Sue Staats Interviews Joyland San Francisco’s Editor Kara Levy

Kara Levy’s fiction has been published in, among other publications:  Mississippi Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Narrative Magazine, where she was the winner of the 30 Below Prize for writers under 30.  She’s a recent Steinbeck fellow, and currently the San Francisco editor of Joyland: A Hub for Fiction. She’ll be bringing writers who have been published in Joyland to this month’s “Stories on Stage,” and I had a chance to ask her some questions recently about this unique publishing concept.

Kara, I’m so curious about  Joyland: A Hub for Fiction. What is it? How does it function?

Joyland Magazine is a literary magazine that curates fiction regionally. We’re primarily an online publication, and we have editors in eight North American regions (Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, Montreal & Atlantic, Midwest, Toronto, Los Angeles, South) as well as a Consulate arm that curates international fiction. The magazine’s co-founders and publishers, Brian Joseph Davis and Emily Schultz, do the mastermindery of keeping the site running and overseeing the business end of things, as well as providing all the creative brainpower that keeps the magazine trying new things and expanding. The editors work independently to choose and solicit fiction from their region, work with authors to edit the work, and put it up on the site. Magic! Fiction for everyone!

How and why did Joyland get started? Where did the name come from?

Emily Schultz had purchased the Joyland URL for her first novel years ago, and the site really started out of the question of “What do you do with a promotional URL once its time is over?” Brian Joseph Davis’s idea was a literary site, but instead of replicating the issue-by-issue structure, they made something native to the web: individual stories posted every week using a distributed editorial model. Emily and Brian had done a fair bit of touring for books and art projects so they started working with friends they had met on the road.

What sort of writing are you looking for? What’s your editorial slant? And, is it different from the other regional editors’ preferences?

One of the most exciting things about working on Joyland is that every editor has pretty much total freedom to choose their content. If you peruse the site, you’ll find that the kind of fiction you read from one region may be very different from the next.  Part of that is due to the subjectivity of the editors, of course, but it’s also interesting to see how regional differences can contribute to the flavor of the fiction. (To the question “Does place shape story?” I think Joyland answers with a resounding yes.) For Joyland San Francisco, my personal preference is a story that feels true and surprising, with close attention to language and character. I feel like there are some stories where the priority is plot, or setting, or the creation of an intricate world; those can be wonderful, but my favorite stories to read are those that go after a feeling — that truly make the reader feel what the characters do — and I think the work that goes into that really starts at the level of the prose.

Let’s make perusing the site easy to do—here’s the link I’m curious: are you strictly on-line, or do you have a print edition?

We’re primarily an online magazine, but we do have a biannual print edition called Joyland Retro, which features some of the best stories from the magazine. We’ll have a few copies of our recent issue for sale at Stories on Stage on May 25.

You have a “consulate” section for international work. How does that function?

We have a rotating group of editors who curate that part of the magazine.

With all the on-line journals, how do you plan to stand out? What’s your “niche,” if you have one? What publications do you see as your competition?

I’m going to let our co-publisher Brian Joseph Davis field that one. He says: “I think you can only have competition in a scarce market, and there is no scarcity of literary fiction right now. I don’t say that negatively; I think it’s wonderful that no one goes unpublished. It’s up to operations like Joyland to make sure everyone is at least edited as well. And our niche might be our editors–their diversity in taste and background really do make Joyland a constant surprise.”

 Are you always looking for new stories, or do you have a “reading period?” How many new stories a week/month do you publish? And, do you publish essays, reviews, non-fiction, or poetry?

Yes, we are always looking for new stories! Send away! Our publication schedule is fluid. In an ideal world, I’d love to be able to publish a story every month, but it really depends on accepted-submission volume. At the moment we accept short fiction, novel excerpts, and personal essay submissions at Joyland Magazine, and poetry submissions at Joyland Poetry.

 I’ve got my story all polished and ready to submit. How long before I’ll hear back from you?

We do our best to be reasonably timely with responses, though every editor works on a different timetable. What we can promise is that we’ll read your work thoroughly — and we really do appreciate unsolicited submissions.

Is this your first reading in Sacramento?

Yes it is! We’re so excited to be a part of Stories on Stage, and to have the opportunity to tell the Sacramento community more about Joyland. And we’d really like to see more work from Sacramento-area writers.

I’ll consider that an invitation! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about Joyland.

Sue Staats recently received her MFA in Fiction from Pacific University. She’s currently revising her novella, “The Mitchell Boys,” and working on a collection of linked short stories. Her short story “No Hero, No Sharks” was runner-up for the 2011 Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction, a finalist for the 2011 Reynolds Price Fiction Award, and was published this spring in The Farallon Review. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have also been published numerous times in Susurrus, the literary journal of Sacramento City College.

1 Comment

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One response to “Sue Staats Interviews Joyland San Francisco’s Editor Kara Levy

  1. Enlightening! I was wondering about the origins of Joyland. Thanks, Kara – and Sue.

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