been fighting to see the world with hope even when they were standing alone. And our readers are incredibly faithful and supportive. I think they can tell the difference between us and typical publications that cycle through staff and writers and featured photographers every issue and don't have a foundation built off of this integrity for art and people.
Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?
A: Please don't include biographical information along with your submission. This won't change our interest in your work. Your actual writing or art will speak for itself. And if we're interested in you, we'll definitely be asking more about you than the impersonal paragraph of accomplishments you have included. Also, think about why you are submitting to us. Are we just another publication you'd like to have under your belt, or is there a reason why we'd like to work with you. Why we'd like to represent you.
Q: Describe the ideal submission.
A: "The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over."
Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?
A: We are looking for work that makes us tremble with beauty. Beauty does not mean Disney princess wrappings. It does not mean fluffy clouds and kittens. But it does mean some sort of belief, some sort of faith, in human dignity and life. Don't send us ignorant garbage where characters (or subjects) are mindlessly violent, sexist, or racist without the narrator (or illustrator or photographer) taking responsibility for how and why he or she is portraying this. There's a lot of gnarly situations, a lot of sadness, and a lot of messed up stuff happening in the world. People kill each other, hurt each other, blow each other up....but at the end of day, if you're writing this about this, (which you should) you should also do a little thinking. A little introspection. Think about why this matters. To you, and to the reader. We're big believers in saying something about things no one else will. In sweeping our demons out from the corners, of running after them with our brooms until we get the DL. Just don't go beating around people or yourself with a big broom and call it art, without questioning. Always question. That's where the art comes in. That's when your submission should come in.
Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?
A: "It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."
Please, we want to know nothing about you before we see your work. Just send us your art. It is through your words and images that we will fall in love with you. And then we'll go all "On The Street Where You Live" on you, and you'll start to think we're more interested in your life than your own mother. So let's not rush things.
Q: How much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?
A: This is like the love at first sight vs. slowly budding desire debate. Different folks, different strokes.
Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?
A: I read every single piece and respond to each of our contributors myself. I believe this is integral to maintaining the dignity of our publication and original manifesto. Sometimes I have our in-house writers review pieces I may be on the fence about. Ian Kappos, the co-editor and co-founder of the phenomenal publication Milkfist, has also acted as a second set of eyes.
Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?
A: I wake up at 5:00am and smear whatever edible thing I find in my fridge on a piece of sourdough toast, drink more coffee than I should, and head hunt for a couple hours. We have an international staff, so it means emails, texts, and phone calls pour in at all times of the day. My co-editor lives in St. Petersburg, so we're constantly cramming in Skype calls at weird hours. I've read a lot of submissions while on trains, planes, and boats across the country, in shady bars, in Japanese hotel rooms, on the east coast and the west coast. If I find a piece I like, I'll obsess over, re-reading and re-reading, chanting lines under my breath, purring over every single photograph or artwork the artist has ever made. I feel sorry for anybody who is trying to date me. The process of putting together this magazine isn't normal. And it's not a normal magazine.
Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?
A: “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936.
DON'T LET THE MAN HOLD YOU DOWN.
Amelia Bush, Editor in Chief on 30 October 2015