This post has been updated. See below.
Electric Literature, which started out publishing a quarterly journal simultaneously in print, ebook, iPhone and Kindle form, is always up for trying something new. It regularly invites animators to create short videos of single sentences from its stories, like the one above. And way back in 2009, it published a short story in tweets by Rick Moody on Twitter, an experiment that was only partially creatively successful but that earned it an important literary place in the Twittersphere. What does a quarterly do with 150,000 followers in the long months between publication? Editor Benjamin Samuel decided curation is the thing.
Hence, Recommended Reading. It's a project that will publish one fiction story per week, with selections being made by a variety of readers who are in the know: an independent press, a writer, the kind folks at Electric Literature, and another literary journal. That's one month, then the cycle starts again.
The project went up on Kickstarter in April and swiftly reached its $10,000 goal (aided in part by a donor perk of a really cool flask). The organizers now hope to raise double that goal, and have about $3,500 and less than a week to go. Samuel explained what to expect from Recommended Reading, via email.
Jacket Copy: How many recommends will Recommended Reading make each week?
Benjamin Samuel: We'll publish one piece of fiction each week. It’s an ideal rate for readers who are already overwhelmed with options, and will help them focus on fiction that's worth spending time with.
The magazine runs on a four-week cycle of curators: the first week is a story chosen by Electric Literature, then an indie press like New Directions excerpts a collection or novel, then a guest editor like Jim Shepard picks a story, and then another journal like A Public Space re-releases work from their archives.
JC: Is Recommended Reading sort of like Longreads for fiction?
BS: I love Longreads and appreciate the comparison. While we have curation in common, the nature of Recommended Reading's model makes us somewhere between a salon, magazine and a digest. We want Recommended Reading to be a true community that’s passionate about literature, and we’ll do this in part by introducing readers to independent publishers as well as new and emerging writers. Each issue will feature a note from the editor, written by that week's partner, i.e., when we publish fiction from Melville House, Dennis Johnson will introduce that week's issue. We hope that this will increase awareness of the diversity of the indie publishing community, and hopefully translate into sales and subscriptions for our partners.
JC: Is there a pool of literary magazines and journals from which you'll be pulling stories?
BS: The first pool was Brooklyn based: A Public Space, Armchair/Shotgun, The Coffin Factory, and One Story. But we're not a Brooklyn-centric publication. My co-editor, Halimah Marcus, and I spent most of the mayhem of this year's AWP meeting other editors and learning about the great magazines they’re creating. The indie publishing is diverse and flourishing, and we want to share our discoveries with our audience.
JC: Do you have plans to expand that pool?
BS: Absolutely. We're on the lookout for indie publishers with strong mission statements and who are committed to keeping literature a vibrant part of our culture. We’re also looking overseas to bring in international partners, as well as work in translation.