Flare Journal, Michelle Qiao (Interview)
Interviewed by Amanda Kresge
Flare is an international journal dedicated to encouraging writers and artists from all backgrounds to express themselves. They believe that sharing work from different backgrounds will help lift and connect others together no matter what their ages are or where they live. This is reflected in their editing team with the Editor-in-Chief, Michelle Qiao, being a sophomore in high school, one of the Managing Editors, Manasi Moghe, being a junior in high school, and the other Managing Editor, Sarah Bricault, being a MIT graduate. Flare notes that they “applaud work that is loud, expressive, and sincere” to be submitted to their journal.
What was your introduction to editing & publishing?
Honestly, my introduction to this world was through this journal. I’m actually in high school so I just felt like, you know, me and a few of my friends, we wanted to start a journal where, like, we would kind of have a space for people of a lot of different backgrounds to, you know, showcase their work and to expose different ideas. And, you know, the work of very diverse work in one place. So, honestly, it was just a project that started between me and a few other people and I’m really grateful for what it has grown to become.
What do you do as Editor-in-Chief at Flare Journal?
Honestly, it’s kind of like a lot of odd jobs everywhere. I would say the main bulk of my work would be to sit down like before every issue comes out and go through all of the submissions we’ve gotten and just read through all of them and just really think about putting together an issue that has pieces that work together and kind of, you know, that really resonate with each other, and you know, talk it over with the other editors and after that it's marginal. It’s purely online because of COVID-19 there really is no way we can go all out and have actual in print issues safely as of now. It’s, you know, a lot of copy and pasting, formatting things online, making sure everything follows a style guide, and is clean and polished.
How did you generate the press’ name?
This is actually kind of funny. We had a different name in mind- I honestly forget what it was- but I think it was taken by another magazine, so Flare was out second choice. But I think again, when you hear the word ‘flare’ you really get an image in your mind of something burning, something bright and warm. So, I think that fit the overall tone that we were going for.
What work do you consider fitting for the journal?
So, our journal caters to a wide range of ages for our audience so first we kind of, like, scan through for how appropriate content is. We do get a lot of submissions that are not really appropriate for younger audiences to read, so that is the first thing we look for. And, overall, with each issue we take into account, like the current political climate and what kind of, you know, message of empathy or support that we are trying to put out with every issue. Really, we do not really have any criteria or rubric, but we evaluate each and every piece and give it its own attention and space.
We learned that some presses get funding from outside people. How do you find financial support for Flare Journal?
Actually, we have a few donors-- a professor from Illinois and a few other people-- we don't really don't ask for donations because our press is not a very big financial responsibility.
But it’s just been really inspiring to see people donate, like voluntarily emailing us and say ‘hey, I like your mission and I would like to support it.’ Currently, what I also love about the internet, is basically anyone can start their own magazine, you know, without a ton of financial resources and kind of keep it going. I feel like the only real monetary value we had to put in was to buy the domain name for our actual site. Besides that it’s been mainly more effort and like putting in the work on our side instead of having a big instatuation behind us that is putting in like grant funding.
Do you think once the journal gets larger that you’ll step up and get that kind of funding?
I think that really depends on what we are trying to do, right now the very basics of our particular magazine is just upkeeping the domain name. Besides that, me and Manasi, the managing editor, were talking about starting a summer program for kids to introduce them to creative writing because I think, you know, a lot of, at least in my experience, a lot of primary education you don't get an introduction to creative writing stories and creative writing poetry and I think that system is important. So, we are going to look into that. Actually, in the future we are looking at applying for a grant from this foundation who does a lot of great things for youth who want to make an impact on their community and going through that would just mean writing the essays that go along with it, giving them their plan and everything involved with that. I think a lot of these organizations exist, and for us specifically, we can look into applying for grants and stuff like that.
What do you consider to be your greatest successes as a press?
I think the greatest success has just been, like, the different people that have been exposed to our magazine. When we started it we really did not expect this kind of response. I think, right now, as of places, we are almost read in all 50 states and something like 42-43 countries, and really we’ve gotten submissions and asked for a biography with each one. Just today, actually, someone who was published in the New Yorker submitted to us and I read the New Yorker and I just think it was so crazy. I guess- I assumed that this kind of readership would have been out of our reach, but also, again, looping back to our mission, really in one of our issues, you know, a middle schooler whose work is just as valid and important is published alongside a state poet lariat. I think it’s just so cool to be able to encourage people to keep on creating in this way and keep on validating their work.
What’s your favorite genre to work with?
Ooh, that’s a hard one. Honestly, personal essay, for me, is my favorite genre to work with because they are really opening up such a vulnerable part of their life and personality. I’m just really grateful that people are willing to show a more vulnerable side to us to submit and are willing to put themselves out there. Reading a personal memoir really connects you to the person, if that even makes sense, even though I’m probably never going to meet them face to face.