Getting into writing – an interview with Alex and Taylor of Burnt Pine Magazine

Burnt Pine Magazine

Hello, my name is Alexander Opgenorth, and I am a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Burnt Pine Magazine which I operate along with fellow co-founder and Chief Copy Editor, Taylor Navis. Burnt Pine was established in March of 2016 as an online literary magazine that publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. We publish literature that we believe “burns like wildfire” hoping it will burn through your preconceived notions and offer you a new perspective on a multitude of issues and topics.

Why did you start your publication?

A: Honestly, I approached Taylor with the idea because I was scared. My direct line to the

writing community felt like it was ending as my graduation loomed near and that terrified me.

I did not want to lose the connection with fellow writers that I found a home with and had grown to love, so I asked Taylor to join me in creating a platform that was our own. A place to have complete creative control over all while giving voices that we felt needed one, a soapbox to stand on. (I honestly think she said yes just to humor me. I don’t think she realized how serious I was in that moment.)

T: I think we both wanted to continue doing what we loved: giving a voice to the writer. And yes, I thought for a small moment that Alex was joking, but I’m glad that he wasn’t. Creating a journal was something I had dreamed of doing and I never thought that dream would come to fruition, let alone be in it with one of my best friends.

What is the most gratifying element of publishing the written word?

A: For me it’s providing an outlet for stories and poetry that says something I feel is

important and needs exposure. Burnt Pine has evolved quite a bit in just three issues, but the constant has been that we are representing a diverse spectrum of writers. The community we have started to grow from those issues and the positive feedback and gratitude we hear from them brings me so much joy and fuels me on to the next issue.

T: Both Alex and I have had a few pieces published ourselves, and the joy you feel when you find out a journal or magazine has chosen your piece is very rewarding. And that’s what I feel is the most gratifying; we provide that feeling to so many writers.

What are your happiest memories in your writing/publishing career?

A: My happiest writing memory thus far has been receiving Sheepshead Review’s Rising Phoenix Award for poetry in 2015. That was one of my first publications, so to receive an award on top of it put me through the roof! It’s tough to choose a “happiest memory” in terms of publishing as there’s been so many, but getting our first issue published was obviously a big one as it’s what started this all.

T: I enjoyed being with a group of likeminded people. When I was a part of Sheepshead

Review , we were a little family, and they were what made publishing a career choice for me. I was Editor-in-Chief of Sheepshead Review during my last semester, and I really enjoyed working with all of the genres and parts of the publishing process because, before that, I had only worked in one or two departments.

How do you handle success and failure?

T: Failure: wine. Success: wine. I’m kidding. I think we handle both very well. Our second issue was a little slim on the submissions, but we didn’t let that bother us. We adapted and ended up with far more than we could handle almost with the next issue. We’re still growing and learning so I think it’s expected that there will be bumps and holes on the way.

A: Taylor nailed it, we are still in our infancy as a lit mag and the best way to handle our failures is to just learn from the mistakes and do all we can to avoid repeating them. Before, during, and after each issues publication we make notes on what we can do for the next time around to improve our approach. As far as success goes, I love to celebrate both the big and small things as often as possible. I probably bombard Taylor way too much via text messages in an excited frenzy over a surge in new Twitter followers, an incredible piece submitted to us, or a beautiful graphic one of us created for promotional use. I am also always scheming how I can take Burnt Pine to new heights in a business sense and I think that energy and foresight contributes to us generating further success.

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

T: Music. If I’m having trouble writing, let’s say, an emotional scene I like to listen to sad songs over and over; it helps me visualize the scene better. I also walk away from my work and don’t come back to it for a few hours or a few days. I find that a rested mind helps.

A: When I get to that point I simply step away from the writing. There’s no use in staring at a page or screen once the words have ceased to flow. Instead, I remove myself and go do something entirely different (yard work always works well), and I find that ideas and inspiration has a way of coming back to me much more quickly.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

T: Write! Get out of your comfort zone; if you enjoy free verse then write with a constraint whether it’s meeting a word count or a syllable count, and vice versa.

A: I believe that you need to write for yourself if you wish to be truly satisfied and successful. Do not sacrifice the integrity of your writing and creative vision just to get published. That being said, don’t be so guarded with your work that you never send it out to be considered for publication. Rejection is inevitable, but build a thick skin and use those rejections to improve your craft and grow as a writer. When you finally get that acceptance notice for a piece you truly love the joy you feel is incomparable.

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

A: I’m a fan of both. While I love the feel of a real book I use my Nook quite often. My eReader is great resource when I’m out camping for a weekend or away from home for extended periods of time.

T: I am a traditionalist. There’s nothing more satisfying than flipping through actual pages whether it’s a used or a new book. When I can finally afford a decent place, I would love to fill bookshelves full of stories I’ve read; it gives me a sense of accomplishment I guess.

Do you blog?

T: I do not blog. If I had something more to say than maybe, but I feel like everyone and their brother has a blog.

A: I do not blog either. I am not a consistent writer, by that I mean that I produce work sporadically rather than on a constant basis. I don’t like the pressure a blog makes me feel to pump out work regularly. Additionally, I write for myself first and foremost. If a story or poem I write is something I want to share I am persistent in finding it a home beyond a personal blog.

Do you self-publish?

A: We do not. Right at the beginning when we started Burnt Pine I stood firmly against this as I felt it would demerit ourselves as publishers. If we had created a platform where we published our own work, what would the difference in that be compared to a personal blog? I believe we both have the feeling that if we have quality writing self-publication shouldn’t be necessary and it will eventually be picked up by a different publication. I started this lit mag to showcase others, not myself.

T: I agree with Alex.

If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.

A: Our third and most recent issue launched at the end of October. This was a very exciting issue for us because it showcased the most content of our three issues and we were afforded the opportunity to publish work by some fairly established and admirable writers. And we were also able to give several writers their first publication and nothing beats the feeling of being the first lit mag to believe in someone’s work enough to give it a home! You can find issue three here.

Issue four will be coming sometime in the spring of 2018 so keep an eye out!



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