LIT LOVE IN LOUISIANA: Interview with Erin Z. Bass, Founder and Editor, Deep South Magazine
(Interviewer: Jessica Wimmer, ES Editor ES)
A resident of Lafayette, La., Erin Z. Bass has more than 12 years of writing experience and received her bachelor’s in Journalism from Louisiana State University. She has worked as a staff writer for The Times of Acadiana and Independent Weekly in Lafayette, Macy’s West communications department in San Francisco, and been published in Coastal Living Magazine and The Times Picayune. She founded Deep South Magazine (deepsouthmag.com) in late 2009 and, subsequently, found her calling as a travel writer.
Jess: Deep South Magazine really covers it all when it comes to Southern culture. It’s a one-stop-shop for the South’s best food, literary events, creepy and beautiful landmarks, and what swampy goodness you should be reading and listening to. What made you want to create something that is so dedicated purely to the South? How and when did it all begin?
Erin: It really began when I moved to the West Coast and, despite the beautiful landscape and cooler weather, got homesick. When my husband and I decided to move back home to Louisiana, I had a new appreciation for my home state and the South in general. We pledged to travel more in our own backyard and just enjoy the South as much as we possibly could. As a freelance writer, I needed an outlet for all that travel and discovery, and at that time, blogging and social media were really becoming the new platforms for writers. So, Deep South became a way for me to share my love of the South and connect Southerners to each other.
Jess: It’s clear you do a lot of traveling for certain features in the magazine. Would you say the traveling is more for the publication or for you? Do you find a deeper connection with your content when you’re out there on top of it?
Erin: When I started Deep South, there were many areas of the South that I hadn’t yet visited. Recent press trips have taken me to rural Georgia, New Orleans Plantation Country and North Carolina. There is a deeper connection with a place once you’ve seen it for yourself, but I can’t be everywhere all the time, so it’s important for interns and freelancers to share their passion for the areas they live in as well.
I have to say that travel and press trips have been one of the most fun parts of working on Deep South. People who work in state tourism departments and promote their respective areas are just amazing, and I’ve had the chance to meet travel writers from all over the world. I’m always looking forward to the next trip!
Jess: I’ve gotten to read some of my favorite short stories, essays, and poems in your Southern Voice section. How difficult is the narrowing down process?
Erin: We do read every submission and consider whether it will be a good fit or not. First and foremost, a piece has to have a Southern angle. Whether it’s set in the South, the author is from the region or was just inspired by a visit here, anything that runs in Southern Voice has to have a Southern connection. After that, I think a great Southern story has to impart a sense of place and simply make you want to keep reading. As for poetry, sense of place and then just evoking some sort of feeling are important.
Jess: Even though it sounds fun, I imagine you’re swimming in work. It’s pretty aspirational to start your own magazine. What advice or tips would you give those wanting to do their own literary start up? Maybe three quick and dirty tips?
Erin: 1. Be ready to use social media. It’s the best way to promote stories and engage readers.
2. Be consistent with posting. You can post daily, weekly or monthly, but it has to be regular so that readers can trust you’ll be there when you say you will.
3. Learn to read fast. The days of lingering over and savoring a piece of literature are over. OK, not really, but the quantity of things you’ll be required to read, whether it’s fiction, poetry, books for review, etc., is going to increase and you’ll need to be able to make decisions quickly and efficiently.
Jess: And the unavoidable question: What are your absolute no-nos when reading through submissions?
Erin: I’ll answer this in relation to a story pitch. If you’re a freelancer and want us to consider your idea, it has to be distinctly Southern. If you’re pitching an idea that’s cliche or not at all about the South, then we’re not interested. Just take a look at the stories on our site, whether you’re in the Food, Travel, Culture or Arts & Lit section. Hopefully, you’ll learn something new and say I want to go there, buy that book or try that recipe.
If you’d like to get involved, Deep South Magazine accepts both local and national interns to cover a broad range of behind the scenes seats, and freelancers are always welcome. You can soak up Deep South at deepsouthmag.com, and be sure to check out the Deep South Literary Trail App. The app is available in both iTunes and for Android, and it allows readers to follow in the footsteps of some of the South’s literary icons with more than 130 sites, ranging from writers’ homes, landmarks, restaurants and bars to hotels, bookstores and more.