26 // Have Heart and Humility with Jasmine Gui of LooseLeaf Magazine

“I think intersectional community asks us to be open and mindful of difference. It asks us to have a posture of listening that requires a lot of effort, it requires a lot of heart, it requires a lot of humility in many ways. Because we are being asked to really give attention to another person’s experience that we might not have any relationship with. This is a crucial point of connection for me because if we are artists or writers, what we really want is to connect with people.” —Jasmine Gui, Managing Editor, LooseLeaf

Jasmine Gui is the first guest on this upcoming season of podcast episodes. Listen to learn more about Looseleaf Magazine, what she as an editor looks for in submissions, common problems with submissions received by Looseleaf, and how she mixes her art practice with her primary identity as a poet.

You’ll learn a lot about writing from this wonderful editor and mixed-media artist.

About LooseLeaf Magazine
LooseLeaf is a bi-annual magazine based in Toronto, that features content produced by pan-Asian (they focus on South, South-East, East, Mixed) creators such as visual arts, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, reviews, artists and culture. Its inception is the result of the desire to build a place for Asian.Canadian (emerging) artists to publish, and a platform to embolden and make visible the Asian.Canadian artist community.

Canadian Art often carries an implied whiteness, both structural and representational; LooseLeaf is here to shift that implication. They want to reach young Asian.Canadian adults who have abandoned the arts for various reasons.

They want to be present as Asian.Canadian artists in Canadian.Global art.

If you are an Asian-identifying creator in traditional or non-traditional forms, LooseLeaf asks that you please send them your work!

About Managing Editor, Jasmine Gui

Born in Singapore, raised in Suzhou and then Hong Kong, Jasmine Gui currently lives and works in Toronto. She is the Founder of Project 40 Collective, and the Managing Editor at LooseLeaf Magazine. Her writing has been published by ricepaper, Hart House Review, text, Acta Victoriana, Red Paint Hill, (parenthetical), and more. She loves and reads with the literary diaspora.

Host: Rachel Thompson
Sound Editor: Mica Lemiski
Presented by Room magazine and the Lit Mag Love Course

Full Episode Transcript

[00:00:00.330] – Rachel Thompson
“What do editors want?” It’s a question that many creative writers have asked themselves or more likely muttered dejectedly after a frustrating rejection. I’m Rachel Thompson, author and literary magazine editor and your podcast host, the Lit Mag Love podcast grew out of my course by the same name, and I continue to seek out answers to this question of “what editors want” by going right to the source. I bring you interviews and insights about how to improve and publish your writing.

[00:00:41.110] – Rachel Thompson
Hello Writers! It’s Rachel here and this is my interview with Jasmine Gui of Looseleaf Magazine. Looseleaf is a biannual magazine based in Toronto that features content produced by pan-Asian. They focus on South/Southeast/East/Mixed creators such as visual arts, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, reviews, artists and culture.

[00:01:06.810] – Rachel Thompson
Its inception is the result of the desire to build a place for Asian-Canadian emerging artists to publish, and a platform to embolden and make visible the Asian-Canadian artist community. As they write in their introduction, Canadian art often carries an implied whiteness, both structural and representational. Looseleaf is here to shift that implication. They want to reach young Asian Canadian adults who have abandoned the arts for various reasons. Born in Singapore, raised in Suzhou and then Hong Kong, Jasmine Gui currently lives and works in Toronto.

[00:01:44.130] – Rachel Thompson
She is the founder of Project40 Collective and the Managing Editor at Looseleaf Magazine. Her writing has been published by Ricepaper, Hart House Review, text, Acta Victoriana, Red Paint Hill, (parenthetical) and more. She loves and reads with the literary diaspora.

[00:02:12.730] – Rachel Thompson
Welcome to Lit Mag Love Jasmine Gui. I’m so happy to have you here today to talk about Looseleaf Magazine. So, I want to start by asking you about that line in your bio: “she loves and reads with the literary diaspora.” What are you loving and reading right now?

[00:02:28.680] – Jasmine Gui
Hi! It’s so wonderful to be here. I think it’s a really interesting question because I haven’t been asked what I’ve been reading in a while and I don’t know if you know, but I work in film, actually. I work for a film festival. So, I just came off a festival, just started re-opening some books; and right now I’m working through a couple of essays in Reel Asian’s “Asian Canada on Screen”. It’s a collection of interviews/dialogues about Asian-Canadian film that has been compiled by the founder of the Reel Asian Film Festival so that’s been really interesting to go through. And then, on the poetry side, I’m waiting to open Dionne Brand’s “The Blue Clerk”, which I haven’t — I haven’t touched yet. And then also, the third issue of Migrant Journal, which is called “Flowing Grounds”. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that either, Migrant Journal.

[00:03:21.590] – Rachel Thompson
No, I haven’t. Tell us about that journal.

[00:03:24.420] – Jasmine Gui
It’s actually a collaborative design project at six issues only, print only, based in the UK and all six issues discuss migration — like different aspects of migration. So the third one’s called “Flowing Grounds” and it’s about the sea and the air, actually. So travel through the ocean and by airplane.

[00:03:48.130] – Rachel Thompson
That sounds great and I’d love to crack that Dionne Brand book too, it’s on my list. And is there more love, do you feel these days as publishing opens up to diasporic writers? Or is, is that a true statement or false?

[00:04:05.230] – Jasmine Gui
I think it’s interesting because with all of the books that I’m reading, they have that kind of slant. I mean, that probably reflects my reading interests too. But even with Migrant Journal, the idea of you know, committing six print issues just to the concept of migration and this is happening in — in Europe, where they’re having a slightly different kind of conversation about migration, maybe, or there’s different rhetoric and language. It’s a very interesting to think about that. But I think, yes, there are way more options. There’s much more of a proliferation of content that’s about diaspora. But then whether or not we are open to different forms of storytelling, whether or not we see the work of these new writers as they are, or you know, through maybe like also a refreshed way of understanding value and story, as opposed to a pre-conceived notion of what is “good” story and what is “good” art. That I think is more debatable.

[00:05:05.800] – Rachel Thompson
So I want to turn to Looseleaf Journal. And can you tell us who your contributors are, and how you like to work with them?

[00:05:13.360] – Jasmine Gui
I think for Looseleaf specifically, and this is something that we’ve always highlighted or emphasized since the beginning — since volume one, is that we work very specifically with emerging writers and artists. We are sort of a magazine that wants to fill a gap between writers who have never published anything, who are not formally trained, have never been part of the scene, who want to get a feel for it or do have a story or a poem or something to say; and we are that platform, hopefully, for writers like that within the Pan-Asian community.

[00:05:53.140] – Jasmine Gui
I think it goes back to this conversation about like, what is valuable: storytelling. And there are a lot of writers, amazing writers, in Canada who are trained or who have come through, you know, writing programs and gone to a workshop, you know, and done fellowships and residencies. And those opportunities are wonderful and sort of a necessary part of a writer’s life in many ways, but within the Asian Canadian community at large, there are very, very many writers who don’t get this kind of opportunity, who don’t even consider themselves writers — are not comfortable with that kind of label. And this, you know, has many, there are many reasons for that. Many of them come from immigrant communities so, you know, art is not necessary. You know, it’s considered a luxury. And so Looseleaf’s very interested in voices that may be untrained; that never got an opportunity to be refined in any way or never got a chance to just flex, right, and see what’s possible.

[00:07:00.660] – Jasmine Gui
And so for us, when we get to editing, there’s many, many rounds. Our editors usually go through a lot, a lot of back and forth. I know for sure that the non-fiction departments, fiction and poetry tend to go through at least two to three rounds. And then in non-fiction, which is where I work in, we go up to like eight/nine rounds of editing sometimes before a piece is like good to go to print. And even for artist’s statements, because we publish also in the visual arts department, artist’s statements go back and forth too with a couple of rounds of edits just to be able to give some of that feedback that we think would help the artist or the writer in moving forward with their art practice afterwards.

[00:07:46.020] – Rachel Thompson
Well, that sounds like a wonderful opportunity for emerging writers. And one thing you said was these are communities where art is considered a luxury, and I’m wondering a bit about that idea of luxury: indulging in something versus the urgency probably of some of the stories that they have to tell. Do you find that you get a lot and you publish a lot of pieces with that kind of urgency?

[00:08:09.330] – Jasmine Gui
Mhm yeah, and that’s the interesting thing right because, I mean a lot of it comes down to basic sustainability through finances right? Like the arts is not a sustainable career option for many, many people. And so that’s why they turn away from that potential career path. At the same time, the stories that are coming out from these communities, the types of topics, the kinds of emotions, those are very compelling stories. And, you know, I think very raw, honest looks at very specific struggles within the community.

[00:08:46.950] – Jasmine Gui
And when you when you see art or read art and you want to get that kind of honesty, right? And for many Asian Canadian readers, I think that getting a diverse range of storytelling is like a crucial part to the — a crucial element to the wellbeing of the community. And our magazine is hoping at least to be able to bring more kinds of stories to the table, you know whether that be in different forms or you know, with slightly different rules, or they have very specific topics that they are able to speak to because they have certain degrees of access. And I think that’s a valuable, a valuable thing to bring to the literary scene as well.

[00:09:32.370] – Rachel Thompson
So are there common technical problems when you’re working, doing that back and forth with your writers? Are there common problems that you’ve found in those submissions? And can we address any for listeners who might want to submit to your journal?

[00:09:45.240] – Jasmine Gui
I think I mean, there’s the regular sort of “I didn’t read the guidelines” or didn’t submit within deadline.

[00:09:51.930] – Jasmine Gui
And we’re actually we’re actually, I think, a magazine that’s more loose with that just because our goal is really about nurturing emerging voices. And we understand deadlines are tricky, tricky things. When you are encountering a huge body of text, which is the submissions page, you know, it’s not uncommon to miss one or two things. So, like, we are more lenient with those kinds of, with those kinds of errors. But I think for me, I mean, speaking personally from, as someone who’s been editing non-fiction and poetry, I, I get a lot of pieces that are maybe like first or second drafts? Or they, you know, they tried to say what they’re trying to say in a very straightforward manner. And, it’s interesting to read those pieces for a magazine because I understand in some ways the thought process that goes behind that. But also, it’s quite evident to an editor when a piece is only in its first two rounds of drafting. And it’s very hard for us to want to take a chance on that if we have also, you know, in comparison a piece that has maybe much more care and, and thought put into it already that we can then reduce maybe the editing time for.

[00:11:17.750] – Jasmine Gui
So, I mean, it’s like, it’s sort of like that difference between a piece you would bring to a workshop where you’re like, “I would like to just get feedback and work on this some” more versus a piece where you’re like, “I’m ready for this to go out there, I stand behind a lot of what it says, but maybe you could tell me something about it that I don’t know yet.”

[00:11:35.540] – Jasmine Gui
And I think there’s like, that’s a subtle difference that you learn only through submitting a lot of pieces, I think, and then resubmitting the same pieces after you’ve worked through them multiple times.

[00:11:47.720]
I think that’s like I guess that’s advice, but that’s something I see a lot of. And this happens a lot specifically with non-fiction. I get I think people interpret non-fiction as like blog posts sometimes. So I get, I get pieces that, you know, have a very strong “I” speaker and there’s no function for that narrator, it’s literally the voice of the writer without any artifice or without any attempt at crafting a story, even in non-fiction, which is still a necessary thing right?

[00:12:20.690] – Rachel Thompson
For sure. I like what you say about how this is sort of this subtle thing that you learn only through submitting a lot of pieces and then resubmitting. On the other hand, though, it’s also there in what you’re saying, too, is if it’s a first or second draft, it’s unlikely to be published. And that’s something you need to work at a bit more.

[00:12:37.940] – Jasmine Gui
I think it’s really interesting to try, you know, because I personally — as someone who also submits to other magazines, I sometimes have pieces that I’m not quite sure about. And I will just do the I would just submit them somewhere that I think like there’s a match. And I sometimes use the submissions process as a way to tell me how far I think my pieces are. Like I have done that.

[00:13:04.040] – Rachel Thompson
And sort of depending on what kind of feedback you’re getting, whether it’s a standard rejection or a more substantive one?

[00:13:10.090] – Jasmine Gui
Yeah. And even like even just the speed, right? I think, I think writers in general kind of know where their own writing sits. Like if you’ve been writing for a while, if you’ve been submitting pieces for a while, you have a good sense of where your pieces are within the sort of completed spectrum. But the act of submitting to literary magazines is preceded by the looking for literary magazines, the reading of that literary magazine’s content. I think that engagement process is also a really good sort of sound-board for you to then look at your own writing and be like, “OK how ready is this,” right?

[00:13:49.400] – Jasmine Gui
I have submitted pieces that I thought were complete and thought had a good chance, and then didn’t get accepted even though you know, I was like, “OK, I probably would work”. And then so that feedback coming back gave me more to go back and look at the piece with and then say, “OK, so what do I want to do now?” Do I want to change the format of this to resubmit to the same magazine? Or do I think it’s a “fit” issue? And I think it’s like that kind of care when you start thinking about your work in relation to the places that they’re going to. That’s a skill that needs to be developed a lot.

[00:14:23.960] – Rachel Thompson
You write that your alter ego is a poet and you foreground your work as an interdisciplinary artist. Do you keep these practices quite separate? What are the differences or similarities between your visual art and your writing?

[00:14:36.440] – Jasmine Gui
Yeah, I think I have…I have come out into the creative scene in Toronto as somebody who definitely works in more than just literature, hence the ground/foregrounding of interdisciplinary artist as opposed to poet. It also comes from, I think, the fact that I work with Project40, which is the arts collective that publishes Looseleaf as an interdisciplinary artist and programmer. I wouldn’t say the practices are separate in the sense that “interdisciplinary artist” folds many types of genres or mediums into its work.

[00:15:13.370] – Jasmine Gui
Because I work in pottery; I also work in paper. So they’re very closely related in many ways to my practice of poet, of poetry, paper and bookbinding. Making paper, bookbinding, paper-cutting, all being still directly related to the literary genre; and then for me, pottery and ceramics being sort of functionally very similar to poetry in the sense of stillness and rigour of form and deftness of like technique, right? And so when I think about my interdisciplinary practices, they’re always looking back to the poet in me just in a different form, which is why “alter ego” still remains the poet. Because I think the poet is still at the heart of who I am; but these other ways of being that I’ve learned to befriend or you know, take on the roles of, like, are also very fundamental in my career and in how others perceive me within the scene, which is why there’s a slight distinction between those.

[00:16:20.800] – Rachel Thompson
How does your passion for intersectional and community and interdisciplinary creation converge?

[00:16:26.220]
So I think intersectional community asks us to be open and mindful of difference. It asks us to have a posture of listening that requires effort; it requires a lot of heart. It requires a lot of humility in many ways because we are being asked to really give attention to another person’s experience that we might not have any relationship with. And this, this is a very crucial point of connection for me because if we are artists or writers, what we really want is to connect with people through our art and whether that be in narrative or emotion; and in intersectional communities, sometimes you are asked to hold space and uplift experiences that you personally don’t have but recognize the importance of having.

[00:17:19.650] – Jasmine Gui
And so with interdisciplinary creative spaces then, I think, that as a writer, personally, at least, I have to be challenged often to consider the things that I take for granted in my art form, right? When I’m working with a visual artist, or I’m working with a photographer, or I’m working with someone who works in 3-D; I have to try a different way in order to explain why I’m doing the things I’m doing and why the things I’m doing a good.

[00:17:49.890]
I find that open dialogue really refreshing. I always come away from a collaboration having learned something new, not just about, I guess, craft — you know, their craft and their work — but also my craft and my work, because it kind of follows the same logic of you having to explain your story to someone who’s never heard it for the first time, right? And this is something, I guess, that writing workshops will employ as a technique. And so I find that when it, when it goes to a cross-genre, the stakes are even higher because they have an equal commitment to the connection and to the art; but they also have a completely different way of going about it/getting there. So I think that’s really valuable of an exchange.

[00:18:37.500] – Rachel Thompson
That’s a lovely description of that exchange. Thank you for that. And thank you for for taking part in Lit Mag Love today. What is the best way for writers to connect with you and with Looseleaf?

[00:18:47.870] – Jasmine Gui
Honestly? Email, Instagram, Facebook, all the avenues. I try to keep an eye open in my inbox for inquiries, for coffee chats. I’m very invested in having open conversation about what it means to be a writer or an artist within Toronto, but also the Canadian literary scene at large. And because we’re an interdisciplinary collective that publishes a multi-genre magazine, we’re super open to experimental and super open to different things that might be out of place. So I would just say if people are, you know, looking to have a conversation, if they’re just looking to find out more, you can email me.

[00:19:33.060] – Rachel Thompson
Fabulous! I’ll share that information on the show notes page for the episode.

[00:19:37.470] – Rachel Thompson
Well, thank you so much for sharing your Lit Mag Love with us today, Jasmine.

[00:19:40.650] – Jasmine Gui
No problem! Thank you so much for having me.

[00:19:42.570] – Rachel Thompson
My pleasure.

[00:19:44.680] – Rachel Thompson
That was my interview with Jasmine Gui of Looseleaf Magazine, and if we think about what, as writers, we can learn from my interview about submitting both to Looseleaf and submitting in general? About Looseleaf, they’re interested in voices that may be untrained. And that’s a rare and beautiful thing. On the other hand, they definitely will choose more refined work. So they get a lot of pieces that are first or second drafts, and there’s a subtle difference there — as Jasmine Gui puts it –that you learn through submitting, about which ones are going to be acceptable to lit mags.

[00:20:22.090] – Rachel Thompson
She talked a lot about using submissions to see how ready a piece is and how writers know where their writing sits when they’ve been submitting for a while. And I would definitely agree with that and endorse that as a strategy for writers to learn about the readiness of their work. The act of submitting to lit mags is preceded, as she puts it, by looking at them and reading them. And that engagement is the best sound-board for you to look at your own writing.

[00:20:50.080] – Rachel Thompson
Because they accept a lot of untrained pieces, their editing goes many rounds. Again, a rare and beautiful thing: to have editors who go through with lots of back and forth. One problem that she sees with the non-fiction that’s submitted to the journal, and I would echo that this is something that we see a lot in submissions to Room magazine, is that non-fiction pieces that appear like blog posts (so they’re written with an “I” and there’s really no craft to the story). But you need craft to every story, especially for literary journals, definitely, and even in non-fiction.

[00:21:24.970] – Rachel Thompson
Lit Mag Love is co-presented by Room magazine: literature, art and feminism since 1975, and the Lit Mag Love Course, an online course to get smart, fearless and published, with lots of help from me. Sound editing for the episode is done by Mica Lemiski. And I’m your host, Rachel Thompson.

[00:21:45.440] – Rachel Thompson
If you want to give us some love in the form of a review, wherever you get your podcast, we would love that and it really helps other writers discover the podcast. You can find us online at litmaglovepodcast.com or on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @LitMagLove. Thanks for writing and reading literature, and thanks for listening to Lit Mag Love.

 

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