Juked, John W. Wang
Juked magazine was founded in 1999. It is an independent journal that is both online and in print annually. Juked gets all of its funding from donations which help with printing and web hosting costs. The magazine is open for submissions year round and they accept poetry, fiction and nonfiction. There is no one defining theme or subject matter that the magazine focuses on, but rather an overall mission of publishing the best work they come across, with a special emphasis on new and emerging writers. John W. Wang has been the editor of Juked for years and hopes that it will continue on with as much quality writing as it has now. FUSE interviews the head editor of Juked, John W. Wang.
Starting at the beginning, what is the significance behind the title of Juked?
We (myself and the small group of friends who helped me start Juked) were tossing around a number of ideas for the name of this new thing, and we went through some terrible, awful possibilities. At the time I was living in Berkeley, and nearly every weekend I was making a long drive down to Los Angeles to see my parents because they weren’t in good health. The trips took about five hours each way, and I preferred driving at night, since A) it was cooler and better for the car (I was going at some pretty high speeds), and B) there were fewer highway patrols to look out for (I was going at some pretty high speeds). What ended up happening was I’d drive through the middle of the night, and spend hours seeing nothing but bleary tail lights. During one of these hallucinatory stretches the word “juke” popped into my head. I liked the sound of it–a one-syllable word with a number of consonants punctuating the sound. I also liked the different ideas it suggested: music, movement, a one-upsmanship. I preferred the participle because I felt it was more appropriate, that we were the ones being done to, and not the ones doing it to others.
How did you get involved with Juked, and what was the beginning idea that sparked it?
This was around the middle to end of 1998, when the idea came to me to start a website. I was heavily involved with a student-start-up company working to create an online community. At the time there was all kinds of capital flowing into these things, online content sites that made no money (it was the dot com boom, after all). I found myself increasingly spending the bulk of my time reading fun, interesting web sites (the precursors of what would become cultural blogs), and thought I’d create one myself. That is, Juked originally was something entirely different, a site where a group of people came together and wrote articles, not the literary journal it is today. We wrote and wrote and over a long period of time slowly evolved into what it is now.
At what point did you decide to take it online, and why?
It was always online! That was the venue to do it. This great thing called the Internet that was still nascent, having the ability to reach anyone in the world.
Your editing board seems to have a very distinct personality (by the way, I love the picture of the Juked Crack Team). In what ways does this personality get reflected in the creation of both the print and online publications?
Most literary journals are run out of schools with writing programs, and most of these journals have as editors graduate students in creative writing programs, and what happens then, quite often these journals have different editorial focuses from year to year, or from every few years to every few years. Juked relies on a very small number of editors. We are all readers. So that helps in terms of having a very focused editorial sensibility. That said, I feel like we have a wide range of sensibilities. I like to read all kinds of things, and so does Ryan, so does Ashley, etc. I imagine whatever we do our personality will be reflected in our work, our presentation, the way we reach out to our writers and audience. I have no idea what I can tell you besides it just kind of seeps through. (I imagine it does. Maybe it does so only ever so slightly? Who knows.)
What are some of the challenges of having such an active online edition as well as publishing a print edition? Do you ever see yourselves giving up the print edition and focusing solely on your online presence?
Of course, the biggest challenge is that it takes more work. It stretches resources, and given that we are an independent publication, we have only so much by way of resources. So, it’s tough, but we do what we can because we love it, and because, by this point, I feel like we have no choice. It’s as if Juked has become this great big entity that was once our pet, and now we’re no longer masters of this thing that’s grown so big, but more like caretakers or even servants for it. We just take care of it best we can. As far as print issues go… it’s always a consideration. You see more and more publications go from print to online because of the costs involved, and it’s sensible, it’s very probably the way things will be in the very near future, but… I do love paper, so I guess the answer is that we will hold on to print as long as possible. So long as we can keep doing it, we will.
I read that most of your material comes from the slush pile. Is part of your magazine’s mission to give a place for emerging authors to get published or is this unintentional? Would an undergraduate writing student be just as welcome to submit as an already-published writer?
Our editors, myself and others, are first and foremost writers. As a result we are a publication that particularly empathizes and sympathizes with the plight of the writer, so we do what we can to get our material from the slush pile. We have solicited in the past, but we do so very rarely. And by the very nature of how these things work, yes, we do end up focusing on emerging writers. I’m not sure if that’s intentional or not. Maybe? In the end, it’s about the story. We read a story, and if we love it, we’ll want it no matter if it’s written by someone established or if it’s by an undergraduate student. (But given the way writing works, it’s very rare that a young writer would be able to put together a good story. It takes forever to become a good writer.)
Do you have problems getting enough submissions to publish both online and print?
This depends on how picky we want to be, I suppose. And our tastes do evolve. I’ll say some years we’re happier with our submissions, and some years we’re not as happy. But so far we’ve been able to keep it going with the submissions we get.
How would you describe your ideal reader? Do you feel like you are able to reach enough people with your current distribution and advertisement?
An ideal reader would be anyone willing to sit down and read a whole story. If they want to spend more time on it to read it more carefully, even better. But I mean, we’re happy just to get readers. If the number of submissions is indicative of how many people we are reaching with our current distribution (we don’t advertise at all, really), then yeah, I think we are reaching enough.
What is your hope for Juked in the future?
Just that we can keep it going, at the quality we expect it to be.
What’s your favorite part about running a small press?
Just to clarify, we don’t run a “small press” in the sense that we don’t publish whole books, novels and poetry collections and the like. Just Juked. And my favorite part about running Juked… I don’t know that I can give you one thing that tops them all. How about a couple? I love finding good writing from emerging writers. We’ve published many writers who were just starting out and have since gone on to do great things (Emma Straub, Tao Lin, Blake Butler, Shane Jones, Matt Bell, etc.). I love giving people something interesting to read. I love helping writers make connections–just today a contributor told me that as a result of appearing on Juked he was contacted by an editor who asked to see more of his work. Wonderful fruits of labor, these. I could go on and on.