Assay@NFN15: “Entropy Magazine: A Case Study”

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Organized by Brooke Wonders, this panel discussed Entropy, “a website creates a space for literary and non-literary ideas.” The panelists, Emily Stern, Barrett Warner, Sara Finnerty Turgeon, and Nancy Jainchill, share an interest in experimental forms of nonfiction and genre fluidity. Jainchill for example, published a review that was a hybrid, including a mix of the personal and public. It is no one entity, yet it has a unity of purpose.

Entropy originally was borne as a creative antidote to HTML Giant, championing open discourse and no singular aesthetic. They recently partnered with the press Civil Coping Mechanisms, and feature a plethora of resources, including book round-ups, submission listings, reviews, a small press database, and interviews.

Entropy contributors and editors are very close, even though many have never met. Through ongoing conversations and collaborations, the group experiments with form and method, “investigating the premise that in the end, collaborative projects are the writers’ antidote for the fractured postmodern ego.” Members of the group, consisting of everyone who has ever had work posted on Entropy, quite a large number, posts on a closed Facebook page. The results are posted on Enclave:  http://enclave.entropymag.org.

 Projects include a collaborative novel and the Final Poem series. The latter, based on the premise of radical openness, will, in theory, remain open until the end of the world. 

 The Sunday Series, edited by Turgeon, consists of a weekly question posed to the contributors. Started this as a way to get the writers to open up about themselves, the writers look forward to each week’s question. Recent topics included “What cartoon character are you?” and most scarily inappropriate move you saw as a child.

The Bird Series, started by Entropy Executive Editor Janice Lee, features personal and poetic essays related to, well, birds, although they encourage a broad interpretation as well as an outward gaze. 

The panel expressed the hope that they can further investigate collaborative nonfiction, a concept that might mimic the future of information sharing (minus trolls). “You’re a writer and a reader at the same time,” says Warner says. While an online community is a sort of imperfect translation, it also is shaped by immediacy. Says Wonders, “The archives are a great way to preserve process.” In fact it is not hard at all to get pleasantly lost in the backfile of Entropy posts.

Asked if online collaboration chips away at attention to craft, the panel responded that they urge each other to do better. This collaborative community seems to have landed in a place of openness, experimentation and respect for the members as well as the final project.  

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Linda Michel-Cassidy works for Why There Are Words, a literary series and press (upcoming) based in Sausalito, California. She writes across genre from a houseboat in Richardson Bay, and has interviews up at Entropy and elsewhere.

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