Los Angeles is in for a big, frosty glass of literary lemonade (or perhaps a delicate, rare fine wine is a more apt comparison). At the beginning of this month, an exciting new publication hit the shelves: Slake Magazine. To celebrate its launch, Vroman’s and one of Slake’s editors and co-founders, Joseph Donnelly, put together a blog series to help you all get a taste of this incredible new magazine. Today, an interview with Joseph; tomorrow and Friday, check back for excerpts. And now, without further ado: the interview!
Vromans: What is Slake Magazine?
Joseph Donnelly: Slake is a quarterly publication –by from and for Los Angeles and the world beyond. As the tag says, “A city and its stories.” Los Angeles has a wealth of stories and experiences that we believe are of interest locally and around the world. As I’ve said before, this city assumes the challenges and privileges of the modern world more than any other city in the US and that makes life here so rich. We feel the best way to reflect that rich experience is through this expansive experiment in slow lit. Within its pages one can find deeply reported journalism, fiction, essay, memoir, art, poetry and photography. It’s a book of neighborhoods as this is a city of neighborhoods. You never know what you’ll find around the next corner or on the next page. Plus, it’s just good summer reading. Something to take with you and it come back to time and again.
V: What makes Slake different from other magazines?
JD: Well, it’s size, scope and ambition set it apart. Every page is handcrafted in service of the narrative — whether employing images or words. It’s for a deep, engaged experience, rather than a quick hit. We took great care to present each piece as its own work of art, whether its poetry written on the walls of an abandoned house or deeply reported journalism that feels like it’s a book within a book.
V: Why Slake: Los Angeles? Does the magazine plan to expand in the future, showcasing other cities, countries, etc.?
JD: We plan to keep our focus on Los Angeles, or emanating from Los Angeles. But, Los Angeles, we like to say, is the first city of the 21st Century here in the US. Unlike Las Vegas, what happens here doesn’t stay here.
V: How did your time with the LA Weekly inform or affect the creation of Slake?
JD: The LA Weekly under Laurie Ochoa (and I like to think I had a role) had the same ambition and expansive, inclusive character. We also believed in nurturing distinctive voices. There wasn’t an institutional mandate or voice, other than quality and relevance. So, in that way, it was very formative. Also, we developed and incredible network of talented writers and artists. Laurie and I both feel a responsibility to provide some sort of safe haven for the kind of intellectual life we know thrives here. That, and have a lot of fun.
V: What writers and artists were you most excited to include in the magazine?
JD: Well, all of them, really. There are some marquee names in this issue, as you can see: Geoff Nicholson, John Powers, Jonathan Gold, Michelle Huneven, Luke Davies, John Albert, Judith Lewis Mernit and more. But we also included many new and exciting voices and even some amazing discoveries. Some of the most rewarding experiences were with relatively unknown writers such David Schneider, whose “Ballad of the Trunk Monkey Bandit” is one of our favorites. Jamie Brisick who worked very hard with us on his engaging and harrowing piece of memoir “Blood and Water,” and Erica Zora Wrightson who has a beautiful piece called “Artichoke” that closes the book. We also brought in a bunch of poets — Polly Geller, Ray DiPalma, who is from New York but whose piece struck as universal, John Tottenham, and others — and were really excited to showcase poetry, which can be so vital and dynamic and shouldn’t be kept out of the mainstream the way it is.
V: I know part of Slake’s creation was the desire to prove the idea that “Print is Dead” wrong. How will you keep the medium of print fresh in an increasingly digital world?
JD: I think by making it so seductive it can’t be put down. We hope that’s what we’ve done. We believe Slake is something people will want to keep. You can’t really keep digital words, or at least not in the same way. We believe words and images are for more than just information, that they can provide a moving experience, whether its informative, entertaining, poignant or agitating.
V: Three words that describe Slake:
JD: Beautiful, engaging, satisfying.
V: Can you tell us anything exciting about the next issue?
JD: We’re just starting to turn our attention to it. We’ve been swamped with the release of the first issue, but you can be sure it will be as surprising as this one.
V: And is there anything else we should know about Slake?
JD: There are a bunch of readings and events scheduled for this summer, we hope to see folks there. We want this new voice to really take root and thrive and be around for awhile. We want to make something that shows LA to the world in the way we know it, as as fascinating, dynamic and smart place.
Speaking of events, join Slake at Vromans on August 13th! Five contributors will be present to talk about Slake and their writing. 7pm, Vroman’s main store. Check the link for more information.