With 10 years now under our belt, Word Riot is officially (in Internet years) an old man. Word Riot started as the literary section of an online music magazine called Communication Breakdown. The music magazine’s founder, Paula Anderson, corralled a loose collection of high school and college students she had befriend through various online communities.
We had no idea what the hell we were doing. (Word Riot’s name, for example, has no interesting origin story other than 19-year-old me thinking it sounded punk rock.)
The music magazine slowly faded out, but Word Riot survived. By March 2003 we launched our publishing imprint. In the years that followed, we released books by fantastic writers like Kevin Sampsell, Paula Bomer, Nick Antosca, David Barringer, Mike Young, Timmy Waldron, David Gianatasio and Scott Bateman, among others. All the while, we kept up monthly publication of the online literary magazine.
To celebrate our 10th anniversary, I put a call out last month on Twitter asking Word Riot readers to send in their 140-character bios for their past decade of life. The tweets were much more fascinating than I anticipated:
OH, DC, OH. Broke up. NYC. MFA. Wrong Men. Wrong Job. Walking/Thinking. Writing. Teaching. A little lost. Found. Engaged. Novel.
Was 16. Knew everything. Got older. Wrote stories. Drank. A lot. Turned 26. Knew less than before. Wrote everything.
Won & lost dotcom millions, got sober, Katrina blew me home to NOLA & taught me how to write, divorce sent me into exile in TX.
San Francisco: naked pagan hot tubbing; Sacramento: married, baby, college, Autism; East Coast: university, divorce, writing, love.
Hearing our readers and authors give their often profound mini-bios certainly gave me pause. And because I’m turning 30 this year, the Word Riot anniversary creates more of an impetus for me to take stock of the past 10 years and see what they add up to. A couple relationships, a couple funerals, a couple moves. A book published, a novel unsold, another novel currently being beaten out of me. Life in numbers is too flat, though. It’s the movement around the edges of those numbers where life happens. And there’s been plenty of movement and experience for me, much of which I owe to Word Riot.
There have certainly been some missteps over the years. I’m notoriously slow at reading manuscripts for the press and getting the wheels turning with the process of launching our books. And while I relentlessly promote our books, I don’t think I’ve taken opportunities to fully market the magazine and I regret that my ineptitude has resulted in our editors and authors not getting the attention they deserve.
But enough of that. It’s been a kick ass 10 years.
The ever-changing landscape of the indie literary scene fascinates me, mostly because it actually is a scene now and not a loose collective of us off-kilter, artsy types puttering around the Internet. There’s ambition and careers. Challenging and entertaining books by a crop of talented indie scene writers have been publish (and I have no modesty and proudly proclaim the work of Word Riot Press authors among them). I mourn the fantastic magazines and small presses that brought many of these indie writers to the public’s attention and aren’t mucking about anymore.
Long live Pindeldyboz. Long live Eyeshot. Small Spiral Notebook. So New Publishing. Impetus Press. Long live ‘em all.
They inspired me and countless other editors and literary types to dedicate hours and weeks and years to small presses, lit mags, blogs and other projects supporting writers and artists.
Long live Pank and The Collagist and Hobart and Monkeybicycle. Long live Dzanc and Melville House and Two Dollar Radio. Long live The Rumpus and HTMLGIANT and The Faster Times.
And, if you’ll permit me this one (more) indulgence, long live Word Riot. Let’s have another 10 years and 10 more.
We’ve got exciting things on the horizon: a short story collection from Nick Antosca, the 10-year anniversary anthology, the founding and growth of nonprofit Word Riot Inc. It’s all happening. Life keeps happening–around the edges of numbers and elsewhere. Thank you for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing.
About the author:
Jackie Corley is the co-founder and publisher of Word Riot, an online literary magazine and small press. She is the author of a short story collection, The Suburban Swindle, and received her MFA from Bennington College. Her writing and photography has appeared in 14 Hills, 3AM Magazine and a Trenton McDonald’s, among others.