"The Bridge Between Writers Lost in the Writing World." A Chat With Tyler Tsay of Blueshift Journal
Tyler Tsay is the editor in chief and co-founder of Blueshift Journal. Since the journals inception in 2014, Tyler and his staff have produced three full online-issues and built a beautiful web presence to showcase their material. Here is our conversation about the beginning, present, and future of Blueshift.
Interview by Matt Broderick
To get things going, browsing the Blueshift Journal website, I have to say that I am really digging the design. Blueshift is well organized, easy to navigate, and clearly expresses what the publication is all about. The closing line to your mission statement reads: Blueshift is the yearning, the telltale sign that we have never been alone. Could you expand upon this?
The entire "About Us" section reflects foremost on writers themselves. In a way, there's no lonelier job than writing. The writing community is vast, and most often distant. Many times, it can feel as though we’re spreading across the continents away from each other in search of that perfect metaphor or simile. We at Blueshift want to be the bridge between writers lost in the writing world. We want to be able to present writing in a way that says, "Look! It's not just you out there." Build a community, share great art, etc. That’s what we strive for.
On a wider scale, the last line refers to that "innate need" I mentioned above. What is it that drives us to write in the first place? What are we searching for? Lily (our exec. ed.), who wrote the About Us section, touched upon that primal instinct. By sharing art, I hope that Blueshift can help illuminate the why. The yearning, the longing. Maybe, for an instant, we can help our readers find the impossibly distant again.
This is definitely a sentiment I can relate to. On one hand, the literary world appears to be an endless and secluding landscape, while on the other it can feel like drowning in the community pool. Similarly, the world of literary journals can be viewed as either limiting or overwhelming. Am I right to say that you are seeking to place Blueshift at a happy medium of these extremes?
Yes and no. I think there’s no denying the fact that the community pool far exceeded maximum capacity years ago. With all those literary magazines out there, it can be very overwhelming. The main limiting factor is sifting through all those magazines and finding the right fit for your work, the right place for your work. And yes, we like to present an open feeling to our readers and submitters. We invite all comers to try their hand with our blind submissions policies (although that in itself brings up the question that the editors of Apogee Magazine asked here.) And we hope that they can find a place with us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always in the name of art for art’s sake.
Build a community, share great art...That’s what we strive for.
The Apogee article brings up a great point. Yes, to an extent, blind submissions even the playing field, but what they fail to combat is an editor's pre-existing literary prejudices. How would you justify Blueshift's decision to operate using blind submissions? In browsing the first three issues of your journal, it is clear that Blueshift does a nice job representing voices from all backgrounds. Are there extra steps taken to achieve this?
I think, at our inception, we believed blind submissions were the easiest way to level the playing field. I still hold faith in blind submission structure. The article is something to think about, however. What communities are we being exposed to? Who has the most access, the most ability to submit to us? Not only that, I originally believed that students had more of an advantage when it came to a pre-existing literary prejudice, thinking that a teenager's editorial preference would be more of a "blank slate." That, of course, was incorrect. The reality is that curricula for young minds are already angled to teach certain literature and cultures over other marginalized points of view. I don't think this is the place to be discussing this in depth, before we get too off track, but I'll say that there are definitely extra steps to take. The most determined method is to exclusively publish marginalized voices, such as The Offing or Apogee. I personally love the work they do.
Let's touch upon your inception a bit. On the website you say, "The Blueshift Journal began as a quip between friends..." Let me in a little further. I want to know about the early days of planning, discussions, and the players involved.
Claire and I became close friends two winters ago, bonding quickly over our shared interests in classics and writing. We started exploring the world of online publications together, discovering the community pool, as you called it. Sometimes, overwhelmed by the number of journals out there, we would joke to each other, “Maybe we’ll start our own magazine.” Fast forward four months. Claire’s going off to college and I’m about to start my senior year. She calls me up, telling me that we’re going to do this. And that was that. We bring Lily Rockefeller in and together the three of us began planning furiously. How long would we do this? Bi-annual? Tri-annual? Who would we publish? What would be our mission? Gathering our initial staff of thirty, we started off on July 15th, 2014 as The Copper Context on a Google website plagued with advertisements, and our email submission spread through hundreds of Google Docs. Hard to believe it’s been only a year and some change since then.
From the look and organization of the site, I'd say it's been a year of very hard work. Well done! Did you say that right, a staff of thirty?
Yes, we started with a staff of thirty, though it’s grown to about 45ish as of this issue.
Definitely impressive. Well, it’s been great putting this together with you. In closing, what can we expect next from Blueshift? What ideas are being mulled over? What’s over the horizon?
Quite a bit, actually! We’re taking a longer break than usual before Issue 4, reopening submissions around October 15th (tentatively). In between that time and after, we want to have our readers get to know our staff a lot better. You’ll be seeing a greater majority of the staff participating in the blog, and pretty soon, we’re hoping to put together a small, themed staff arts feature, just to showcase some of the writers and artists we have here at Blueshift. Hopefully, you’ll get to know us a bit better, as we bring in our new interns and get things moving for Issue 4. Look out for our new segment, Queers on Media, book reviews, interviews, Featured Artists of the Month, and much, much more. We might have a trick or two up our sleeve. Thanks for talking, it’s been a pleasure.