Wow! I was lucky enough to finagle LK Shaw, the super famous (26,000 Twitter followers[!]) editor of Shabby Doll House into an interview. Let’s see what she had to say about her publishing house and stuff:
Me: Hello LK Shaw! 🙂
I’m sitting on my couch in my living room and drinking coffee. I just finished rereading issue five of Shabby Doll House, your “online publication of various forms of art/literature.” I particularly liked Pancho Espinosa’s series of tweets about leaving to attend college in Santa Cruz, which reads like an experimental short story–his voice comes through brilliantly in 140 char chunks. And the final piece, “so special,” subtitled A LOVE POEM FOR EVERYONE THAT EXISTS AND WHO HAS EVER EXISTED, is a wonderful journey of a poem, with terrifically quotable lines, like “fuck me like money fucks the world.”
I suggest the Shabby-unfamiliar reader starts right away by reading those pieces if they want a glimpse of what Shabby’s about.
But for any skeptics still lingering here,
1. What is Shabby Doll House, and why should anyone care / read it?
LK: Shabby Doll is a publishing house on the internet. People should read it if they are interested in not being bored, or if they want to be distracted from the inevitability of death, or if they want to feel a little bit less alone in the world. All of the content on the site is created by people who are alive and making art right now. A lot of it is very funny. A lot of it is very sad. I am interested in the ways that people live their lives, so that is what a lot of Shabby Doll House is about.
2. And who are you? What exactly do you do for Shabby Doll House?
I’m the editor so I select which pieces of writing I want to publish based on the submissions I receive and I find visual artists to create corresponding illustrations. I publish a new issue every month so it’s an ongoing process of finding works to publish and from there, forming a cohesive collection.
3. How did Shabby Doll House start? Was there any specific impetus behind it, or was it more like, “Okay, yeah, let’s make an online publication”?
I just didn’t feel like there was anywhere that I wanted to publish my work and I knew other people who didn’t have anywhere to put theirs either… and this is the internet, so you can do whatever you want.
I want to tell stories, and to present them in new and interesting forms. I want to keep accepting submissions from people I’ve never met or heard of and to introduce them to a wider audience. I want to make people feel good about having their work published on Shabby Doll House. I want to do things that haven’t been done before. I just feel like there are so many possibilities for what we can do with literature online and I want to make the most of that.
4. What are new online publications like SDH offering that more traditional publications are not offering, like…idk, The Paris Review (?)?
I feel like if The Paris Review was an orchestra, then Shabby Doll House is a punk band. I think a lot of people have an idea of what they think poetry or prose is supposed to be like or be about, and they think it’s supposed to be very complicated and intimidating. I just want to present ideas and stories which will make people feel and think.
I want it to feel accessible. I think the internet is democratizing the ‘art world’, because it’s so much easier now to find your audience.
Older, more estabished type publications, don’t feel relevant to me or my life, and I don’t want to change the way that I write in order to be published by them. That would feel like going backwards, I think.
I like reading old interviews from The Paris Review. I like to know about the methods that writers used in the past. I think it’s interesting, but I think we’ve got to learn from that and move forward because this is our time.
6. You yourself write, too, right? E.g. I see you’ve got a pretty cool story on Thought Catalog. Can you say a little about your own writing? Any artistic goals or aspirations? Influences?
Yeah, I write stories and poetry and songs. I recorded an ep of my songs recently, and I’m working on writing stories all the time. I would like to try to put a book together in the next year. I like Tao Lin and Guillaume Morissette and Scott McClanahan. I like Richard Yates and F.Scott Fitzgerald and William Burroughs. I want to keep making things all of the time and to make enough money to not have to do anything else. That is my goal currently.
7. Can you talk about submissions a little? What do you look for in submissions? What’s your selection criteria? How many submissions does SDH get on average? Ever receive anything crazy?
I had over 100 for the next issue and I’ve had to close submissions for a little while so that I can catch up on replying to people. I don’t know what I look for specifically. I usually just know straight away when I find something that I want to publish. I like it when people write in the same way that they speak or think. I don’t like it when people try to over-romanticize something or use complicated language that they wouldn’t use in conversation. I want to publish things which I feel are engaging and relatable. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad. Sometimes hopeful. I don’t have submissions guidelines because I want to be open to any sort of writing.
8. Shabby Doll House has a pretty interesting layout–the pieces are all displayed and linked in a grid with unique images for each one. How important do you think layout/design is for online publications? Everything ain’t just paper between a front and back cover these days, you know? And who decides the illustrator for each of these images?
I think presentation is incredibly important. I know that if I go to a website or open a magazine and it doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing, I’m very unlikely to bother reading much of it. I imagine that there must be other people who feel the same.
Once I’ve chosen a piece of writing, I usually think about who would be a good fit to do the illustration, then I send that person the piece and ask if they’ve got any initial ideas. Then we talk about different options and they get to work.
Other times, if I know that the person who submitted is also a visual artist (like Nic Rad or Mallory Whitten, for example) then I’ll ask them if they want to do their own illustration. It seems cool to give people the opportunity to create something holistic.
9. What do you imagine your readership is like? Does SDH get ‘a lot’ of readers? There’s viewer statistics included on the site, but what’s your general feel for the size and scope of your reader base?
I’m not sure. I’m always surprised when I go different places and people know a lot about it. It’s definitely growing. I try to avoid looking at the stats because I don’t want to get caught up in that too much but I feel like a lot more people would be interested in it if they knew about it, which is why I’m doing interviews etc.I think people need to be aware of alternatives to mainstream entertainment.
10. Why is Shabby Doll House named “Shabby Doll House”?
There is an Elvis Costello song called Shabby Doll, which I like. And because it’s a publishing house, it also has the double thing of being a dolls house. Also, it’s all a bit thrown together, and ‘shabby’. Just seems to work.
11. Your top three pieces currently on Shabby Doll House? Why? Your favorite issue?
I honestly/obviously like every single piece on there. Some highlights for me are, ‘Lorrie Moore’s First Draft’ by Serge Astapkov, ‘I Can Read A Novel’ by Mira Gonzalez and ‘Senior Year’ by Matthew Landry.
14. Do you have any other publications / blogs / etc you recommend for readers interested in Shabby Doll House-y material?
Parlor – http://www.parlormag.com
Habitat – http://www.habitatdoom.blogspot.com
Oddslot – https://oddslot.com/odds/
Illuminati Girl Gang – http://www.illuminatigirlgang.com
15. Any last words? Something I didn’t ask?
The new issue comes out on November 20th at www.shabbydollhouse.com
Thank you <3
And thank you, LK!
I personally cannot recommend Shabby Doll House enough, and I encourage people to check it the frick out. The next issue drops in two days, so if you’re unfamiliar, that’ll be the perfect chance to see what Shabby’s offering.