Fem: Explain your involvement with Dirty Chai Magazine. How did it come about?
Azia DuPont: Dirty Chai was something that I had been playing around with in my mind since 2011. At that time, I wasn’t an “active” member of the lit community. What I mean by that is mostly I was an avid reader who did not actively engage with anyone (read: writers on the internet) outside of my small circle of IRL writer friends. I was on the internet but I did a lot of lurking and was not involved to the extent I am now. I had a few favorite poets and I would follow their work from journal to journal, and I kept seeing their work published alongside the same names time and again. I definitely saw the merit in the work but I also wanted to see some fresh meat – I knew there had to be other people writing!
I began submitting my own work in 2012 and was lucky enough to have my first submission picked up by Haunted Waters Press. There was something about seeing my own poetry on the internet that really lit a fire inside of me. I wanted other writers to *feel* that joy, that validation you get from another person publishing your work. I wanted to capture the feeling of the moment when the tiny piece of your soul you put out there actually resonated with another soul!
Finally, one afternoon (I think I was pregnant, sitting at Barnes and Noble, reading Poetry Magazine, drinking a Dirty Chai), I was like, I’m doing this NOW. I approached Sam Fischer and she, much to my surprise, jumped on board without hesitation! We opened up a submission call later that year and the first issue, “Dark&Dirty” came out in early Winter 2013.
F: Congrats on making the switch to print! What was the motivation behind switching from digital to print?
AD: Thank you! When Sam and I first started discussing the journal and laying the foundation for our “vision” for Dirty Chai, print publishing and becoming a full-on small press was the ultimate end game for us. As our staff and readership grew, the signs were just there that the time to switch over to print was now. A lot of it goes back to that feeling I wanted other writers to experience, that joy and pride, and for me, holding a tangible copy of your work in your hands amplifies that feeling tenfold. At the end of the day, I just want to bring work into the world that the writers are proud of. I want to take good care of their work.
F: I read that you go through blind submissions. Could you explain what that means? What is the benefit of a process like this?
AD: In each issue there have been a few contributors who are being published for the first time. In the past, I’d assumed the blind had a lot to do with that, but now I’m not so sure? If I’m being honest, I’ve been seriously struggling lately with the blind. Initially, especially when Sam and I were the only editors, I wanted to avoid favoritism. I didn’t want to pick a piece because I was too busy fangirling over the writer. Even now, for example, I wonder if I’m choosing someone because the work resonates with me or if it’s because it’s someone I admire. Like, if Lora Mathis submits work, am I choosing to publish the work because it’s from Lora Mathis or because this specific piece resonated with me? (I mean, it’s Lora Mathis. The work would resonate, but you get what I’m saying. I hope.)
As our team grew, and we brought on Erica Joy, C.M. Keehl, and Alex Vigue, I worried that the same biases would come into play when they were reading. I didn’t/do not want Dirty Chai to become a place where it’s all a bunch of best friends publishing each other. But now, for example, as our acceptances were rolling in for our latest issue, and the blind was removed, I was blowing up everyone’s text messages and email with things like, “Too many dudes! We need to fix this!”
But, if the editorial team cannot SEE who is submitting the work, how can it be fixed? I’m asking them to fix something they have no control over. It’s completely ridiculous. Really, what can we do about this but remove the blind?
For our recent chapbook contest, we chose to forgo the blind submission process. Sam and I are reading the first round of manuscripts and will (somehow!) manage to dwindle the pile down to ten, that we will then pass those on to Alex, C.M., Erica and Isobel (O’Hare), who will then read them blind, but Sam and I will know who we are passing on. We will see how it works out.
The market is saturated with same voices and I do not want to contribute to that. In many ways, we’d be doing a serious disservice to our initial vision of Dirty Chai.
Looking towards the future, I see the blind coming down. It’s the only way to really take control of the “who” behind what we are publishing. Even as I talk about it, I’m like, Why haven’t we done this already? I feel like I keep having the same conversation over and over with myself. It really has been on my mind so often lately; I’m so conflicted.
F: Describe your Tumblr blog and the type of work we might find there.
AD: Ah, L O V E-Channels. Ha. I don’t even know what it really is at the moment other than Sarah and I bursting at the seams with love. We were recently together in LA; she had flown out to visit me for a few days, and we just love each other and have been through so much together. We were just goofing around one day, and I think I called her a Love Channel, or her me, and we were like, Ohhh! Let’s make a LOVE CHANNEL! And alas, here it is. I don’t think anyone knows what to send us. Maybe we should be more specific. But, what is even more specific than love? You’ll find love on L O V E-Channels. That’s for sure.