Peach Mag is a literary/art publication based out of Buffalo, New York. Launching back in the summer of 2016, the creative platform has gone on to release inventive writing and/or visual art every Tuesday and every Friday on their website. This includes prose poetry, microfiction, flash fiction, photo collages, and much more. Creating a cohesive color palette and consistently strong source material, Peach Mag has managed to juggle and deliver staff picks, literary news, live events, print editions, pins, and, most recently, a $500 writing contest judged by author/poet Morgan Parker (with a deadline of April 20). Given the whirlwind of inviting endeavors, I decided to speak with co-founder/EIC Rachelle Toarmino about the magazine, about plans down the road, and about how/when the Peach team manages to get some sleep.
Peach Mag is still just a baby in the publishing world. What's the origin story?
Peach Mag just turned a year and a half old! It's so wild. Matthew Bookin, Bre Kiblin, and I launched the website and our EPISODES reading series in August of 2016 in Buffalo. We wanted to contribute something special and fun to Buffalo's already thriving literature and arts scene. Since then, we've added two other editors to our team -- Caitlin Coder and RE Katz -- and branched out a bit in terms of what we do: Peach Picks is a column of literary news and recommendations that is featured weekly in The Public, a Buffalo-based alternative newspaper; our Season 1 Yearbook is the first of an in-print anthology series that celebrates the work that we and our contributors have accomplished throughout each year; we've partnered with local organizations to host workshops and other community events, such as our upcoming Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon with Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center; and finally, and most recently, we've launched the Peach Gold in Poetry, an annual poetry prize with a $500 award, guest judged this year by literary icon Morgan Parker. I should also mention that Peach is 100% funded and powered by a team of volunteers. We work very hard.
Can you speak on the art / color tones and their role in Peach Mag? Did you know from the start that you wanted illustrations to accompany the literature?
Yes! I was inspired by the idea of somehow creating a literary gallery. Given the trend of micro-publishing online, I wanted to find a meeting ground between browsing and reading, and so the "recent" page is a bit of a realization of that. Colors are so important to me. We have Mickey Harmon, a local illustrator and our graphic designer, to thank for our website's gorgeous palette. Each summer since launching Peach, he and I have worked together to pick the new season's color scheme geared toward what will be memorable and fresh -- much like the work that we publish.
Do you still approach the submissions and selection process in a similar manner as when you first started?
At first, all editors read every single piece and decided whether or not they wanted to publish them at Peach, but now, we divvy up the work: Matthew covers prose entries, Katz and I cover poetry entries, and Cait covers visual art. We're also able to solicit a lot more work than we used to, now that we have something to show to prospective contributors. It's been a great joy to reach out to some of my favorite living poets and be able to publish something of theirs at the site.
On top of submissions, you also host shows, publish staff picks, announce competitions, and handle live events. When do you sleep? What else is on the vision board?
We each also have at *least* one full-time job, some of us are writers ourselves, and some of us are graduate students on top of it all. Sleep suffers! And although a lot of energy, time, and work goes into Peach, it doesn't feel like work. I love Peach; it's a great outlet for entrepreneurship, creativity, and meeting new people. As for what else is on our radar, just know that there are many more projects that we plan on powering. I don't like to get too comfortable.
Is it difficult to find time for your own writing?
100%, but I'm learning. And as Matthew Bookin's biggest fan and official publicist, you should know that his debut novella, Honest Days, is coming out in May with Dostoyevsky Wannabe. So it's a difficult balance, but we're mastering it.
In regards to flash fiction and prose poems (and microfictions and short short stories), what are your views on classification and genrefication of poetry?
That's a great question. I want to say that I'm categorically against classification and genrefication of poetry in a general sense, but I also think it helps people engage with the work if they have an idea of what they're about to get into. For instance, am I going to have enough time to get through this short story on my lunch break? If it's promoted as microfiction and I only have ten minutes, I'm more likely to click the link. People are busy! We want Peach to be as accessible for the scholar who studies poetry for a salary as it is for the minimum wage barista who doesn't have the opportunity to read nearly as much as they'd probably like to.
What's the rest of 2018 looking like for Peach Mag?
Morgan Parker will award the inaugural Peach Gold in Poetry to a talented poet. We'll be at AWP and Whale Prom. We've got a couple more EPISODES planned, such as one on April 14th starring Jamie Mortara. There will be a Season 2 Yearbook due out this summer. The color scheme will change for Season 3. Maybe Matthew Bookin and I will tour again this summer with our friends at Shabby Doll House??? We'll keep publishing features every Tuesday and Friday, and Peach Picks will come out every Wednesday. And then... 2019! We've got another big thing that we're launching early next year. Eee!
Who are some authors to look out for?
Outside of brief literature, do you still find time to read novels/lengthy non-fiction? Do large works feel more daunting while handling such a great deal of short pieces for your platform?
Personally, I read more poetry collections, short stories, and essays now than ever before. When I was younger, I devoured novels. Now I find myself reading six poetry collections and chapbooks at once.
Do you have any advice for literary pubs getting off the ground?
Do it! It's so worth it. My greatest advice is to find clever and unique ways to independently fund your projects so that you don't have to compromise your vision or rely on grants or anyone else's money. And do it with people you trust and respect. My Peach team is made up of people I treasure. When the work is tough or time-consuming, at least I'm doing it with friends.