If you haven’t heard, Mythic Picnic is a lit mag that is totally not just online… but on Twitter. A twitterary magazine. All submissions and posts and remarks are on their Twitter account. As far as I know, it is the only literary magazine to have all their submissions in full view of we the chorus. You can enter the contest or just watch. There are some neat things that came about, such as not only the character limit, but also multimedia (pic/video) tweets as parts of stories. We sat down with the editors to ask about these neat-old-idea.
What inspired having a literary magazine based entirely on twitter?
I had thoughts of starting a magazine years ago, back before twitter, but I was writing stories and then writing novels and then querying a novel and just never got around to it. Then a couple friends convinced me that I should be on twitter — one co-worker who thought I was funny and one writing friend who heard you needed a social media platform to get a novel published — so I came to twitter back in 2013 with the intention of using it as a writing platform, whatever that’s supposed to mean. But, I soon fell into joke twitter and spent a few years there, which was fun, but I still wanted more out of twitter than just jokes, so I eventually decided to combine my growing twitter addiction and my literary addiction into a twitterary magazine.
How do you manage keeping everything straight? Hashtags, lots of rules?
The hashtag was the only thing I could think of to gather all the stories together so all the judges could find them. The rules just evolved from a story in a simple three-tweet thread to wanting to incorporate whatever could be tweeted and tell a story — art, photos, comics, video, etc. But I didn’t want straight text to have a disadvantage because of the whole picture is worth a thousand words thing, so I tried to even it all out as best as I could. There is a little math involved if you combine images with text, but it’s still really simple if you go with straight video (30 seconds) or straight text — whatever fits into three tweets (which comes to about 150 words).
What has been the most frustrating thing about doing this project?
The most frustrating thing is sometimes, for reasons that I still can’t figure out, a story or two will not show up for one or more judges in the hashtag stream (or whatever they call it) even though the hashtag is included in the story. So, we’ve had to establish a kind of triple redundancy safety system to make sure we all see and read all the stories.
The most rewarding thing?
One of the most rewarding things is being someone’s first publication (if you call a twitter magazine a publication), or giving them their first payment for writing. I also noticed that there were a lot of used-to-wannabe writers on twitter who either got frustrated with the publishing process or got addicted to twitter or both, people like me, so getting some of them back to writing something besides single tweets is satisfying. There are also a lot of talented writers on twitter who don’t have “writer” in their twitter bio, and maybe don’t consider themselves writers, and part of the reason for doing this was to make it a hybrid, not just another twitter account and not just another magazine, but a combination that could accommodate writers and tweeters and artists of all sorts.
What surprised you the most?
What surprises me most I guess is that not every writer on twitter does it. Not yet anyway. But we’re still working on that!
I find it kind of interesting that all your submissions are out there and open to the public. This is one of those times writers get to ‘see’ what others are submitting. Do you have any thoughts about how this has changed your submissions?
The hashtag thing is still the only way I can think of to do this where all the judges can access the stories, but it has occurred to me that this open to the twitter public submission process might be part of the reason not every writer on twitter submits. Having it out there on twitter for everyone to see can maybe feel a little weird. I know when I was writing and submitting and querying, I was much more comfortable sending my writing off to strangers — editors and agents — rather than showing it to friends or family or other writers who I would have to see and talk to afterward. On the plus side, though, it is out there for everyone to see, and even if it doesn’t get voted in, someone might see it and like it and maybe that will lead them to seek out more of that person’s writing.
Has anyone tweeted something they later wanted to publish and contacted you if it was ok?
Not yet, but in the rules thread there is a section on rights, which gives us one-time rights to use it in a twitter moment or thread or similar but otherwise all rights belong to the writer or artist, so they wouldn’t technically need to ask, and this wouldn’t be a problem.
Has anyone deleted stories you liked and wish you could have back, but are now only faint memories?
The only one I can recall like this was a sculptural artist who submitted a video to MPTSP V2 but was in the habit of deleting tweets after 24 hours, so that was problematic. Also, sometimes someone will lock or protect their twitter account which prevents anyone who isn’t a mutual follower from seeing the tweet-story, so that’s an occasional obstacle as well.
What are some of the most memorable tweets that you read related to the prizes?
That’s really hard to narrow down. And I will say that my favorite story has never actually won the top prize, so some of the most memorable stories for me aren’t the most memorable for the other judges. That’s one of the things I like about having multiple judges — you get different people with different tastes including their most memorable stories too. You do lose some control, but hopefully you get a more eclectic blend of stories in the end.
What are some of your favorite young literary publications out there (Taco Bell Quarterly, surely one among them).
Ack, so many! There’s just so many great young publications that it’s really hard to pick any without missing a whole lot more. Which is one of the reasons I have constant background anxiety about not being able to keep up with all the great things going on out there.
But TBQ is definitely a literary phenomenon and the creator M.M. Carrigan is a great writer and a very cool person from what I know from twitter and podcasts and interviews and is one of the many writers that I found out about because they entered the MPTSP.
Another publication that isn’t young, but I have to mention, is Wigleaf, whose Top 50 led me to so many other magazines and writers. I wouldn’t even know about most of those great young publications that I refuse to mention for fear of missing some if Wigleaf had not led me down that path in the first place.
How easy/hard is it to keep track of all those tweets?
As long as the hashtag works properly, which it does 99% of the time, keeping track of the tweet-stories isn’t hard. What’s hard is picking the winners. And picking the top three. And leaving out stories that you really like. And leaving out people that you really like.
When you search the hashtag #MythicPicnictweetstory, you get the 3rd of 3 tweets that is the story. It is like a page of story endings. Do you ever read them backwards like that?
No, I open up the whole story thread and read the beginning and middle before the end. But that does bring up a point about the three tweets, and whether you can treat them as individual tweets that also make up a complete story. I can’t speak for all the judges, but I do tend to look at the story as a whole and also at each individual tweet — does each tweet end with a complete sentence or does it cut off mid-sentence and continue in the next tweet? I do like a tweet-story where each tweet is almost its own story, or its own chapter, but also combines with the others to make a whole.
Have there been any celebrities (or celebrities in your eyes) who have participated to your surprise and delight?
As with the young magazines, I hate to point anyone out specifically for fear of missing others, but there have been a lot of writers and tweeters I admire that have submitted stories and still a lot that haven’t done so yet. The great thing is I’ve found out about so many writers I didn’t know about until they submitted to the MPTSP, which led me to seek out more of their writing, which led to more magazines, which leads to more writers. Part of the MPTSP purpose is to show the tweeters that there are some great writers and magazines out there and show the writers and magazines that there are some talented tweeters out there. I will say that Stephen King was my cousin’s English teacher a longtime ago, so I think he should drop by with a tweet-story or two.
I have noticed some people use hybrid forms in their stories, like illustrations and text. Can you tell me about some memorable stories of those?
We do get mostly text, which probably has something to do with the math involved in the rules for images, but I would like to see more illustrations and comics and hybrid pieces. The MPTSP V5 top winner was a great hybrid piece by @_MLopesdaSilva. Also, @AddledPixie is a talented photographer who had a hybrid piece in MPTSP V3. And there’s been some other good illustrations and comics as well.
Speaking of comics, we also do a twitter comic called The Adventures of Sir Tweetcivil, which is kind of Monty Python and the Holy Grail meets twitter, with different artists and writers with different styles doing comics inspired by things that annoy them about twitter, so everyone should do that too!
Is twitter the way of the future? Will all communication be limited to a certain number of characters? How can we prepare?
I hope not! When I’m on twitter, it’s usually when I only have short periods of time, like on breaks from work and things like that, so I think tweets, and tweet-stories, work well for those limited time periods. Part of the reason for the MPTSP was to try to get stories (both for myself and others) that could fit neatly into those abbreviated time periods. But I still do like longer stories, and novels, for the times when I’m not on twitter. There’s only so much you can do in three tweets. But there’s also times when you just don’t have time for anything much longer.
What would you like to see more of?
As far as the MPTSP, I’d like to see more comics and videos and hybrids. And just more different people submitting different writing and art of all kinds. More of everything. And I would like to see more Sir Tweetcivil comics too. As far as the world, I’d like to see more peace and love and understanding. And I think writers and artists can be a huge part of that.
What is next for the Mythic Picnic?
There’s an anthology of writing related to gun violence called Humans in the Wild coming out later in 2020 with Swallow Publishing. The title comes from a great but tragic story by Kathy Fish, which will also be in the anthology, and which was also adapted into a tweet-story.
We’re working with @caroljeangavin and Malarkey Books on an anthology of writing inspired by Mitch Hedberg that pays $50 and closes May 31st.
We’ve got a print anthology of tweet-stories from MPTSP V1 through V5 (and maybe V6 if we can fit them), also with Malarkey Books, which should be coming out later in 2020.
We also helped a little bit (but not much) on an anthology of stories by immigrants edited by Mark Budman and Susan O’Neill of Vestal Review that is currently looking for a publisher.
We’re talking to Mason Jar Press about doing an anthology (tentatively titled MASTHEAD) filled with writing by editors and first readers and all the others who help run small magazines and presses, people who do it for the love of literature with little chance of financial gain, and usually a good deal of financial loss. People like you and all the others behind those young magazines we were talking about earlier. This will pay $50 and you should definitely submit something when it opens up.
Plus, we’ve already got the covers for MPTSP V7 and V8 ready to go, so get your tweet-stories ready!
Mythic Picnic is a literary production venture that partners with small independent publishers and magazines so that they can produce books and issues that pay writers and artists. Mythic Picnic is also a hybrid cross between a literary magazine and twitter — a twitterary magazine — that explores the art of the tweet by paying writers and artists and tweetists for creating unique works in the form of a three-tweet thread. You can find them on twitter @MythicPicnic