by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro
Young as we are as a publication, The Brown Orient has already been blessed with opportunities to find a community of our own in this wide expanse of independent publishing. We are firm believers of mutual support for like-minded collectives: editors, artists, and writers who believe in creating safe spaces for marginal identities. One of the few publications that we are lucky to have partnered with is L’Éphémère Review, an online literary and art journal and micro-press dedicated to the ephemeral, existential, and eternal.
Journal founders had a one-on-one as TBO's Elizabeth Ruth Deyro got to chat with L’ÉR's Kanika Lawton about her publication's humble beginnings and what we can expect for its bright future.
1. What’s the story behind L’Éphémère Review? How did it come to be, and what drove you to start the magazine?
L’Éphémère Review actually began as a (now defunct) Tumblr writing collective called Ephemere Net! When I was still active on the platform, I started Ephemere Net as a way to connect with fellow writers and post weekly writing prompts. I ran it from late 2015 to around April 2016, before closing it to focus on taking its concept (ephemeral, existential work) and restructuring it into a literary journal. What especially drove me to create my own journal was my experience in the UCLA Writers of Color workshop. I’ve never had my poems edited and workshopped in that kind of environment before, and I loved it. I wanted to replicate it online, and began planning out what type of writing and art we would accept and created L’ÉR’s Twitter account in June 2016, with the launch of our inaugural issue slanted for that September.
It was around this time that I got entangled in my first brush with love, which was exciting but, in truth, the relationship was doomed from the beginning. I was reeling so badly from the ensuing fallout I threw myself into L’ÉR, promoting our first call for submissions all over social media, creating the website, and getting everything ready for our first issue. I was angry and heartbroken and channelled that all into the journal; I wanted something positive to come out of all of this hurt.
Imagine my shock when our first issue was well-received, and then the next, and then the next. I felt like we began gaining traction in the online literary sphere seemingly overnight, gaining new followers and readers everyday. I was surprised and unbelievably happy, and also thankful that, despite the pain, something good came out of it not only for myself, but for our first contributors and every subsequent writer and artist that have graced our journal. I believe we’ve only been growing since, and we have no plan of slowing down.
2. How was it like to start your own magazine? What are some obstacles you had to overcome in the process of getting your magazine out there, and how did those help in shaping L’Éphémère Review?
Outside of Writers of Color and academia, my experience with editing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction was very limited. I pulled extensively from what I did know from peer editing groups and feedback/critiques in my classes in the first few months, and learned the rest from trial and error. Honestly, I grew rapidly as an editor because I had no choice; I threw myself into this situation, and I had to rise above it for the sake of my team and contributors.
Starting my own magazine was easy; actually getting people interested in it and invested enough to submit work and help sustain it was the challenging part. I promoted L’ÉR nonstop on Twitter and went through three-four different web designs (and two completely different platforms) before I finally settled on a website I was happy with, and learned how to find a good domain provider and subscription model from the help of friends and my own research. In all honesty I was not prepared for how much web hosting and domain fees were, and in the very beginning we only released issues in e-books hosted on PayHip, not even on our own website! Even so, through the mishaps and mistakes and the continuously ebb and flow of trial and error and even more trials, I would not have learned as much about editing, publishing, and navigating the online literary community if I didn’t encounter these obstacles. Because of them, I have a strengthened appreciation for the hard work, time, and dedication that goes into running an online journal as both an editor and writer, and a more level-headed, realistic perception of what we can do individually for our writers, and what we can do alongside our fellow editors for the betterment of our communities.
3. What advice would you give writers trying to publish with your magazine?
Don’t be afraid to stretch your interpretation of our themed call for submissions as far as possible, and don’t be afraid to push the limits of style and form; we want work that we’ve never read before, but demands to be seen and heard and celebrated. Also, we have, and will always, encourage new, emerging, and established writers to submit to us; we don’t care how many followers you have on Twitter or Instagram, or whether this will be your first ever publication or your hundredth, we treat each submission with thought, kindness, and fair critique. Your work is in good hands, I promise.
4. What kinds of submissions do you want to see more of?
Definitely creative nonfiction. Personally, I find writing nonfiction sometimes difficult because it is so raw in its honesty; there is no air of pretense, no dressing in overly concealing metaphor or imagery. I believe wholeheartedly that nonfiction can be just as poetic as poetry, but there is something so intrinsically intimidate about the form that I can’t shake off.
Likewise, I would love to see work of all forms that straddle the lines of genre; fiction in the vein of poetry, poetry in the vein of memoir, memoir in the vein of song. I don’t believe, as writers, we should restrict ourselves according to what is or is not “accepted” in our chosen fields; we all experience universal truths, such as love and pain and happiness, but the way we write are truths are infinite—why box ourselves in?
5. Who are some authors you are particularly proud to have been published in your magazine?
I know it sounds cliché, but I am so exceedingly proud of each and every writer we have published since our conception. Quite literally, L’ÉR could not exist without our writers, and I am eternally grateful that they have allowed us to give space to their work and, subsequently, they have given our corner of the online literary sphere purpose and light. I have seen past contributors get nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, have chapbooks and full-length collections published by independent and large presses, and grown as writers and people. How could I be anything but proud, especially if we were one of the first journals to publish them?
And I feel like, at the core, that is what I’m setting out to do in my role at L’ÉR; providing a space for new and emerging writers, making room for marginalized writers because, as a fellow marginalized writer, I could not find it. So instead, I built a brand new room and invited everyone over, because there is more than enough space for all of us here, especially if we lift one another up and make sure no one is left standing at the door.
6. Throughout the roughly two years of L’Éphémère Review, in what ways has the magazine evolved?
I feel like L’ÉR has really grown into our mission statement; we publish work that play with memory and truth, history and narrative, the ways in which we see ourselves and the world around us. But, I feel like we have also stayed true to our values; we are still, and will continue to be, a platform for emerging writers and underrepresented creators, a sharp voice against injustice in the literary community and beyond, transparent about our submission guidelines, response rates, finances, and relationship with other journals and, above all, kind and welcoming. Aside from a pay-what-you-want submission fee for our Overture to Memory Inaugural Writing Awards (submissions were still free, but we are grateful for the submitters who did donate) we have never charged submission fees, and all royalties from our forthcoming micro-chapbooks (which are pay-what-you-want) will go directly to the authors. (Editor's note: As of October 22nd 2018, L’ÉR announced that proceeds from their Overture to Memory micro-chapbook series will be donated to National Center for Transgender Equality, Lambda Legal, Trans Lifeline, and Sylvia Rivera Law Project. This interview was conducted prior to said statement. The Overture to Memory series can be purchased here.)
Any and all donations have gone into web-hosting and domain fees, and if you want I can even show you how much I pay Squarespace a month! Truthfully, though we have learned from other editors and journals and reached a wider audience, I believe we have and will continue to stay steadfast to our mission and purpose, no matter how much we grow.
7. You are both a writer and an editor. Given this, how has your editorial work impacted your own writing?
Tremendously, and definitely for the better. Even outside of my own work, I treat each poem or piece I edit with as much care as possible; making sure sentences flow while maintaining the writer’s unique voice, tweaking grammatical errors without infringing upon a different, though just as valuable, mode of truth-telling. I feel like, as an editor, when I am given work to look over or copyedit, I am being given a piece of that writer’s soul; I have to keep in mind the vulnerable strength needed to write, be it poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, and nurture that and not necessarily help it fly, but give it extra guidance and support. And because of this care for other people’s work, I’ve begun to treat my own work with more attention. Instead of sending off submission after submission and hoping at least one piece will get picked up, I sit with my work, revisit them sometimes weeks or even months later, and tend to them until they become something I am proud to put my name on. I don’t think it’s merely a coincidence that I started consistently getting work published once I began working on L’ÉR; working on and learning from other writers’ work left a positive and deep impact on my own.
8. Personally, what do you love most about being an editor?
Reading the work of writers I may have never read before had they not submitted to us. Falling deeper and deeper in love with poetry, fiction, nonfiction, narrative, and the way form is continuously being made and remade. Being part of a close-knit network of other editors and literary journals and supporting each other individually and collectively. The countless friends and acquaintances I have made through editing and publishing, especially on Twitter, that I couldn’t have made elsewhere. The fact that, despite working remotely, my editing experience provided me the opportunity to work as an editor for my alma mater’s undergraduate film student association, and was instrumental in me getting accepted into grad school. I could go on and on. I founded L’ÉR during one of the lowest points of my life, and now it’s one of the brightest things to ever happen to me. I don’t know what kind of writer or person I would have become without the knowledge I have gained and the people I have met through this journal and community, but I am better because of them.
9. How do you envision the future of L’Éphémère Review? What are some plans you have for the journal, or some things you’d like to see happen for L'Éphémère Review soon?
We’re looking at, eventually, publishing a “Best Of” anthology in the next year or so, which we will probably crowdfund because, alas, publishing and shipping costs are expensive. I also really want to start doing readings and events in Toronto when I move there for grad school, and become more involved in physical poetry and literary spaces.
Ultimately, we want to pay our contributors and staff members because, again, without them, L’ÉR would not be here today. Being able to financially support ourselves has always been an objective of ours, but so is properly compensating our writers. It’s the least we can do, and I hope that, soon, we’ll be able to express our gratitude in ways that extend beyond retweets and sharing posts, but I believe all of our contributors, former and forthcoming and future, know how much they mean to us, and that they make our work as fellow writers, editors, and publishers, that much more meaningful.
This interview was edited for clarity.