That whole “Ingredient X” thing might play more pretentiously than I meant it to, when I hear it out of context like that. Let’s hope not.
What I meant by it is that unmistakable something; that vibe that transcends a decent explanation and reaches everyone at an instinctual level, regardless of shared experience or commonality. Think mosh pit throbbing, or a real experience in a sincere church, or the moment in every Olympics where the guy gets back up and wins one for his dead whoever. That pull to common humanity is what we’re after, though it’s hard to regulate and even harder to explain without sounding silly.
Basically, we want passion. That’s the closest word.
Oh. And also, I have to like it.
Who are you Smash Cake people? Give us a history of the Smash Cake peoples. Please do it in a Soviet accent.
Ve are das aditoor uf das maggazheen… yeah, I’ve got nothing. Great question, though. (If you want it in Spanish, I could probably do that. Call me.)
Smash Cake is a one-person shop at the moment, though I’ve got to give props to all the folks out there who are avidly supporting us. It’s been overwhelming.
This whole magazine endeavor is something I’ve always wanted to try. On my desktop menu, I have a perpetual text file (which originated on a brand-new Windows 93 system, if that tells you anything) of future literary journal titles I was going to present to the world at large someday. Thankfully, none of you will ever read “Frazes”, which was the lead horse during junior high. (I am so sorry.) The Smash Cake name stuck, as could probably be guessed, while watching my son decimate his first birthday cake with a royal vengeance and sheer, terrifying glee. His eyes were crazed, and it was all about the experience in that second, that moment. That seemed to sum everything up perfectly, so “Smash Cake” we became.
As far as publishing chops go, I’ve taken turns as a reporter, photographer, graphic designer, columnist, publisher, freelance manuscript editor, layout chick, group facilitator, obituary-typist, author, poet, book publicist, and assistant editor for a glossy, bilingual kids’ health magazine. (I’ve also managed ten pizza restaurants, but that’s not exactly relevant, I suppose.) Most of these stints were for small local companies or individual authors, but they taught me how important a good work ethic is. When you’re the small guy, you’ve really got to sweat for your piece of pie. I value those lessons a lot.
I started Smash Cake because I wanted the freedom to be totally eclectic and to give rise to the passionate voices among us. Craft and technical expertise are important, and I look for those; but they’re not the whole equation. I want goosebumps and vomit.
Name three Authors Smash Cake adores and why.
Of the current fiction set, I’ve long been a fan of David Erlewine. I first discovered him by stumbling across his story “Not Really” at his blog, http://whizbyfiction.blogspot.com. I sobbed my ass off. And then I read it again. And again. The feeling reminded me of crying as a kid, that hard, out-of-breath, gut-punch kind of crying when your dog dies or your favorite toy appears in a yard sale box. Then I stepped back and realized that he had done all of this emotional damage to me in less than a thousand words, as a total stranger. That’s genius, in my book. And I’ve never read anything weakly-written by him either; that’s the craft part. He’s incredible.
Another personal writing hero of mine in the litmag world is Kaolin Fire. While our tastes can be very different at times, his marketing approach is truly something amazing to watch. The guy is a freaking workhorse, and unbelievably generous. I am quite impressed with the crazy promotions he thinks up for Greatest Uncommon Denominator, but somehow, they’re always spot on and they work. Most impressive, though, is his willingness to put his neck out and help others. He takes the thousand-fan theory to the extreme, yet always feels wholly genuine. I look up to that, and have told him (and others) so.
Favorite author I’ll never meet? Todd Snider, musician. Hands down. (Google his stuff if you need to. Then send me stories that are as smart.)
Name a Red Sox player Smash Cake adores and why. You can research at www.boston.com
This is going to cost me some readers, alas, but I can’t do it.
I went, I researched, I tried. Just can’t.
Cubbies fan, all the way.
(Again, so sorry.)
Tracy, what drew you to literature in the first place?
Whew. I could write a book on this one.
The short answer is that books liked me back. Without being too dramatic, let’s just say that I was not a popular kid in school. I told jokes no one got, wore knitted vests (yes, vests), and had zero social skills.
The one thing I could always go back to was writing. I started reading when I was three, and taking creative writing classes at a special school in Chicago when I was four. (Trust me, this did nothing for my popularity status.) I’ve been told my first poem had a snowman in it. I couldn’t say.
But when things got rough–really rough–in junior high and high school, I turned to books and music, though it was always the lyrics that got me going more than the beat. It seemed like the authors I was reading knew more about life than the kids I had so much trouble dealing with on a day-to-day basis, and I started choosing printed company over human. Of course, it all worked out okay. I still feel infinitely more comfortable in type than I do, say, on the phone or at a party, but that’s more of a minor quirk than a hindrance these days. My books taught me the social skills I have, and I can fake it pretty well now.
If you could re-name that Icelandic erupting volcano what would you name it?
Elmer. Nobody names anything Elmer anymore.
Anything else you want to tell me here. Go big or go home, be brave, be proud, be loud.
My favorite mantra is, “Leap, and the net will appear.”
It’s scary as all hell, but it hasn’t failed me yet.