Maija Zummo and Ian Wissman want you to think literature is cool. That’s one of the reasons they started Milk Money, a handmade literary magazine on the cusp of releasing its fourth issue, entitled “Weird Workout.”
“If you want to read something that’s cool, pick up a literary magazine that’s cool,” Zummo says while sitting on her kitchen counter during a recent informal interview.
Zummo (who is also CityBeat’s listings editor) and Wissman met through English classes at the University of Cincinnati and eventually shared shirt-folding duties at Urban Outfitters, where Zummo approached Wissman with the idea of starting a magazine.
“Maija first came up to me about it in September 2007,” Wissman says. “I had talked about putting together books and things with other writers that were in the writing program at UC, but nobody really had the ambition or resolve to actually put something together.”
With Cincinnati in need of another literary magazine, the two quickly picked a name, found a cover artist and sent out a call for submissions, which was mostly done online.
“Facebook and MySpace have been a really, really vital part of the call to submissions,” Zummo says, “which sounds stupid, but everyone’s on Facebook and MySpace.”
While Milk Money’s first issue relied heavily on the poetry and short stories of UC students, word of mouth quickly reached outside the academic setting. This brought in more experimental submissions from places as far away as Wales, while still retaining a backbone of local students’ works.
After submissions, reading, editing and layout, the process ends, inevitably, with printing, collating, folding and stapling, all of which is done by hand in the basement of their shared house.
Using an old duplication machine they bought from the folks at Publico art gallery — who were in the process of closing up shop — the two quickly realized that printing 400 copies would be a difficult and time-consuming task. They share a love/hate relationship with the painfully monotonous process.
“I look forward to hand-doing each one of them,” Zummo says. “I mean I look forward in dread.”
A misaligned staple. A crooked fold. These occasional slips are part of the charm of a DIY publication.
“Everything that we try to do with it is kind of self-made, going from the ground up,” Wissman says. “Even with distribution and things like that. We’re not out to find somebody to distribute the magazine. We want to do it ourselves. Outside of that, with the collating, we do enlist help with friends.”
This is where people like me come in. I’ve spent some time on their floor organizing pages, Zummo’s dogs simultaneously licking, barking and shedding all over me. Having lived with Wissman in the past, I’m just proud his literary endeavors have surpassed leaving me notes asking that I stop leaving avocado pits in the sink.
Currently, the duo is finishing up the fourth issue, which is the biggest and, gender wise, most diverse one to date.
“We’ve got a lot more works by women,” Zummo says.
Wissman agrees, adding that “with every issue there seems to be some random similarity. (The works) all have this similar characteristic of them that’s inexplicable.”
As for the future of Milk Money, nothing is certain but its continued existence. The two discuss the idea of expanding circulation across the country and the dream of getting paid to make Milk Money full-time.
“We have plans for distribution,” Wissman says. “It’s implementing it that’s the tricky part. We’re walking into unknown territory, but from the very start we’ve been going blind and I feel like we’ve been succeeding.”
On Friday Milk Money celebrates the release of its fourth issue at Feralmade Gallery in Northside with readings, live music from Mathew Shelton and The Electric Owls, video projections by PROJECTMILL and, of course, all the beer Zummo and Wissman can afford (sixer of PBR, anyone?). The event is free, but donations are graciously accepted to cover printing costs.
“Print’s not dead,” Wissman says. “We will not let it die.”
MILK MONEY’s “Weird Workout” release party is 7:30 p.m. Friday at Feralmade Gallery in Northside. For more information and submission guidelines, go to milkmoneymag.com.