Portal del Sol

Author Salon, Fiction, Novels, Editors, Books & More

The First Year: Midwestern Gothic

In The First Year, four editors of magazines in their first year of publication write about what they are doing and why, and the challenges and triumphs they encounter along the way. This month, we asked the editors to introduce to their publications, the people involved, and speak to why they decided to start a literary journal.

The Perils of Keeping it Real

Robert James Russell

What in the hell is Midwestern Gothic (www.MidwestGothic.com)? Good question, and a question we (co-founder Jeff Pfaller and I) get asked often—a question, I might add, we don’t tire of answering.

The nickel tour of my life: I’m a Midwestern boy, born and raised, and even though I’ve been fortunate enough to travel this great planet in search of adventure, I managed to find myself back in this sandwiched land known as the Midwest.  (Think cows and hay and farm houses with teetering and broken silos, and in my case, forever-sized freshwater lakes and you get the idea.)  I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about ten, and most of my life has been about collecting stories and memories and cataloging these adventures until finally, everything just sort of spewed out and could no longer be contained.  During graduate school I studied Regionalism, specifically Southern Gothic (Go Fighting Faulkners!), and thought to myself: Huh… Why hasn’t there ever been a spotlight on Midwestern writing? I mean, in the west (California) you have Steinbeck, the south you have O’Connor and Faulkner, and there’s Fitzgerald and Salinger in the east.  But where is that glorious, ample Midwestern region, huh?

Don’t get me wrong: There are some fantastic Midwestern writers (Sherwood Anderson is, in my opinion, one of the best examples), but there has never been a surge of pride for Midwestern writers and writing like there has been in other regions…not nationally, anyway.  And to be honest, even as someone who, in his youth, chastised his home as being “too flat,” there is some great mythology here, some personal histories and idiosyncrasies that makes the Midwest not only as unique as those other geographic arenas of literary brilliance, but rich and ready to be mined.   And that, in essence, is why Midwestern Gothic was founded.

Fast forward to now: I decided, a few years ago, that I really wanted to put together this journal as a way to showcase Midwest writers and writing: Specifically, real life—good, bad, or ugly—in our swathe of land here.  (That, to us, is where the “Gothic” of Midwestern Gothic comes into play.)  It took some time to develop, and my literary partner, Jeff, helped me shape the vision to a point where we could finally share it with the world.  (Not to mention, he was also responsible for bringing the site to life.)  And voilà! Here we are today.

Again, the whole point of our operation is to feature poetry and prose written by those who were born or have lived here, or even those who have traveled through and been impacted by the region in some way.  One thing we’ve heard again and again is how “It’s about time for something like this to show up,” and sure, it may be a lofty goal, but that’s what we want: to be the premiere location/journal for Midwestern writing.  Period. And to even further enhance the whole Midwestern mood we have going on, we’re actively looking for pictures that capture the flavor and essence of the Midwest.  Out of these, four times a year, we’ll pick one to be the cover of the next issue of Midwestern Gothic.  We even managed to snag a world-class Poetry Editor: Donora Hillard. (She’s just a class-act all the way through.)

So, that’s pretty much it. We believe in the Midwest, in the people and the talent here, and we’re aiming to bring some of that to the attention of the rest of the literary community at large (no longer will we remain in the shadows!).

Oh, yeah. Some quick bios about those involved:

Jeff Pfaller (Co-founder/Fiction Editor): Jeff Pfaller is a novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter who holds down a day job as a content strategist at Arc Worldwide, using the power of content to convince consumers to get in bed with products. After-hours creative outlets include: writing multiple on-going comic series, acting as creative director for Saint James Comics, and co-founding Midwestern Gothic, a quarterly literary journal. A Midwesterner through and through since the day he was born, Jeff has transplanted his his wife, two children, dog and cat from Michigan to Des Plaines, Illinois.

Robert James Russell (Co-founder/Fiction Editor): Robert James Russell’s work appears or is forthcoming in JoylandThunderclap!Red River ReviewGreatest Lakes ReviewEighty Percent Magazine, Down in the Dirt, and The Legendary, among others. In September 2010 he edited the anthology Sex Scene: An Anthology. His first collection of short stories, The Mating Habits of College Girls, will be released in April 2011 by eight cuts gallery press. Robert lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Donora Hillard (Poetry Editor): Donora Hillard’s poetry collection Theology of the Body (Gold Wake Press, 2010) was a bestseller in Women’s Studies at Amazon.com. Her work has appeared in Best of the Web 2010 (Dzanc Books, 2010), FRiGG, Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer (W.W. Norton & Company, 2010), and Monkeybicycle, among others. She is pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at Wayne State University in Detroit, co-edits Cow Heavy Books and Midwestern Gothic, and is at work on a new poetry collection entitled Jeff Bridges.

Thanks for checking us out!

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