Meet Editor and Poet Kelly Davio: Co-founder of the Tahoma Literary Review

Poet, Editor, and Co-founder of TLR
I first met Kelly Davio through a women's promotional book group -- BookLift -- that I founded five years ago. Kelly was new to the area and it was immediately apparent that she was full of energy and intelligence when it came to the world of books, journals, and the publishing world. It was also apparent that she was generous and had an open heart. The Tahoma Literary Review has just released its first issue --- and you can download it for free or better yet, for a small donation. In view of full disclosure, my poem, "Sunday Evening Retrospect" is included in this issue. You can see what Kelly writes about publishing people she knows -- it may surprise you. In a good way.

Kelly Davio is the Poetry Editor and Co-Founder of Tahoma Literary Review. She is the author of the poetry collection Burn This House (Red Hen Press, 2013). Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, The Rumpus, and others. She earned her MFA in poetry from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, and teaches English as a Second Language in the Seattle area.

1. What was your impetus for beginning TLR — is there an inception story? 

       My cofounder, Joe Ponepinto, and I worked together for some years on another journal, I as managing editor and Joe as book reviews editor. When we both moved on from that project, we knew we wanted to continue to work together in some capacity, and we kicked around a number of ideas for what our next venture could be. We had no desire to simply add another literary journal to a world that's already teeming with magazines. Instead, we wanted to address what we see as a hole in the literary marketplace; when we took the time to really listen to writers' wants, we heard that people were looking for publications that pay writers, and for more fair and transparent editorial policies.

2. Now that the first issue has hit the net and the physical book shelves, what have you learned about this endeavor that surprised you? 

When Joe and I began to work on a business plan for the journal last fall, we kept transparency and payment at the forefront of our priorities, and we spent a few months working through a variety of different financial scenarios in order to arrive at our current business model. Rather than simply plunging ahead with a concept, we spent quite a bit of time developing solid answers to tricky questions: how could we ensure payment for our writers in every issue, every time? Where could we eliminate typical costs inherent in running a literary journal? How would we make our processes as open and clear to our submitters as possible? We're pretty pleased to be literary people who've managed to also be businesspeople enough to create a sustainable journal without institutional funding.

But we've had some great surprises, too. We've been overwhelmed by the positive response writers and readers have had to our journal. The number of submissions we received for our first issue exceeded our expectations, and we've been equally surprised by the number of readers we've garnered for this issue. We so often hear that "nobody reads journals these days," but in the one month following the issue's release, about one thousand people have downloaded or ordered a copy of the journal. That tells us that, yes, there is a readership for great literary writing!

3. I love that you’ve set-up a structure that includes paper and on-line formats. What was your thinking on this? 

Our goal is to get as many people as possible to read the great work in our pages. Some people will only read books in print, and have a devotion to the physical book. Other people want to have the portability and accessibility inherent in the digital text. So often, the choice between print and e-reader formats feels like picking sides in an ideological battle, and we didn't like that. Instead of choosing a single method of presenting work to readers, we wanted to give people as many opportunities to enjoy the journal as possible. Luckily for us, we have great in-house knowledge of both traditional and e-reader book production and formatting, so we were able to start distributing the journal in both formats from the get-go.

4. The transparency with which you’ve set-up your journal is impressive. Has that caused problems with writer friends that you do no solicitations? How have you handled that? 

You know, I've always avoided soliciting friends for work, even when working on journals that openly solicited! I never wanted to give anyone the slightest reason to feel that his or her work would only be published if he or she had an "in." (That probably says more about my own self-doubt as a writer than it does about other people's mindsets.) So not receiving solicitations from me is nothing new to my writer friends! I like to think that my literary friends can see the enthusiasm I have for a policy of fairness, and that they'll be on board with the idea.

5. I’m assuming TLR is a labor of love and the funds you receive go out to the writers. You are volunteering hours of your time that you could be writing or sleeping or hanging out with a friend. What motivates you to do this work?

TLR is definitely a labor of love. We hope that one day, each of our editors will receive some a monetary compensation, but for now, we're happy to put the publishers' share of TLR's earnings right back into payment for writers. Even though we are a journal that is dedicated to paying our writers--not because we're setting a monetary value on art, but because we believe art should be valued in our culture--Joe, Yi Shun and I don't do this for the money. We simply love good writing, and we love writers. We want to showcase great work from a genuinely diverse range of writers, and we want to help artists to grow their careers. Making connections with writers and helping their work find an audience is tremendously rewarding, and we hope to be doing this work for years to come.


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