An Exclusive Interview with

Jennifer Calder


Carol Givner

This month we are delighted to have as our latest guest in WORDSMITH'S Outstanding Women in Publishing Series Jennifer Calder, the Editor of Allegory Archives, a special site for the literary philosopher in us all. Take a break, steep a cup of tea, and share the thoughts of a web pioneer.

Ms. Calder, the dictionary definition of allegory -- a story or other artistic representation in which characters and events represent ideals or principles opens a store of possibilities. Are you an idealist?
I would have to say I am more a dreamer than anything else. I have spent many years doing nothing but dreaming. I chose the word allegory being more enchanted by the "symbols illustrating an idea" aspect of the word. I believe most often that reality is nothing more than a cluster of symbols generated by our ideas (thoughts) and therefore imitates our dreams (the processing of our thoughts through symbols and associations). From this perspective allegory becomes "reality illustrating a dream." I guess one could say I am somewhat an idealist? :)

What led you to create the Allegory Archives?

The Allegory Archives actually led me to them. I had been sitting at the gateway for a very long time when I realized what I was doing there and finally walked in. I have always believed that the imagination could penetrate through anything, including the Internet. However, money has always been that one demon I just cannot defeat. Everything is going well and I am happy to be alive, then rent is due. I am extending my soul now. The Allegory Archives are everything that has ever screamed inside me. I know this because nothing has interfered with the process of my creating them. The money demon has not dared to even show his shadow. I believe when your "work" is your will it gives you back the energy you put in. The Archives do this for me.

Your site is definitely a literary one. What changes have you seen in cyberspace that led you to elevate the content of the typical web site?

All forms of space enchant me for their lack of boundaries. I despise walls, limits, and all things constricting. Cyberspace being more infinite than pi and more easily accessible than Polaris, is my gateway to endlessness. The Internet is in a state of perpetual evolution. Finally, everyone has a voice that they can speak freely. This thrills me. I am not certain I answered the question. (You did. :) Ed.)

As writers who enjoy exploring multi-vehicles for our work, we can find writing at Allegory Archives that embraces everything from poetry to theater. What events in your career prompted you to realize that allegory is everywhere?

Eighth grade math class. I was really bored that day. My teacher was uninteresting which encouraged me to daydream. It was there when I first tapped into the universe and realized the impossibility of reason.

Which philosophers are your favorites?

I have to say my most favorite philosopher is Robert Anton Wilison. I like his views on mind expansion and his outlook on occult and scientific philosophies.

Which books did you read as a child?

To be quite honest beyond my "little golden books" I don't remember doing much significant reading as a child. My earliest memories of reading don't really occur until around the eighth grade (What is it with that year?). I was mostly interested in occult literature at that time. I remember hoping to find a book somewhere with one of those "eye of nuit, wing of bat" recipes that I could use to make my hair grow faster and my skin clear up. I never did find one! :(

What is the difference between allegory and metaphor? Allegory and symbol?


Do you believe that popular fiction has turned its collective back on allegory in favor of pleasing Madison Avenue?

This question disturbs me and I would rather not think about it.

Many writers have found refuge on the Web for serious, literary matters. Why do you think that might be true?

I believe words which contain no illustrations allow our minds to wander and design our own pictures for them, they become more personal. The judgment aspect isn't so threatening when one is already familiar with the picture. For a lot of people it is easier to communicate to someone without having to actually face the person they are talking to. Refuge to me is a place where you are not going to be judged. The Internet has a million places to escape judgment. And if one does find themselves being mocked cruelly, then one can go someplace else never having to worry about "seeing" that person again.

Can you separate the "dancer from the dance?" The writer from the words? If not, what facets of your personality can be found in the Archives?

This is a hard question for me because my answer is yes and no. The Archives is a direct reflection of myself. The only aspects that have no relevance to me are works created by my lovely contributors.

Have you always wanted to be a writer and editor? Which other jobs have you held?

I have always wanted to be a writer. I never wanted to be an editor or anything related to the business side of words. It never really seemed very creative to me. I always felt it would somehow distract me from my creativity. However, due to the fact that I have had far more jobs than I would ever care to admit to, doing much more than I would ever want anyone to know, I have learned a lot about everything, including business. I comes easier to me now, and is not as bad as I imagined it would be. In fact it is quite fun! I have to say I love everything about it.

Many of our members are also editors and publishers. What advice would you give to a writer who would like to explore the business side of the arts?

Fear is a failure.

What are you looking for in a submission? What would make you acquire a particular work? What would spell instant rejection?

Instant rejection is spelled by work that obviously has no soul. What I mean by no soul is that it appears rushed and sloppy. "At-a-glace" noticeable grammar nightmares make me mad. It's called spellchecker, use it.

I look for love in a submission. Work where you can tell the writer means it. I look for creativity, vivid imagery, and a good idea. Right now I have become particularly moved by experimental work. I like clever use of language manipulation, the kind that opens doors. I am not the kind of editor that cares about anything too typical. If I recieve a three page story about a persons hand I wont care if it is written really well. On the same note, if I recieve a three page story written at an average level containing a brilliant idea, I am also thrilled.

Kennedy, in his dedication of the Art Center, suggested we write history, not in war, but in the arts. How can writers contribute to the certainty that art will survive? Withstand political favoritism? Triumph as an expression of human spirit over adversity?

I think I would have to compose an essay to answer this one.

You state that the Allegory Archives is interested in words and our love of them. Can the same be said for literary fiction as opposed to genre?


What is the best way to build a vocabulary for adults? Children?

Read. Read. Read. Read. Ask Questions. Read. Read. Read.

Does language have to be pure? Is idiom allowed? Slang?

Personally, I love to make up my own words. There are many words and forms of English I don't particularly care for, but I think that it is great that they are out there.

What are your plans for the future?

Write. Write. Write.

In your opinion, what is the future of e-publishing?

I just hope it does not do to paperbooks what CD's did to vinyl. I love an old tattered book. I love the way they smell, the way they look sitting on a shelf. I could never give that up... computers are ugly. When are computers going to come in fashion colors and designs? When are they going to be ascetically pleasing? I want a black computer with antique grillwork edging and a keypad to match with rhinestone lettering. Roar. :) Sorry about that.

If WORDSMITH would pay for a one minute ad for the Allegory Archives and Jennifer Calder on television for Super Bowl Sunday, what would you say? What would be the first sentence of your message? The last sentence? The last word?

Visit Web Allegorist. Read the Allegory Archives. Set your imagination FREE !

You can find Jennifer and the Allegory Archives at: