Kurt Vonnegut’s literary legacy continues to resonate with a new generation of readers and writers. Blue Monday Review is a new literary journal “dedicated to the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut and the concept that literature and art keep us human.” Amanda Hamilton, editor-in-chief of Blue Monday Review, graciously responded to our questions about the journal.
Q: What inspired you to start Blue Monday Review?
A: I started Blue Monday Review because I was having trouble finding work in publishing right out of college. But I continued the magazine because in researching other literary magazines, I realized it was hard to find publications that were both fun to read and of excellent literary quality. Many err on one side or the other, so they’re funny but unpolished or well-written but stuffy. I wanted Blue Monday Review to be able to laugh at itself, even while publishing great writing and art.
Q: How has Kurt Vonnegut been an inspiration to you?
A: Kurt Vonnegut has always been one of my favorite writers. When brainstorming authors who wrote amazingly well while not taking themselves too seriously, he was the obvious choice. His writing is funny and fantastical, but the subject matter is all so tragic: war, suicide, mental illness, humiliation, failure. His writing puts us through every pain his characters feel, but lets us laugh at the same time.
Yet he was neither snarky nor disrespectful. He had a reverence for life – even when life was confusing, horrible, and ridiculous, usually all at the same time – which is actually quite rare. BMR sees a lot of writing that bemoans the state of the world, but very little which tries to discover the good within the bad. Vonnegut was the master at finding beauty in a tired old world, making him the perfect standard for our magazine.
Q: How were you first introduced to Vonnegut’s work? Do you have a favorite novel or story?
A: My mom gave me Breakfast of Champions one summer, when I was around 14, and I devoured it. I’d never felt so much that an author was speaking directly to me, like I was his best friend and he was just spinning stories. Plus, he doodled assholes right into the book! Amazing. It was love at first sentence, and because of that, Breakfast of Champions is also still my favorite work from him.
Q: You’ve posted a number of videos on You Tube as part of the series “Harmless Untruths.” What is a “harmless untruth?” Tell us about the videos, and the Storytime Challenge.
A: We borrowed the term “harmless untruth” from Bokononism, Vonnegut’s invented religion built on lies which, if believed properly, lead to happiness. As a literary magazine, we have to hold certain harmless untruths dear – for example, that people really do care about literature or that magazines are totally a viable source of income – to keep doing our jobs with love and optimism. Since our Harmless Untruths focus on the latest news with the magazine, it felt like an apt title. Harmless Untruths come out each month.
The BMR Storytime Challenge is a monthly contest for work that’s better read aloud than on the page. To find out more about the contest and to submit your work, visit our Submittable page: https://bluemondayreview.submittable.com/submit
Also, subscribe to Blue Monday Review on Youtube to be the first to hear about new videos!
Q: You’re the editor-in-chief of Blue Monday Review. Do you also write? Please tell us about your own work and any connections to Kurt Vonnegut’s fiction.
A: I do write, and I’ve had work placed in a handful of publications, sometimes under my writerly name, A. B. Abbott. You can read or buy much of my work at my author website, abbottab.wordpress.com.
I strive for Vonnegut in my writing, but I can’t claim I succeed most of the time. But his work inspires me to develop my tone, and also to follow whatever will best tell a story and connect with my reader.
Also, when I write, I try to ask: Would I publish this in BMR if I received it as a submission? I don’t send work out until I can say yes. I figure, if I wouldn’t read my writing, neither will anyone else.
Q: The fourth issue of Blue Monday Review was published in January. It features an eclectic mix of fiction and poetry. For me, the poem “Blue Christmas” by Savannah Smith was a standout. Is there a certain sensibility that you’re trying to achieve with the journal?
A: When we put our issues together, we aim for as much variance as possible while still keeping true to our tone. Including visual art and nonfiction is part of that, as is being open to styles and subject matter we might not personally seek out. To me, a literary magazine is like a fancy dessert platter. You can try a lot of unique flavors and maybe you’ll find your new favorite thing or even end up loving something you always thought you hated. We like the funny alongside the sad and the serious alongside the playful, because they often complement one another so beautifully.
Q: What are your future plans for the journal?
We want to expand Blue Monday Review into the Kansas City community. We want our reading event on May 21 at Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters to be the first of many events which showcase KC writing and art. We’re also working toward becoming a non-profit organization which strengthens writing communities of all kinds, developing programs for young writers and providing resources for writers and artists who want to write better, together.
Q: How can interested readers get a copy?
Visit http://www.bluemondayreview.com/#!archive/ctzx to purchase back issues of Blue Monday Review in print or ebook format. Our subscriptions are currently only $20 to receive the next three issues of BMR – this will likely change soon, so act while the price is low!
Q: Finally, why do you think Kurt Vonnegut continues to resonate with new generations of readers?
Kurt Vonnegut was about as genuine as you get. He wrote openly and respectfully, and I think people will always find that refreshing. He wrote solely to connect with his readers, and to me, that connection is what writing and reading are all about.
It’s easy to feel alone in this world and trick yourself into thinking you’re the only one feeling scared or defeated or lonely. But when you read work that speaks to you intelligently and compassionately about those same things, it lessens that isolation. Vonnegut is one of the best at reminding his reader that it’s okay to feel bad sometimes, but that it’s also okay to feel okay. Sometimes, the latter is almost harder to remember, especially as a writer. He was brave enough to admit the crappiness of the world and still try to find the okay-ness of it all, and I can’t imagine that not ringing true for readers of any generation.
Harmless Untruths: Click to watch the series playlist.