Among the notable debuts of literary and cultural journals this year has been the arrival of Tweed’s on the scene. The first issue of Tweed’s, which grew out of The Coffin Factory, featured contributions from the likes of Lydia Davis, Justin Taylor, Edwidge Danticat, and Charles Simic. It’s a handsomely-designed work,
I talked with editors Randy Rosenthal and Laura Isaacman via email to learn more about the journal’s origins and their plans for its future.
What led to the transition from The Coffin Factory to Tweed’s? From an editorial perspective, how would you say that the two differ?
You know, we produced each issue of The Coffin Factory in the way a band would produce an album—as a cohesive whole, with each standing alone from the others. Yet we always felt pressure to include certain aspects by which we defined ourselves—each issue had to include several works in translation, an interview with a publisher, and introduce a writer who had never been published before. As time went on, we felt our creativity limited by the boundaries we set, and in order to follow our creative process and expand into to areas that we are deeply interested in, we understood that we had to make a new magazine.
While Tweed’s is also a literature and art magazine, it’s not bound to literary culture and book publishing. By including more interviews and informative essays, we’re able to explore other topics such as climate change, gender bias, fundamentalism, and the social injustices caused by free-market capitalism. For example, in the first issue of Tweed’s we talked with Edwidge Danticat about the deteriorating environment, religious hypocrisy, and how greedy corporations like Monsanto are ruining people’s lives. We feel there’s a lot of important shit going on in the world, and we can’t just stick our heads in the sand.
What led to the decision to hold a fundraising campaign for the first issue?
The cost of creating and distributing a print magazine is incredibly expensive, and the only way most survive is through grants and endowments, or a helluva lot of advertising. We’ve never had any of that. We began with only our savings, and have always been reader supported, through subscriptions and bookstore sales, and unfortunately that didn’t provide enough to launch a new magazine. That’s why we wanted to reach out to readers and ask them to help give us a boost in creating a completely unique and immensely pleasurable reading experience. They delivered, and so did we.
What do you have planned for subsequent issues?
Future issues will continue to have some of the best contemporary fiction, art, and poetry, but a larger space will be devoted to stimulating thought and discussion through informative essays and interviews with some of the most respected thinkers writing today. We’re putting together our second issue now, and boy oh boy is it a spicy one.
How did the first issue come together? Do you feel like future issues will be more thematically organized?
The issue came together by choosing from the best of what was sent to us—whether solicited or submitted, we always select pieces solely on the basis of quality.
We have no plans to put together a theme issue, because we don’t want to limit what we publish. Also, we usually feel that theme issues have too much filler, as if the editor is scrambling to find enough material to fit the theme.
Strangely, a theme often arises organically. For example, every story in issue one of Tweed’s—except for Joyce Carol Oates’s—is a little bit country. We’ve dubbed them “the classiest country stories,” and boy howdy they really are.
When we flip through the magazine after getting it back from the printer, we’re always pleasantly surprised by how well all the content fits together, whether it’s the motifs we hadn’t noticed before, or even a matching color scheme from one art piece to the next. The whole process is very intuitive, made possible through a haze of smoke and a lot of whiskey, so we don’t fully know how an issue comes together, only that it does.