An Interview with Slake editor Joe Donnelly
WORD: What niche does Slake fill in LA’s literary scene? In the national scene?
JD: I think it’s important first of all, to understand that Slake isn’t strictly a literary journal. It’s a little more broad in its purview. We also do deeply reported, narrative non-fiction, as well as fiction, essay, memoir, poetry and pay a lot of attention to art and photography. It’s also richer aesthetically than most journals. This is important to us as we try to find a way to sustain what print does best, which is bring more of an immersion experience to the reader. You can enter Slake anywhere you turn to and get lost in it. It’s meant to keep around for awhile and come back to. We’re attempting to fill the most basic gap in the local publishing scene, which is a publication that’s as dynamic and interesting as the city itself. On the national scene, Los Angeles is of great interest to the entire country, but isn’t always seen for what it is: an incredibly interesting, vibrant creative and intellectual capital. Well, the French understand this, but we’d like others to, as well.
WORD: Hah! Nice.
You and Laurie Ochoa [the co-editor] worked at LA Weekly before deciding to start Slake. How has that experience informed the magazine’s development?
JD: At the LA Weekly we learned that raising expectations raises the quality of everything. Under Laurie’s direction, and with some help from me and the rest of the great staff we assembled, the LA Weekly transcended the alternative newspaper ghetto. It became, simply, one of the best reads in the country. Unfortunately, that isn’t the current ethos there, but what we take from our success at the LA Weekly, we apply to Slake. Our expectations are high and we work very hard to meet them.
WORD: The 3rd edition has just come out. How as the reception been thus far?
JD: It’s been great. We followed a particular aesthetic direction for this issue which is very different and exciting, we worked almost exclusively with one abstract artist, Michael Dopp, and he and our art director, Alex Bacon, put together a really unique and beautiful publication. From the readings so far, we gather the content matches the presentation.
WORD: Does anyone underwrite Slake?
JD: No, we’re a completely independent publication. And we don’t have deep pockets! It’s really a passion project and it’s taken over our lives, but it’s worth it when we see the appreciation folks have for what we’re doing. Our senses was that there was a latent desire for something like this and so far it seems like we were right about that. But, we need everybody’s help to keep going. So don’t be afraid to pick one up. You won’t be sorry!
WORD: Where can you get Slake? (Aside from WORD.)
JD: We’re in many independent bookstores across the country, including, of course, you guys, and we couldn’t be happier. We’re also at select Barnes and Noble stores nationally and Slake can always be ordered online at Slake.la.