An exclusive interview
Ms. Hendersen, Eggplant Productions has established itself as a colony of, and for, writers who have the best interests of the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres close to their creative hearts. How did Eggplant Productions come into being?
Eggplant Productions has been around for a long time, mostly as a grand scheme for "some day." But in 1997, I was complaining to my partner in crime (Matt Moon) about there not being enough paying e-zines out there for speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction and horror). I complained long enough that he finally asked me why I didn't start one of my own. We spent a night discussing the idea, drinking many cans of Mt. Dew and within a couple of hours we had a template put together.
Your publishing house offers a quality collection of opportunities. What was your vision behind the theme format for submissions to "Jackhammer"?
Looking at other e-zines and how online businesses were run, I realized that unless a website, or e-zine, updates it's content on a regular basis, readers won't come back. I also wanted to give readers a reason to come back. So I thought of adding a message board for readers to discuss a question of the week. I decided then to make the whole magazine tie together with a Question of the Week theme. Also, I wanted to do something different. The reason I hadn't thought of starting a magazine before then was because I didn't feel I had anything different to contribute to the market.
Your readers enjoy the atmosphere you've created in which they can find everything from a manuscript formatting seminar to a fantasy e-chap called "Fairy Gold."
Tell us about duets, two writers taking turns on a theme. What factors make up a good collaborative work?
The writers should mesh together, both in attitude and in writing. That's why I often pick writers who I "know" through submissions and e-mails and postings to the message board. It's easier for me to choose two writers who might work well together. I've had a couple duets go bad because the personalities were just in opposition to one another. I have several writers send me a sample for the duets and then I never hear from them again. That makes it hard to match them up with another writer. And while I want to give everyone a chance, I also want the writers to produce something enjoyable for the readers.
The quality of writing in your ezines and e-chaps is of the finest caliber, literary in intent and delivery. What must a submission have to meet your standards?
The submission has to move me in some way. I get a lot of stories that are well written, but they just don't do anything for me. If I don't feel for the characters or the situation, then I won't take the story. If the story makes me grin or shudder or feel touched then I will take it.
Why would a submission be rejected, besides the obvious?
The obvious accounts for 95% of the rejections by Jackhammer E-zine. The other 5% is for stories that are not of a speculative fiction nature. I've read a lot of stories that are great and that I wished I could publish but they don't fall into the genres. I give a lot of fudge room (for example "Ginger Snap" by R.G. Carr, which we published last year, really wasn't a science fiction story, but a story set in the future) but if the story can't show at least a tenuous tie to science fiction, fantasy or horror then I'll pass on it.
You mention in your guidelines that you yourself are a writer. What do you like to write? What books did you read as a child?
I write mostly in the speculative fiction genre. As a kid (and still as an adult) I read everything I could get my hands on. I read fantasy, science fiction and horror, but I also read romances, histories, westerns, mainstream fiction and non-fiction books. I prefer to write fiction dealing with "What if?" but I'll reading anything, including the backs of cereal boxes.
How do you balance your writing with your editorial work? Does one complement the other?
Honestly, I have written little in the last two years since I started Eggplant Productions. Part of that can be explained by the fact that I'm going to school for a degree in English, so I write a lot of papers. But I just haven't felt the need to write, to be creative in that way. Editing projects gives me creative release right now. Perhaps, a few years down the line when I'm not in charge of layout and artwork and those aspects of the project, I will find that I need to write again, but right now I have several novels and short stories gathering "dust" on my disks while I run Eggplant Productions.
What advice would you give to writers who want to become editors? Editors who want to become publishers?
I'd say "Don't do it!" Seriously, editing manages to suck every bit of extra time and money out of your life. I didn't think that Jackhammer E-zine would be more than a hobby, until I started thinking about a Print Issue and The Goblin Market and various other projects. I spend all my mornings and free time between work and school on some aspect of Eggplant Productions. If a writer wants to become an editor, she should think hard about how much time she can afford to spend on the project. And then she should know that no matter how good her intentions are, she'll probably spend more time on it than she means to. I know it sounds very discouraging to write that, but I know that if someone wants to become an editor bad enough, no amount of "reality checking" is going to stop her. To that person, I'd give advice like: Make sure you're doing something no one else is doing, make sure to do it better than everyone else, make sure that you are good to your writers and make sure that you are giving your readers the best content that you can find.
I really have no advice for editors that want to become publishers. I'm the editor/publisher and if I could trade that for a job just as an editor, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Running the business aspect of a magazine or e-zine quickly kills any idealized images of what being an editor really means. When you have to decide between buying an article or paying for a night out at the movies, you quickly learn that it isn't about being able to elevate yourself above writers and be "the Editor" or "the Publisher." So if someone wants to move from just editing to publishing, I'll tell him the same thing I'd tell writers who want to become editors "Don't do it!" And those who really want to do it aren't going to listen to me anyway so I'll just tell them to be prepared for many a night agonizing over finances.
You review sci fi, fantasy, and horror sites as part of Eggplant's varied repertoire. What is your opinion of the exploding epublishing industry? Is it here to stay? Or a rung on the ladder of progress to a yet unknown literary form?
I'm probably the wrong person to ask about this. Because I'm going to give an answer that I don't think most people want to hear. The e-publishing industry is here to stay. Unless we get rid of the web, there is always going to be someone who thinks, "Hey, there aren't enough e-zines out there that carry killer cyborg stories. I'm going to start my own e-zine." Or they will think, "That doesn't look so hard, and I bet I could do it better than <insert name of e-zine/editor here>." And, unlike many other editors/writers/what-have-you who lament the fact that _anyone_ can put up an e-zine, I think it's great. I love the fact that anyone can go to Geocities and start up their own e-zine and put up whatever they want on that e-zine. I love the fact that there are some really aweful e-zines out there publishing really aweful stories. Just as there are really great e-zines out there publishing some of the best fiction I've read in years. I believe in diversity. I don't think that there should be any reason why a 15 year old in New Mexico can't start up their own publication. Now, that doesn't mean I condone some e-zines that practice questionable publishing techniques (such as archiving forever, or not alerting authors that their stories have been posted) and I hope that it becomes the standard for e-zines, no matter what the caliber of the editorship or content, to provide contracts to authors. After all, ifit wasn't true that anyone could start up their own e-zine, Eggplant Productions wouldn't be here.
Why did you decide to use scales as the art work for your home page? To signify justice? Balance in the universe? Or?
At the time we didn't have a staff artist, and so we had to make do with a clipart collection. Matt, who is Eggplant Productions' webmaster, wanted an image that would give a choice between frames and no frames.
If you were to weigh, in those scales, the two factors that most influenced you to become a publisher, what would they be?
The factors that most influenced me to become a publisher? Well, the first one would have to be my membership in Critters (an online critique group). I spent two years on Critters and realized that I could not only help others better their stories but I could tell a good story when I read it. It was a definite self-confidence booster. I don't think I would have ever thought myself good enough to be an editor if it weren't for Critters. The second factor was how easy it was to put up an e-zine. If I had to go the magazine route, the expense and work would have turned me off. I always wanted to edit a magazine, but I would have probably put it off for another few years, until at least I had graduated from college. In one night we had figured out the direction and layout for Jackhammer E-zine and there seemed no turning back after that. How could I not do it when it was that easy?
You can find Raechel & Co. at Jackhammer E-zine - http://www.eggplant-productions.com/
Now available! Faerie Gold - A multimedia experience.
Fantasy stories, poems, cartoons and music