Time for a “New Engagement”: A Conversation with magazine founder and editor, Brian Alessandro

For those who follow our Facebook page, you might have seen the call for submissions for “The New Engagement,” a new literary & arts journal that pays particular attention to LGBTQ writers, especially those of color.  The magazine features the usual works of fiction (including novel excerpts), poetry, and creative non-fiction with an additional nod to photography, illustration, paintings, and film.  Additionally, “The New Engagement” has a clear emphasis on art as activism.  As stated by their website:

Essentially, we’re looking to form a collaborative of great writers and artists on the vanguard. Previously, periods of great turmoil and social change were accompanied by an artistic response. In our own era, with a few notable exceptions, that response has been sorely lacking…. While independent journalism, personal essays, and documentary filmmaking have provided invaluable exposure of the truth, there are certain types of insight that only art can provide.

Is your work not political?  Not a problem, they also “want work that is not overtly political or ostensibly social but that is perhaps a character study or a personal musing on an issue.”  In other words, the personal has a place here as well!

One of the goals of this blog is to give our members insight into opportunities both at the AWP conference and beyond.  I contacted “The New Engagement” editor, Brian Alessandro (author of The Unmentionable Man), who happily agreed to give us additional insight into this new publication outlet.

Lupe Rodarte and Brian Alessandro, “The New Engagement” founders

ST:  Tell me about starting this new magazine.  What prompted you to take this on?

BA:  [“The New Engagement”] grew from the love that my boyfriend, Lupe Rodarte, and I have for literature, art, photography, and film. We know that there are many literary and art journals in circulation, but we wanted to focus on writers, artists, and filmmakers whose work offers a particular point-of-view — the marriage of the deeply personal, highly original, and socially conscious. We also wanted to center the journal on creators whose representation has been minimal, such as the LGBTQI and POC communities, and especially the intersection between the two. Lupe and I feel that the work poets, fiction writers, filmmakers, painters, and photographers do presents a genuine, complex, profound, and true impression of the world. Given the glut of 24-hour news networks, social media, politics, and mass entertainment that only cares about diversion and profit, we hope that The New Engagement will offer something close to solace.

ST:  Starting a literary magazine can’t be easy.  Right now, it looks like you’ve released your second issue (which are quite beautiful, by the way!).  Can you tell us about the process of getting this magazine off the ground?  How did you go about soliciting work, deciding on a platform, putting those issues together?

BA:   Well, fortunate for us, Lupe has a background in coding and web design, so the technical aspects of constructing, refining, launching, and maintaining an on-line journal were covered from inception. Being from NYC and having many friends in LA helped us with recruiting submissions for the first few issues, as many of the contributors were people I had worked with, or met, or received through recommendations. I had sort of accumulated a catalogue of talented artists and thinkers in my years as a novelist, playwright, illustrator, and filmmaker, and when the time came for us to launch an inaugural issue, it was really a matter of just calling them up and asking if they’d be interested in participating. They all, without exception, were. The workload is demanding, as Lupe handles his own wed design business with several clients (small businesses, mainly in the arts) and I teach psychology, gender, and sexuality courses at Pima Community College in Tucson, where we’re based for most of the year (we also have a presence in NYC), but we dedicate 3-6 hours a day to handle submissions, edit content, curate and layout, and publicize our journal. It’s a full-time job. The first couple of weeks required 10-hour days just to launch!

I should also mention that we’re planning to release our first print version of the journal next spring, by March or April 2017, which will showcase the strongest submissions of the year.

ST:  Speaking of submissions, what are you looking for out of the work?

BA: Insofar as style, we tend to prefer work that plays with structure and is experimental. Daring, certainly. But also very personal and coming from a place of genuine expression and experience, or concern. Thematically, we have a real affinity for material, be it in literature or art, that tackles a social issue in an unusual way. Certainly, we’re not interested in screeds or polemics, as our mission statement states, but definitely in material that at least explores or ruminates on a topic.

ST: Is there a work in particular from the first two issues that you think readers might check out?

BA:   That’s tough as I feel like they all exemplify our vision, but a piece of literature worth checking out from issue #1 is Jennifer Thompson’s poetry collection, “Chaos and Compassion,” and a work of art is Jessica Rowshandel’s “Motherless/ Fatherless” painting collection, to get a sense of what we’re looking for. Also, we’re serializing a dystopian novel by Jessica Deaver called “Zer0: Emancipation” every two weeks. The first two installments are now posted, the first in issue #1 and the second in issue #2. We’ll be posting the third installment next week. And for a hilarious and moving experience don’t miss out on Nandi La Sophia’s “Twinkles & The Blob.”

Okay, so that’s 4! Sorry!

ST:  Four is a good number!  Okay, final question – For those looking to submit to your magazine or any magazine, do you have any advice?

I would encourage people to read our Mission Statement and also spend some time reading or viewing what we have already published to get a sense of what we’re looking for. Also, note, just because we haven’t published something similar to what a prospective contributor has created doesn’t mean we won’t. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for ourselves until we see it. Finally, I would just ask that the material being submitted is original, lacking in the derivative or formulaic, personal, meaningful to the contributor, and has something to say. A bold and strong point-of-view is what always grabs us.

And if this interview has “grabbed” you, I definitely recommend submitting to “The New Engagement”!  Submissions are accepted through Submittable.  You can find more information HERE!  As a final note, “The New Engagement” also is offering a James Baldwin Literary Prize.  For only $5, you might win $1,000!  Plus, your work can appear on this beautiful, new site or in their forthcoming PRINT issue!  The deadline is October 15th, so don’t wait!


Do you work with a literary magazine or publishing house?  Are you interested in posting an interview with the LGBTQ Writers Caucus Blog?  Contact us!  We’d love to help promote you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close