David Bright is the founder and editor of Gemini Magazine, an online publication that aims to seek out and publish new talented writers, from poets and short story writers to completely new media writers. He explains how he admires writers who ”paint the picture in a confident, clear, forceful way.”
What is the motivation behind Gemini Magazine?
I wanted to find great writing - and publish it!
The original idea was to use The New Yorker as a rough model - just not quite as formal, and more heavily weighted toward fiction, with some poetry (the direct, clear, non-cryptic kind) and creative nonfiction. I love the cover art of The New Yorker.
Unfortunately, they don’t prominently display it on their online version. With Gemini Magazine we stay with the big cover art theme even though some might say it uses up valuable screen space. Simplicity, clarity, an easy-on-the-eyes presentation combined with compelling writing - that’s the whole idea of Gemini.
How did you come to launch the magazine?
Well, I’d been talking about this for a while - even had some false starts - and friends started nagging me: “Hey, how about that Gemini Magazine? When are we going to see it?” So I just did it: called up Yahoo and set up the website. That was last April, and I barely slept or ate for the next six months. I’m so glad I finally made the move. Thank you, nagging friends!
What is your professional background?
I wrote about the computer industry for Computerworld, a weekly newspaper, and for a trade magazine put out by Cahners Publishing. I did some freelancing for the Boston Herald, Woman’s World and elsewhere. My favorite assignment was an article about wineries for a travel magazine - free samples!
When big companies started downsizing in the nineties, I opened a resume writing service and I think we did resumes for half the people in Massachusetts.
I’ve also run a reintegration program for ex-convicts, worked for the post office (too much like jail) and read meters for the electric company.
How do you think Gemini differs from other literary magazines?
There’s a lot of really good literary magazines out there - Ducts, Dead Mule, Rosebud, Dogzplot, to name a few - and I enjoy reading them. When I read submissions to Gemini it’s like I’m panning for gold. No one else could possibly find nuggets of the same size, shape, quality and assortment.
And once I find these gold nuggets I work really hard to showcase them. I also believe Gemini has a friendly, welcoming feel which I hope will attract even more good writing and continue to attract enthusiastic readers.
What do you look for in a submission?
It’s all subjective. There’s no checklist or anything. The pieces we pick all have a certain “something” that makes them special.
If I’m still thinking about a short story or poem a week or two after I’ve read it, then it will probably be published. Other pieces that are tightly written and technically have nothing wrong with them may vanish from memory almost instantly. I have to be excited about a piece in order to accept it. “Okay” isn’t good enough. It has to be special, and like I said, it’s all subjective.
Do you write short stories or poetry yourself?
Yes. I write mostly short stories, some poetry, and do lots of journaling, some of which has turned into published pieces. I feel fortunate to have been published in literary magazines like flashquake, Ascent, Café Irreal and The Iconoclast.
What are the most challenging aspects of editing Gemini Magazine?
Sometimes I have to force myself to take a break. I’m just totally immersed in this, and it’s virtually turned into a 24/7 obsession.
I find myself saying, I’ll just read one more submission, but after that, of course, it’s one more again and again. I’ll just read one more paragraph, one more page… this can go on and on until you look at the clock and it’s almost time to get up but you haven’t gone to bed yet.
On a regular job you keep watching the clock, and it moves too slow. As editor of Gemini, though, I’ve got so much to do I try to just will that clock to move more slowly. Line-by-line editing can be a tedious challenge, but you’ve got to set high standards and do it as well as you can. The end result is worth it.
Rejecting someone’s work is also challenging - and usually a bit painful for me. Even when I’m saying “no thank you” to a writer I usually try to mention some positive aspect of the work as well. Again, this takes time, but I think it’s the right thing to do.
What do you enjoy most about it?
Finding - and reading and rereading - those nuggets of gold is an incredible rush. The excitement builds and builds as we go through the editing process.
The last page I set up is the cover page, and as it gets closer and closer to completion the excitement is almost too much to bear as I realise that very, very soon the world will see what I see - this great writing (and art) that I’ve been living with the past few weeks or longer. And then…at last…I click the yellow “Publish” button.
Whose writing do you admire?
Everyone should read Graham Joyce’s “An Ordinary Soldier of the Queen” in the 2009 O. Henry Prize Stories. Such an easy, conversational, regular-guy voice that makes you believe the unbelievable.
I love Richard Ford’s un-arrogant, self-deprecating style that makes you instantly identify with his characters. Aurora M. Lewis - whose poems have appeared in Gemini - pick any one of her poems and it’s just so full of passion and so clear and bold that you wonder how she does it. Going back a bit, we have Richard Yates (”Revolutionary Road”), Wallace Stevens, Martha Gellhorn, Chekhov, Kafka, de Maupassant.
I think what all those writers have in common is simplicity: they don’t try to hit you over the head with big words; instead, they just paint the picture in a confident, clear, forceful way.
What inspires you?
Life inspires me, the world around me. The idea of describing something in a creative, non-linear way, kind of like colourful analogue vs. dry digital. I see movies in my head, and it’s fun to share them with other people. And Gemini is a good way of sharing other people’s ‘movies’ with the world.
What advice would you offer an aspiring writer?
Write without fear. Don’t be afraid of writing something that may seem stupid or trite or embarrassing, because if you don’t take chances nothing will happen.
And those words you thought were stupid may not be so stupid after all - just different, and creative, and creative is what we want. If the words don’t work you can just edit them out later. I’ve met a lot of people who claim they want to be writers someday. Well, what’s stopping you, besides yourself? Just pick up the pen and write!
What comes next for Gemini Magazine?
We’ll have plenty of stories to read for our Short Story Contest, which runs through to March 31st 2010. The winning stories will be published in the June issue. Our Second Annual Flash Fiction Contest starts on June 1st, and I’m thinking about a poetry contest for the fall - fall seems like the right time for a poetry writing competition.
And sometime in the not-too-distant future we may see a ‘Best of Gemini‘ anthology in printed book form.