On a Tuesday evening reading this spring at Perch café in Park Slope, I met up with David Plick, who, along with fellow recent City College MFAs Masha Udensiva-Brenner, Domenick Acocella and Nathan Schiller, edits the new online literary magazine Construction, which has just launched its first issue. In this day and age, when there seems to be more literary magazines on sale than there are people who read literature, I was curious why they wanted to start their own magazine, and how it would be different from the many others being published in Brooklyn.
So what was your motivation for starting a new literary magazine?
We wanted to get outside City College. We wanted to have a reason to email a writer in Seattle, or email a writer in LA, people in the Midwest, we wanted a reason to start talking with people. Basically I was applying to Bread Loaf and the Tin House conference, and when I was doing my essays I was focusing on meeting writers from all across the country and getting a consensus about what people are writing and what people are all about, and from there figure out what will be the next books, the books that will define our generation. Because we’re not convinced these decisions should be made by Oprah. Or maybe they should be, we don’t know. We just knew we would like to be a part of that world, to decide, to get involved, and that was it. So now we have an excuse to harass and bother writers that we love.
Construction popped into my head because it was a response to deconstruction, and the fact that there are real things and problems that exist that we cope with and that everything isn’t so relative, and maybe I have no legs to stand on to argue with deconstructionists, but I felt it would be an opposite movement, that it would have a working-class bent to it—not exactly that, but I wanted it to be grounded in reality.
You said that you want to get in conversation with writers all over the country, but how important is being in Brooklyn?
We are contacting people through Poets and Writers and it’s funny, because I live on 4th Street and we will go through listings and I’ll come across people who live three doors down, or on Prospect Park West, they’re all over the neighborhood. So it is insane how much is here. But I don’t know them. We’re not privileging them over anyone else. But it’s a great environment to be in nevertheless.
So how are you going about getting submissions and what kind of submissions have you been getting?
To get submissions we’ve been contacting MFA programs, and sometimes we’ll just email the administrator, and then sometimes the admin blasts it out to the whole community. Like, we would send something out to Leslie University, and we have no idea where Leslie University is, but we sent a letter to the admin there, and then we’ve received submissions from the students at Leslie. We try to avoid harassing teachers. If it’s a more well-known MFA then we try to go directly to the students. Like, we won’t contact any faculty from the University of Oregon, who have all been published in the New Yorker. If you’ve been published in the New Yorker, we do not contact you. If you have an agent, we do not contact you.
What’s your website?
Constructionlitmag.com. Construction.com was taken. Constructionmagazine was taken, constructionmag was taken. They’re all about construction sites. They’re all about scaffolding and granite.
So, is it going to be print ever, or only online?
It’s only online now, but we want to do print, and if we need to take money out of our pockets to get it printed we’ll do it, so I can take it to restaurants that do readings like this and say to them: display our magazine Construction, tell your patrons they can take it and read it, and if they want to buy it, they can. Even if we print only a thousand a year, then I would sell them, so that I could buy a bike, so I could then ride around Brooklyn selling the magazine, riding around with a bunch of magazines in my backpack.
How are you distinguishing yourself from other new literary magazines? Do you have a slant?
We’re still figuring that out. We want to put it out, and then figure it out. We want to start doing it, and then make as many mistakes as possible and see what it is. Like trademarking and copywriting your logo, all the business side, we want to learn it by doing it.
So how has the City College MFA program helped you launch a magazine? I remember Linsey Abrams telling us once, when she was talking about how hard it is to get published, “You guys need to start your own magazines,” and now you guys are actually starting your own magazine.
Working for Fiction showed us the inner workings of it. Just being a slush reader and doing the data entry, and seeing a submission go from slush to the second reader, to being rejected or making it to the magazine. So we would never have been able to work with Fiction magazine if it wasn’t for the school and its program.
[Here, David’s girlfriend interrupted our interview to ask him if he wanted to go eat something. He replied that he’d love to go eat something, so our interview ended.]