This week I had my Tangential co-founders and co-editors Jay Gabler and Katie Sisneros on to talk about a project we’ve been working on. We announce it mid-way through, in case you’re curious. We also discuss the bloody mary garnishes that fueled us in the early days and the unsung heroes that kept us going. Plus, there’s some very naughty word-laden readings at the end. Thanks for coming on, friends.
1. What have you learned about creative writing through The Tangential?
Jay: I’ve learned about how much fun it is to write with others. Prior to The Tangential, I would have thought that writing was essentially a solitary activity — but our collaborative posts are some of my favorites.
Katie: I’ve learned that the only person you can really try to please with your writing is yourself. Which is easier said than done, what with that whole “you are your own worst enemy” thingy. But narrowing your audience to one at least takes some of the pressure off. Also, you can never have too many metaphors. Even if your piece of writing is just one enormous conceit made up entirely of sentences that represent other sentences and words that represent other words, that’s probably fine. Right? I dunno. Writing is hard.
Becky: Writing is about connection. When I go to our author list on WordPress, I’m amazed at all the people we’ve published. I’ve never even met a lot of them. If you give people an outlet where they can be themselves, they’ll come. By reading this work by people I’ve never met, I’ve broadened my understanding of the world, and that’s what writing (and reading) is all about. That and using funny curse words to talk about dogs.
2. What is one of your favorite posts people might now know about?
Jay: Speaking of collaboration, Colleen Powers and I put a lot of work into this post about Gone With the Wind. I was surprised at just how offensive that story is, and I think Colleen and I made a strong case that it needs to be substantially downgraded in the American literary canon. Also, did you know we published a post about what it’s like to have a stoma?
Katie: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sarah Heuer’s “Everything I Know About Harry Potter” is the funniest thing that’s ever appeared on The Tangential. I cry laughing every time I read it.
Becky: This post by Crispin Best made me laugh a lot: What These Dogs Would Be Into If They Followed ‘The Handkerchief Code’
3. What’s your advice for someone who wants to be published on the Tangy/ or start their own creative writing website?
Jay: Think broadly about what it means to be a creative writer. It means creative writing on social media, it means creative writing on blogs, it means creative writing for established publications — the more practice you can get, on the more platforms, the better. One practical tip is to refine your concept so that it can be explained in a headline — so many people preface their posts with long explanations and justifications. If you need to spend three paragraphs setting your post up, you probably need to rethink it (or stop apologizing for it).
Becky: We got a submission from Harris Sockel recently that made me remember the fun of reading something by a funny writer I’ve never met. Just send us something with a cohesive angle that you had fun with. The more relevant advice though is about what to do if you’re just starting out and you are trying to find your place as a writer. Don’t hesitate to start your own platform. It’s easy with technology today, and sometimes it’s easier to start your own thing than retrofit someone else’s to fit your vision. Don’t worry if no one reads you right away. If you write it (for long enough), they will come.