I had the pleasure of speaking with Tyler Tsay, the editor-in-chief, of the profound new literary journal The Blueshift Journal. This journal features young, relatively undiscovered writers and artists, hoping that great art will provide an ethereal closeness between humans. Tsay is only a senior in high school himself and yet he has managed to create a beautiful web-based literary journal featuring the works of young literary enthusiasts around the globe.
As a young editor myself, I was quickly captivated by the tenacity and wholesome ambition of Tsay. I asked him questions about how the journal functions (considering many of the other editors are scattered across the US) as well as his aspirations for the future. Tsay is one of those special human beings who retains the optimism of art and literature, when so many of us have long given up hope for the future.
- How does the journal fund itself? Does it rely mostly on donations and profits from fundraising?
We originally raised $1,500 for the journal itself, and since then have been running off that. We have limited donations via Tip Jar submissions, where authors/artists submit for a donation fee of $3.00 (of which we make about $2), and through the donation tab on our website, theblueshiftjournal.com. However, as a small, online press, we generally do not have to worry too much about funding. By issue 4, we might need to start fundraising again, but in the meantime, we’re in a good place.
- What sort of circulation does your journal have?
Our audience is mainly young. About 70% of our readers are around the ages of 17-35 for both male and female. However, we publish all ages, have published all ages, and never see age as a factor for our issues. Our staff is young, and the journal itself is young, so we obviously attract a younger crowd. Eventually, we will start to move away from that, as both our staff and the journal itself mature.
- What is the biggest challenge for the journal? Were there any major obstacles in the way?
There were plenty of obstacles, mainly being that there’s not really a how-to on starting a literary magazine. I think starting out was the hardest part. For the first three weeks of our start, we were actually The Copper Context on an advertisement-ridden Google website. Obviously, that has changed a lot. Getting the issue itself was much more difficult than we imagined, since Claire (managing), Lily (exec), and I were in separate parts of the world (I think Claire was in Greece, Lily was in the forests of Maine, and I was somewhere all around in the US). But we’ve really worked out the kinks for this next issue. We switched over the Submittable, brought on a Layout Manager and more Interns, and we’re definitely getting the hang of things.
- What are the biggest challenges for the editors?
If you’re referring to the upper management (Claire, Lily, and I), I would say that it’s hard to keep everything together when we’re at three separate schools in three separate locations trying to create an issue. But that’s always a challenge.
In terms of the actual editors and readers, I think that the biggest challenge is probably the fact that very few of us have met each other in person. We’re going to try to organize get-togethers, but sometimes, I can feel that it’s hard to interact when we haven’t yet put the faces to the names to the people to the voices. In order to combat this, we offer our staff a position back every issue (unless something drastic changes, or they have to leave for undisclosed reasons), so that they can see the magazine grow with them, and get to know each other along the way. I think we’ve truly gotten close as a staff. It’s my favorite part of the whole thing that I never really anticipated.
- What does an editor like most and least about being an editor?
I know that as an editor, I’ve grown so much as a writer being exposed to the incredible array of submissions we receive, both good and bad. Albeit, I haven’t written much in the past few years, only privately. But I know that editing is one of the best ways to improve your writing. You learn what works, what doesn’t, what styles appeal to you, what don’t. There’s a bridge between exposing yourself and copying, of course, but if you are mindful of the gap, you can grow a lot.
The biggest challenge is going against the flow of other readers and editors. I don’t encourage controversy, but I especially work hard to make sure that if five readers like a piece and one doesn’t, that one reader doesn’t feel pressured into liking the piece. Because we’re all online and comments/votes by all readers are posted online through Submittable and are visible to all readers, that can be a challenge sometimes. We’ve gotten more comfortable with each other, though, so I think that we’re more ok with arguing against each other if need be.
- Where do you see your journal in 10 years?
I don’t think I even know where I want to be in 10 years, much less the journal. At this point, I see a very clear cut path for my role at the journal through college. To be honest, I’m in this because of art for art’s sake. As long as we can keep discovering and publishing good art, I see no reason to change our trajectory.
- Would you consider aesthetic more important than the content of the magazine, vice versa, or are both equally important to the magazine?
The content shapes the aesthetic, so I think that both are equally important. As I said above, art for art’s sake. We want to find good work. We rarely happen to have a bias, or a certain theme or trajectory in mind. I think there’s definitely a style of writing we like. We have always played with the idea of perspective and loneliness. But we’re out there to discover good writing and good art, so I would probably choose content over aesthetic if I had to go for one.
- What kind of feedback do you get from your readers? Mostly positive or mostly negative?
We’ve been getting great feedback! We actually just had a review published by The Review Review, giving us 4/5 stars for our first issue. We’re shooting for that 5 for next issue, of course 🙂
Tsay’s optimism shines through with every piece printed in the journal, allowing the works of others to bring us all closer as one, feeling, thinking thing. The journal’s ultimate goal is human connection and I can say for certain that in reading the works published in issues one and two, I have never felt closer to a group of young strangers in my life. I look forward to see what new adventures through the human mind await in their next issue.