Hobart magazine was founded in 2001 by Aaron Burch. It is a biannual magazine print magazine that comes out irregularly, about three times every two years. Every April is devoted to a baseball issue. Each genre’s sub-editor reads all the submissions for their section, and chooses which ones to publish. The magazine also has irregular submission dates, and they accept fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Hobart is also connected to a small press where they publish books with Elizabeth Ellen as editor.
FUSE interviews Aaron Burch, Founder and Editor of Hobart magazine. Interview by Aubrey Johnson (Susquehanna ’16)
I love the idea behind the April Baseball issue. Why baseball? Any special significance?
Baseball just because I love baseball. About ten years ago (I think 2003 was the first year we did it?), it got to be only a week or two before the season was to start and I was really excited for baseball. I knew a bunch of writers who were, too, and so at the last minute I threw out a call for pieces from writers I knew were fans of the sport, and they sent stuff my way, and the tradition was born.
Hobart began as an online journal, but how did the idea behind it start? What was your motivation? Your inspiration?
It was really born out of equal parts boredom, curiosity, and naiveté. I didn’t know what I was doing, or really what I wanted to do, but I’d just graduated from college, moved away from friends, was working at a job I didn’t especially like, and needed a way to entertain myself and spend my time.
What’s the origin of Hobart’s name? Also, what’s the significance of the trailer logo? It’s named after that company that makes industrial-/restaurant-sized dishwashers and mixers, meat slicers, etc. I remembered working on one at church youth group camps and the name had stuck with me. It sounds familiar but you’re not sure why, that kinda thing. I thought it might be a good band name, and starting a lit journal was the closest I was gonna get to being in a band. The trailer is a relatively poorly photoshop-traced photo of the camper I lived in my parents driveway when I was a freshman in college. So, how did that trailer become a symbol for the journal?
Hm. I don’t especially know. Like most of Hobart: a happy accident! When I first started the site, I used a photo of it for the “splash”/index page. (I actually just happened to be currently looking through old versions of the site when this email came in:
I like the imagery of it — I like camping and trailers and the iconography thereof. I imagine I was probably just looking through photos I had (this all pre-dated digital cameras) and I found this, so I scanned it in and used it, and then at some point we probably thought we needed a logo and I didn’t really know anything about logos but I just traced that image and liked the look of it.
Walk me through your submissions process. Around how many submissions for online versus print? Do you ever solicit work?
The submission process is a little all over the place, and different for each of our arms. For books, we’re “open” we’re open relatively infrequently and Elizabeth reads all those submissions herself. With the web, we have a team of editors who rotate being “in charge” for a month at a time, so during the month that it is their turn, they read all the submissions and decide yes/no on everything themselves, with us occasionally sharing pieces to get second or third opinions. With print, we’ve had issues where we had volunteer interns read the slush and then everything they liked got passed up to me and Elizabeth, but with the last couple of issues we’ve read all the submissions ourselves. We definitely do solicit, though rarely (never?) more than 50% of an issue, usually closer to 1/4, though with this last print issue, Elizabeth and I read everything ourselves, all blind, and we didn’t solicit anything.
That seems like a lot of reading for two people. Approximately how many submissions do you receive for the print journal?
Looking back at Submittable, it looks like we were open for submissions for #15 for about 6 months and got almost 600 submissions.
Also, in what way did you see the interns not working?
I think, with regard to filtering submissions, they worked pretty great, we just thought we could handle it all ourselves and wanted to see what that would be like. We wanted to be sure nothing got passed over just because an intern reader didn’t like it and it never got to us, though there’s the flip of that problem, being that, with so many submissions, we become extra critical extra fast and if something picks up on the 2nd page but the beginning isn’t as strong as can be, it’s getting passed over.
I’ve come across Hobart’s twitter account and found the tweets entertaining. Tell me about the journal’s online presence outside the online publication.
The Hobart Twitter account is kinda half journal / half just my personal Twitter account. I go back and forth with myself about that second half. I like that it gives the tweets, and thus the journal, and bit more of a “personality” and isn’t just all business-y and promotion-y and kinda boring. I don’t have a personal account, so I try not to make it “too” personal, but more just the kind of jokiness that fits the journal’s persona.
As for the print journal and books, how does promotion differ from the online journal?
Promotion. I don’t know that we’re very good at that word…
Well, in the beginning, how did you get the word out about this journal? What helped you get submissions? Subscriptions?
At the beginning-beginning, I literally had no idea what I was doing and posted ads / calls for submissions on, like, Craigslist. Then I had the idea to send emails to university English departments and ask them, if they had any kind of email list, if they would forward the announcement out to their students. That helped a lot, and we started getting submissions not just from students but also from teachers, which makes sense but hadn’t even occurred to me at the time. And then, over time, just existing and putting out good work was the best “promotion” — just spreading word of mouth, and the like. Now, our social media presence does help (I think?), but the early years were all pre- most of that. I think going to bookfairs and AWP has helped a lot too.
Literary journals are usually about the art and the writing, but how does Hobart get the funding to keep going?
At this point it’s primarily paying for itself, via subscriptions and website and bookfair orders, and Books generally do better than lit journals, so the SF/LD Books pay for the journal a bit, and then we’ve always put some personal funds into it to keep it going, though it’s thankfully primarily self-sustaining at this point.
12) Tell me a little about the Hobart staff. This could be in context of a typical day or the week before publication. What’s the best way to describe the staff as a whole and on an individual level?
This is gonna sound cheesy, but I think our “staff,” in so far as we have one is totally what makes Hobart. What I think has worked extremely to our benefit is having such a great team, with similar but also differing tastes, and that each person has a real autonomy over what they do, so there’s a support team but not so much a team that has to collectively agree on things. So, with the books, it’s really all Elizabeth. And, as mentioned, with the website, Elizabeth and Caleb Curtiss are the poetry editors, and Jensen Beach, Jac Jemc, and Brandi Wells oversee fiction. And they do this on a rotating basis, so it gives everybody the freedom to choose and solicit the stuff they’re excited about, but then everyone also gets a every month or two “off,” which kinda helps with getting burned out and whatnot.
Visit the Hobart Website: http://www.hobartpulp.com/