In 2015, alums Maxwell Bauman and Ahrend Torrey came together to start a new literary magazine. The following is an interview with Ahrend, who explains the nature of Door is a Jar Magazine, and their expectations for the publication.
Where did the name come from? Why did you choose it?
Max and I brainstormed for a couple of weeks over names we thought were suitable. During one of our phone conferences, Max offered his ideas and I shared mine. Other magazines had already taken many of the names. Then, among the names that were left, there was Door is a Jar Magazine. Something about this name intrigued me. It connected me with my inner child. How much more connected can one be with the art of creativity, than to be connected with their inner child? Picasso once said: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I kept going back to this name, Door is a Jar Magazine, and asked Max what inspired it. He said, “I was laying on my bed thinking about possible names, and there was my door and a jar. So, I wrote it down.” I thought the manner of how this name came about was brilliant. It had no logical meaning at all; it was just a random creation. It made me think of that quote by Einstein: “Logic will take you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere.” Although the name was random, I knew the subconscious was at work. In the instant that it gave me that fun, simple, intriguing, everyday kind of feeling, I knew it was to be the name of our magazine, and Max agreed.
What is your submission policy? How has it evolved from when you put it into place versus after experiencing the creation of the first issue?
Contributors send their work to our Gmail account. We look for short work that is accessible for all readers. Works that are confusing, abstract or unnecessarily fancy will not be considered; our editors stand firm against academic jigsaw puzzles. We want to publish work that anyone can relate to. One way that our submission policy has changed is that now it’s more specific. The more specific we are in the guidelines, the better chance we have at getting the work we desire, and in the right format.
What makes DIAJ stand out from other publications?
We don’t care about credentials or how widely one has been published, or how “smart” a work might appear. What we look for is accessible work that moves the reader. We publish work from high school students, who have never been published before, to Stanford professors. We are not afraid to step out of the norm. Even though we will always consider ourselves a literary magazine, we are not opposed to mingling with other art forms.
What (if any) of your own personalities have gone into DIAJ?
For me, it is the fun, colorful, simple, open aspect of the magazine. My philosophy: Why make things complex and serious; isn’t there enough of that in the world? Why not make it simple, fun and interesting?
Why did you make the effort to start this pub? When did the conversations start?
First, I wanted to build a community that I could be a part of. I wanted to interact with other writers about writing, and I wanted good work to read, so what better way than to be a part of a literary magazine. Second, I wanted to create a magazine that would give literature a better name among the everyday person. Growing up in the South, so many people do not understand the importance of literature, mostly because people think of it as too brainy and people are so busy that they don’t want to take the time to figure it out. DIAJ brings well-written, accessible literature to the busy people of the world, so they can sit, read, enjoy, then be on their way. After a desire to create a magazine, I sought to find a partner to help me make it happen.
Paint a picture of how you two developed this whole thing.
To make this simple: I had a desire to be more active in the literary community; I wanted to do something positive in the world; I wanted to give literature a better name among the common, everyday, nonacademic person. I sought for a partner that could help my vision come to life, and there he was at a reading at Wilkes: the delightful, silly, crazy, off-the-wall, Maxwell Bauman. I told him about my idea, and he said, “Let’s do it!” Two weeks later, it all began and it has been nonstop ever since. Every day we learn; every day we grow; every day DIAJ gets stronger and stronger. This has been the journey so far.
Why should the reader care about your publication?
The reader should care about DIAJ for several reasons. First, we publish quality writing, and second, we are open to everyone. Yes, we say it over and over again, that we don’t accept academic writing, but that doesn’t mean that we do not publish work from academics. There are a lot of academics published in our Fall Issue. It’s not about the credential or lack thereof, we look at the work. As long as a work does not send a hateful message into the world, and as long as it is accessible and not too lengthy, it will be considered. Also, we hope to get more involved in our local communities in the future. I’m brainstorming ways that we as a magazine can help make the world a better place. In my opinion, this is all something worth caring about.
What were your challenges?
The first challenge was finding a name. The second challenge was figuring out our editorial process, a process that we wanted easy for every editor, as well as us, being that everyone involved is volunteering. We didn’t want DIAJ to become overwhelming. Third, we struggled with finding quality advertising, and presenting our publication in a way that the advertisers felt we should (everyone has their own opinion). And lastly, getting the website exactly how we feel it should be. There are still many revisions and additions we want to make to the website, but getting everyone together in order to make this happen is somewhat of a challenge.
How did your staff come together?
We relied on connections that we had at Wilkes, then I relied on other connections that I had. We didn’t want to just involve Wilkes people; we wanted to extend out.
What is your end goal with the publication?
The end goal is to establish DIAJ as a well-known publication among everyone, academics and nonacademics alike. In the future we hope to succeed in a way that we can give back to the artists and writers who contribute, as well as to our local communities.
How are you getting the word of the publication out there?
We are advertising through publications such as NewPages and Poets & Writers, as well as our website and social media.
Were there any things that were surprisingly more difficult or easier than what you expected?
I try not to expect. Instead, I embrace the mystery, follow my passion, and enjoy the process.
What do you see for the pub’s future? I know you’re hoping to put it in print eventually…but anything else?
Yes, we hope to include other art forms within the magazine— music, dance, etc.!
AHREND TORREY is a poet and painter. Born in Mississippi, he received his bachelor’s degree in English Literature from William Carey University, and is a graduate of the Wilkes University M.A./M.F.A. Creative Writing Program in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is the Editor of Door is a Jar Magazine and finds inspiration painting and writing next to the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana. His work has appeared in publications online and in print.
MAXWELL BAUMAN is the Managing Editor/Co-founder of Door Is A Jar Magazine. He received his M.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing from Wilkes University. He loves making art with Legos and currently lives in Marion, South Carolina.