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Eclectica Magazine Interview

Posted on 07 December 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks Tom Dooley, co-editor of Eclectica magazine, one of the oldest ezines publishing quality literary fiction, poetry, non fiction and original artwork

Tell us something about your background.

Eclectica started in 1996 as the brainchild of Chris Lott. He had this idea that there weren’t a lot of ezines on the web at that time aspiring to be respectable stand alone electronic literary variety magazines. Blue Moon Review was one of a handful. He also thought it would be cool for a couple of guys who had grown up in rural Alaska and who had been best friends since the seventh grade to see what we could contribute to the literary landscape. He had some grand ideas about the potential of the internet as the next great literary frontier, ideas I still believe in wholeheartedly.

We set out with a number of ground rules. One was that the magazine would never become a vanity publication, which was the case with many early ezines. Another was that we weren’t going to be limited by anything other than our bold assertion of what we thought was “good,” regardless of genre, length, ideological bent, etc. Of course, we wanted to live up to the ideal of our chosen title and really push ourselves to be eclectic. We also wanted to take advantage of web technology as a means of enhancing and even re-inventing the literary experience, but we didn’t want to be gimmicky for the sake of gimmickry, as seemed to be the case with many early ezines. The main tenet we wanted to live by, though, was that we would never compromise our editorial standards to fill an issue. We swore up and down that if we only had one poem that we both loved, we would have an issue consisting of just that one poem.

Over eight years later, Eclectica is one of the oldest surviving ezines and has stayed true to the spirit of those original ideals. We’re a quarterly, non-commercial, all-electronic publication, featuring poetry, fiction, non-fiction, travel writing, editorial commentary, artwork, reviews and miscellany by authors from all over the world. Last year we published our first print anthology of short fiction, which won an Independent Publisher Book Award and was lauded by Andrei Codrescu, editor of Exquisite Corpse, and we had a pretty good showing in the first storySouth Million Writer’s Short Story contest, placing nine stories in the top 67 and two in the top ten. We also added five assistant editors, including the irrepressible Kevin McGowin, formerly of another pioneering ezine, Oyster Boy Review. We had a pretty good year, and we hope 2005 will be even better, but even if it isn’t, we’re in this for the long haul.

How do you find your writers?

The overwhelming majority of them find us. On rare occasions, we’ll solicit work from an author who we hear at a reading or see on an online workshop or another ezine. Often a guest editor will bring some contacts with him or her. We’ve been blessed to have many of our favorite authors come back again and again. Regardless of how the connection is made, we give all submissions for each issue careful and equal consideration. If a potential contributor is a friend, we seek a neutral party to make sure our decisions aren’t biased.

What kind of work are you looking for now?

Good work. Eclectic work. Work that surprises and moves and captivates. Work that illustrates the tremendous variety of the global human condition, which includes anything from life in the American Midwest to the Middle East to Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America… in other words, the planet.

Who are your favourite writers/writing and why?

I know it’s probably unforgivably cheesy for me to say this, but my favorite author is my wife and co-editor Julie King, whose work I found amazing long before I ever suspected she would be my bride. Her poetry is brilliant, accessible, effortless, and alternately tough, sexy, pissed off, and all three combined. She was one of our first contributors back in 1996, and in her current role as Eclectica’s Poetry Editor and co-general manager, she has been essential in continuing to elevate the overall quality of the magazine. I would be lost without her judgment and flawless sensibilities.

What excites you about a piece of writing-

I start out excited about a piece of writing. The second I realize I’m an editor reading a submission, though—in other words, the second the author zigs instead of zags—the spell is broken. It can be a mechanical error, an inconsistency, an awkward line, something flat or expected, whatever. The first time it happens, I’ll usually forgive and press on. If it happens again, I’m in scan mode, and if I don’t see something that gets me interested in the story again, I’ll end up skipping to the last paragraph. So I guess what really excites me is when the story grabs me by the brain stem and keeps me immersed all the way through to an end that is not at all what I expected, in retrospect seems inevitable, and gets me to feel some kind of strong emotion. I like endings that cause a sharp inhale followed by a long exhale. That elevate the story to some new and maybe even indefinable level. That don’t let the story go on for one word longer than necessary. If I feel compelled to yell or laugh out loud, all the better. Many of the episodes from the first season of The Sopranos achieved what I’m trying to describe. Raymond Carver was a master at it.

and what makes your heart sink?

Masturbatory writing. Not writing about masturbation, per se, although that would probably qualify, but writing that seems to be much more about the author flogging his or her own ego rather than respecting the reader enough to come up with a story to tell. I don’t like it when an author makes a habit of assuming I care, rather than putting the effort into the craft of making me care. I also don’t like reading twenty pages of a story, thinking maybe it will amount to something, and sure enough, it doesn’t.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 20:19 on 07 December 2004  Report this post
Great interview. I particularly liked the common mistakes section and could relate to this:

'Writers exist because they, for one reason or another, are compelled to write stuff and foist it on the rest of us.'

Yup, guilty!


old friend at 18:41 on 08 December 2004  Report this post
A good interview. A very interesting point was made with the reference to how easy it is for anyone with a PC to become 'a published author' and also 'an editor' as well.

This was followed by 'it doesn't hurt to put the brakes on a little'. I failed to understand this. Who is expected to put the brakes on... and on whom? What is meant by 'brakes'?

May I say how easy it is for anyone with computer skills to become an Internet Publisher? However I felt that Tom Dooley knew what he was talking about in terms of standards and 'good' literature.


Zigeroon at 16:10 on 14 December 2004  Report this post

The energy flies off Tom's replies confirming that he enjoys and is committed to what he does. Really informative.


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