Mike Young was one of the first people to ever blog positively about a story I wrote. I never forgot that. This week I asked him about Noo Journal and Black Helicopter Press, both outfits he has a big old publishing hand in. He knows what he’s talking about. In internet/hax0r (“hacker”) “1337” (that means “elite/leet speak”), he’s been around forever. He’s like a mini less grumpy less instructional Gordon Lish, or the next Jonathan Galassi or something.
Q (Nicolle Elizabeth): What is Noo Journal? What is Magic Helicopter Press? How are the two intertwined if at all?
A (Mike Young): NOÖ Journal is a free independent literary journal that I co-edit with Ryan Call. We distribute it online and in print thanks to friends all over the country who put them in coffeeshops, bookstores, grocery stores, etc. Magic Helicopter Press is a small press that I run through which I publish chapbooks and books of strange, interesting stuff. They’re intertwined because I eat the same sandwich while I’m checking both email accounts.
You do a lot, talk about your projects you’re involved with and your own work?
I have two books forthcoming: We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough, a collection of stories this September from Publishing Genius Press, and Look! Look! Feathers, a collection of stories from Word Riot Press. The poetry book will appeal to people who like to graffiti road signs with more interesting language and then take pictures of something unrelated, maybe a sad duck, and paste that picture on top of a picture of the altered road sign. The stories will appeal to people who like 57% or more of the stuff on this list: magic cysts, peaches, gameshows, electrolytes, necklaces made of bluebird bones, mosquito fog, murals, drivethrough redwoods, and cardboard banditos.
You read a lot and know a lot, what is forthcoming from Noo, Magic Helicopter Press and elsewhere which will be awesome?
Two amazing books are forthcoming in the soonish sense from Magic Helicopter: Jason Bredle’s Smiles Of the Unstoppable, which is a limber and vivid sad clown routine that is like taking an imagination pill named Jason Bredle. It’s some of the most entertaining poetry I’ve ever read. And also Ofelia Hunt’s Today & Tomorrow, which has a style of prose I’ve never read before, which feels indebted to being honest about the way a mind really works and really falls apart, and also manages to tell a murder saga, a penguin saga, a zamboni saga, and a grandfather saga all at the same time. It’s a feat of a book, for serious.
You have been involved in the online and print indie community forever. Words of wisdom for writers just setting out?
Don’t try to publish every little paragraph you write. You’re not a character in a video game. You don’t have stats. Just read a lot of interesting stuff and work on your stuff until it feels foreordained. Not just some witty thing you thought up while the milk was still cold. Trust me, I’m telling my past self this as much as I’m talking to anyone else. Read lots on the internet but don’t have seven tabs open while you’re trying to read a goddamn story. Show some respect. Ditto for your own work. Respect the fact that stories are how the world happens in the human brain. This is science. We are doing work at the foremost thrust of science. So ask yourself whether you really need to write a kooky relationship story, Mike.
If someone wants to start a journal or a press, what would your advice be? Is it hard to be both a writer and a publisher?
It’s hard to balance the time. Definitely. My advice would be to carve out a system that allows you to allocate time for your journal in a sensible way. Don’t let it take over your life. Reach out to people whose work you like. Don’t try to gain immediate notoriety by publishing who you perceive as “famous.” For fuck’s sake, none of us will get properly famous until we die. Don’t knee gobble. Be honest and have some kind of vision, even if it’s bare bones or hokey. Be an open node. You can make cute little bookmarks if you want, but those things terrify me and I throw them away. Make attractive vessels for what you publish but don’t make it all about your “production values.” Mix art and writing together. Do stuff in the flesh: readings and shit. Respect the fact that writers are insane and we all think we work seven-hundred times harder than we actually do. Remember that on some basic level, it’s not about pleasing or socializing with writers: it’s about finding them readers.
Please tell us anything else you’d like to here. About the best cities to live in to find literature, about writing, about life in general. It’s hot and for god sakes my apartment has been over-run with houseflies.
Sorry about your houseflies! You should adopt some as pets. Northampton, MA is a great city for literature, though the weather is like an abusive boyfriend. Northampton is where I live right now, and it’s very close to NYC and Boston but it has is own thing going on. The hippies here are 34% less insufferable than the ones on the West Coast, which is where I grew up. The Bay Area seems like an awesome city to live, and Portland is of course on a whole other planet of awesome. As my friend recently said: “Goddammit everybody, stop telling us how great Portland is, we get it!”