"We Want Writing That Doesn’t Fit Comfortably Elsewhere." A Chat with C.J. Opperthauser, Co-Editor of Threadcount
C.J. Opperthauser is Co-Editor of Threadcount and currently lives in Providence. His work has recently appeared/is forthcoming in Inter|rupture, Ghost Ocean Magazine, and A Capella Zoo. His chapbook Cloud the Shape of Bedroom is forthcoming from Tree Light Books.
Interview by Joseph Dante
Threadcount is unique in that it seeks to exclusively publish hybrid writing, or “work that challenges genre boundaries and resists classifiable form.” Can you expound upon this?
We get really excited by good sentences, paragraphs, images, and the smaller pieces in the puzzle. We collectively seek out work that does something we weren’t expecting with the form it’s using. Ultimately, we find that a disregard to form creates some amazing opportunities to defy expectations; a square block of text can do whatever the hell the writer wants it to do, as its very form is like a blob that can be but doesn’t need to be molded, so from the start you don’t exactly have expectations, making whatever the piece does both a surprise and totally acceptable; on the other hand, a list creates expectations and a rhythm of reading that is more or less irresistible to shatter. We love all of that.
What is the Threadcount origin story? Who was the founder and what was their vision?
As Annie and I were sharing drinks near the end of our time together for grad school, she proclaimed that we should start a journal of hybrid work, her being into flash fiction and myself into prose poems, and so it took off from that initial thought. The dream was simply to collect the best pieces of writing that we thought resisted initial labeling, or at least made it a little tougher to summarize form. We recruited Matt and Steve, who have the same interests, and named the magazine the first phrase that popped into Annie’s head. Since then, I think our vision has turned more into a focus on aesthetics as much as ideas and form, which is why we put so much effort into keeping the website sleek and the cover images a bit wild, quirky, and fresh.
Examples of published work I’ve seen thus far have been segmented stories, lists, plays, narrative poems, and flashes with a focus on the lyrical line. What kind of experimental literature do you wish to see more of?
We want writing that doesn’t fit comfortably elsewhere. We want writing that comes within the orbit of the forms you mentioned, but collides into something else instead. We like coming to our inbox and seeing something — just the very shape of it — that immediately makes us curious about what it might do.
We collectively seek out work that does something we weren’t expecting with the form it’s using.
What are some journals you admire who also strive to push boundaries of genre and form?
I’ll speak for myself here and say Rose Metal Press is a big inspiration and source of excitement, as well as Krupskaya and The Dorothy Project. I’m really interested in, as we all are, work that can make you simultaneously say ‘man, this essay (or whatever) is flowing so fast and stays sonically smooth’ and ‘I hope this poem (or whatever) never ends,’ and hopefully in a sort of sexy, mystifying way. As a group, we find common ground more in writers than in journals — like Maggie Nelson, Dana Ward, Susan Steinberg, and Zachary Schomburg. We also admire and have a common foundation in many we’ve been lucky enough to publish, including Matt Bell, Amber Sparks, and Peter Markus — writers who consistently push and resist set high goals for us as a different type of conglomerate-entity striving for the same.
Do you see any recurring patterns with submissions when it comes to interpreting what is “hybrid” writing?
Often if a longer piece of writing feels lyrical to its writer, it’s categorized as hybrid. There’s a lot more to it than that, I think, and I’m not even sure exactly what that lot more might be — and I’m happy not knowing. It feels shallow to say that form is all it takes for a piece of writing to be a hybrid. There’s something much deeper and more intricate than that in the pieces we gravitate toward; I think reading what we’ve published so far gets at that mystery a little.
What is the easiest way to get rejected?
Sending something that you can find anywhere in any journal. If it looks familiar, it’s probably not a good fit.
What is your process as a co-editor? What does a typical week look like running the journal?
We’re a pretty anarchic magazine in that we don’t really have a hierarchy — hence the four-way title of ‘co-editor.’ Typically we know pieces we like when we get them, and we sit on the rest to make sure we are letting them back into the wild with good enough reason. We also make sure to read various magazines to do some scouting; we have the best luck with places like CHEAP POP, Diagram, The Collagist, inter|rupture, Alice Blue (who we’ll miss dearly), and some others. Maybe that also answers your earlier question?
Are submissions split among the editors? How do you go from reading submissions to finally assembling your upcoming issue?
Most of our issues only contain five(ish) pieces. This is because we almost never accept anything that all four of us aren’t crazy about. We do our best to be conscious of the diversity of contributors in a given issue, both in style and in personhood, but ultimately we put together five or more pieces that fit well together and get each and all of us excited and mystified. If a piece is right for us but not for the collection of pieces in an approaching issue, we put it on hold for the next one.
Do you have any particular advice to writers who plan on submitting to your journal in the future?
Everyone says it, but just read a couple of other issues we’ve released. It should be pretty obvious what basic colors we like to look at — send us something that resembles (but totally messes with) that picture.
Joseph Dante lives in South Florida. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Permafrost, The Rumpus, Best Gay Stories 2015, PANK, Corium, and elsewhere.