Bury Us at Makeout Creek: An Interview with Literary Bandit Andrew Blossom

Posted by: – Apr 30, 2010


With computer technology becoming increasingly faster, more accessible, and more portable, it seems that more information is being accessed through newer, internet-based mediums and the old ink and paper mediums are being pushed to the way side. This doesn’t seem to phase Andrew Blossom, dedicated literature enthusiast and co-editor of Makeout Creek, a bi-annual literary publication based out of our very own Richmond, VA. Makeout Creek, which is in its third issue, collects poetry, art and short stories, showcasing talent from both in and outside of Richmond.

In addition to his position on the editorial board of Makeout Creek and as an employee of Chop Suey Tuey in Cary Town, Andrew took part as an editor for the dark and gritty Richmond Noir, a collection of sordid tales based in our fair city, so it can be easily inferred that this guy lives and breathes all things literary.

I got a chance to steal some time out of Andrew’s busy schedule for an interview, and he very graciously shed some light on his love of literature, the inner workings of the publication, and the richness of Richmond’s writing community.

So…what do you do?

Andrew Blossom:
Most of the time I work at Chop Suey Books and at the Video Fan, and I'm a part-time creative writing instructor at VCU and the Visual Arts Center. I'm also the co-editor (with Brian Castleberry and Tom De Haven) of a collection called Richmond Noir, which was released by Akashic Books this past February.

What is Makeout Creek?

AB: It's a literary journal that publishes fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, reviews, and stuff we find on the ground. Also art and photography, as you can tell by looking at it.

Me: Where did the name come from?

AB: In terms of where it springs from in my own life, it's actually something of a long story, but one I can summarize pretty easily by saying that it's a Simpsons reference. There's an episode where Bart plays a revival preacher, and Milhouse is so full of the spirit that he runs out into the street and is hit by a car, after which he reaches his hand up from the pavement and implores of Bart, "Bury me... at Makeout Creek!"

Me: How/when did you get this started?

AB: It was something we began talking about in early 2007, and then the first issue of the magazine came out in early 2008. The initial desire to start a literary magazine was mine, so I started having conversations about it with other writers I knew and a few artists to see if anyone else was down. We ended up with an editorial board and we went out and started soliciting work from writers and artists we knew, to see if they were game. Things started rolling from there. The editorial board has changed a little over four issues, as people have come and gone. Right now there are six editors: myself; poets Joshua Poteat and Allison Titus, who live in Richmond; poet Josh Morison, who was in Austin, TX when we started but is now in Middleburg, VA; poet Greg Koehler, who's holding down fort in Austin; and fiction writer Lauren Maas, who's currently teaching at VCU in Qatar. As I think I mentioned to you the other day, all six of us solicit work and read and choose from the material that comes to us through the website, and once those decisions are made I put the magazine together, do the layout of the thing.

Me: What inspired it?

AB: For years, I've known a whole lot of very talented writers and artists, and I was well aware that there were many barriers those people could face in terms of ever having their work published or seen, no matter how much effort they put into its creation or promotion. So I thought, Why not start a venue of our own, and in doing so remove one of those barriers, not only for people we know, but for other talented people who are out there? That's where it began. Increasingly, as society continues the move toward electronic media and publishing, it conversely becomes more and more important to us that we're a print journal. So that's part of the deal now, too, preserving the printed form in this way that we can, for as long as we can, and exploring what possibilities remain in the medium as people choose to abandon it.

Me: What kind of schooling background do you have? What sparked your love for literature?

AB: I was an undergraduate at UVA, where I majored in African-American Studies, and then a few years later I went back to school and did an MFA in Creative Writing at VCU. I studied fiction. I've always been a reader. I couldn't tell you where it began, except to say that books have always been important to me.

Me: Do you do any of your own writing?

AB: I do, I write fiction, although I don't do it too often. I work my regular jobs like everybody does, and then for three years I worked with Brian and Tom on Richmond Noir during much of my spare time, and then after that there was Makeout Creek to take up whatever time I might still have set aside. So I am not a prodigious writer by any means, although now that Richmond Noir is out and I have a little more flexibility in my choice of things to do, I'm making sure to take some time to write a bit every week. There's a book of stories I'm working on, but I'm doing it very slowly.

Me: Favorite kind of literature?

AB: Fiction, although I really value all forms, as do all the editors on the magazine, which is why Makeout Creek doesn't focus on any one thing.

Me: Favorite writer?

AB: In terms of pure enjoyment and richness of experience, it's Flann O'Brien for fiction and David Berman for poetry.

Me: Favorite work?

AB: It's hard to pick a favorite book, although ultimately if I did it'd be a toss-up between The Third Policeman, which is O'Brien, and Moby Dick by Herman Melville. When I was contemplating going back to school, the work of the writers George Saunders and Haruki Murakami were very important in helping me make the decision. Beyond that, a lot of how I perceive the world is shaped by a lifetime's worth of books, movies, and music, and it's hard sometimes to know how, exactly. Although I can say the music of the Silver Jews is one thing that has affected the way I see a lot of the world. And God knows I spend enough of my waking life thinking about Lost, so that's probably in there permanently, somehow.

Me: What is Makeout Creek's following like?

AB: It's scattershot, but growing? How's that for a positive answer? We have it in a few independent bookstores and galleries around the country, and people can buy it through the website, and it's certainly gotten better known around town, where it can be bought at Chop Suey, Velocity Comics, and the Visual Art Center. With each issue, we sell more copies than we did the previous time, and the amount of unsolicited submissions we get increases exponentially with each issue. That part is really incredible. You wouldn't believe it. So writers know, or struggling writers, anyway!

Me: What is the writing/literature community in Richmond like?

AB: It's pretty wonderful. There are a lot of very talented people living and working here. When we were beginning Makeout Creek, we were pretty sure we could pull it off even if we only received material from local writers, because the pool of talent around here is so strong. Same goes for Richmond Noir. In both cases, we wanted to cast our net a bit wider and we did, but the resource of Richmond itself gave us incredible confidence that we could make it happen.

Me: Are all contributors from Richmond?

AB: No, contributors are from all over, although as I said we certainly turn to Richmond when we begin building each issue. People can submit material over the website, and as a result we've published writers, photographers, artists from all around the world. We also take the magazine to zine fests and writing conferences, things like that, so that people who are trying to get their work out there can see it and know it exists.

Thanks to Andrew Blossom for sharing his time with us, and for bringing together some of the really great talent that this town is full of!

Photo credit to Written by Jonny.