In December, 2008, in my third-story studio on the corner of Hope and Williams Streets in Providence, Rhode Island, two friends and I sat up drinking whiskey. The apartment was radiator hot and we were yelling at each other about literary magazines. My friends were both named Will and both from North Carolina and both taller than me by about a foot. One was red-headed; the other had gone strikingly gray. For a couple of years, the three of us had done improv together. We’d gotten it in our heads that we wanted to be writers, or that we were already. Okay, we weren’t sure how that worked, mostly because we were 21.
We were dismayed at what we perceived to be the unassailable fortress that was the infrastructure of publishing, which now was dying, we yelled at one another. Or was already dead; we weren’t sure. We were also dismayed at what we believed to be the relatively unsettled frontier that was literary publishing online. (What were the good online magazines, huh?) At some point one of us opened a Word Doc and started taking notes.
In the ensuing months we made a magazine. Our friend Dave taught himself to code and built us a website. The website was purple. There’s a long, not very interesting story as to why. (tl;dr we fought a lot and one of us is colorblind.) We gave the magazine a weird title and in the six and a half years that have followed, hundreds of people have misspelled it. Our bad. (Though, it did turn out to be a good way to tell whether someone who was writing us — with a submission or a complaint, or a rare compliment — was paying attention.)
In the first issue of the magazine, we published a manifesto. We had heard that this is how magazines were done. In it, we employed the metaphor of the frontier. We weren’t like the folks