Many creatives lament not having time to “create” and the nagging feeling of void it wedges into our daily lives. No longer willing to suffer the absence, Melissa Martini founded Moss Puppy Magazine, an open-access online and print-on-demand biannual of poetry, prose, and artwork.
The name is unique, but indicative of Martini’s joyful approach, “The Moss Puppy is a creature I imagined many moons ago with the intention of creating my own vivid world of critters similar to Neopets or Pokemon. Moss Puppy has stuck with me through the years, and when I decided I wanted to start my own literary magazine, it only seemed fitting to name the magazine after her. She has a few other friends who may make appearances within the magazine’s lore in the future, too!” If it’s difficult to imagine what a Moss Puppy might look like, the publication ran a fanart contest this year asking readers to spark their imaginations. The resulting gallery is a fun stop on the site to visit.
Martini’s own commitment to the literary community started early, as she recounts, “I was the co-editor-in-chief of my high school’s literary magazine, and it was the highlight of my high school career. From reading submissions to designing issues, I couldn’t get enough. When I graduated high school and started college, one of the first things I did was find out if there was a literary magazine – and I joined the team as soon as I could. I eventually became co-editor-in-chief of that magazine, too, taking publishing courses as I learned the ropes of running a more serious publication.”
Martini continued her education to earn a bachelor’s in creative writing and a master’s in English, and that’s when the void began. “After graduate school, I started a full-time job and no longer found myself shuffling through stacks of submissions. After two years of having that hole in my heart, I quit my job and decided to start Moss Puppy Magazine. Editing a literary magazine is an incredibly fulfilling job; I feel as though I was meant to be an editor, consistently seeking out the role in each chapter of my life.”
For writers, this means they can expect professional and respectful treatment of their submissions, as Martini explains, “Throughout the week, submissions are made available to our team of readers. Over the following week, we read and discuss submissions from the previous week, finalizing our decisions within two weeks of receiving submissions. I then send out responses each Sunday.”
Martini asked the Moss Puppy Magazine submissions readers what they look for. Veronica Jarboe, one of the Poetry Readers, stated: “I, personally, look for authenticity and that one unique thing that makes the work stand out from all the rest. I look for work that stays with me long after I’ve read it, which means I know it had an effect on me in some way.” Prose Reader Shelby Petkus echoed this, adding: “I also feel like we’re all very similar in our judgment of writing quality, so I think we have really well-written works we select.” Laura Bibby, who serves as both a Poetry Reader and a Prose Reader, also agreed, noting that she enjoys “written pieces that work in the theme in unique and inventive ways.”
Knowing what Moss Puppy wants for its readers adds further insight, as Martini comments, “I initially advertised Moss Puppy as housing the ‘weird, muddy, and messy.’ I still think that’s pretty accurate. Between myself and my team, we tend to lean towards pieces that get us talking to each other – pieces that rustle our emotions. Readers can expect pieces that flirt with darkness, have comedic undertones on occasion, dabble in sadness while appreciating the sunshine, and aren’t afraid to get lost in the woods.” Some recent contributors who satisfied this expectation include Beth Mulcahy, Bex Hainsworth, Charlie D’Aniello, Rachael Crosbie, Matthew McGuirk, Arden Hunter, Linda Hawkins, Rick Hollon, Melissa Flores Anderson, Anna Lindwasser, and Catie Wiley.
It’s hard to imagine leaving one path in life to pursue another, and Martini offers a balanced reflection on this: “The greatest joy I have experienced with Moss Puppy so far is the release of Issue 1: Swampland. I was absolutely blown away by the response. Each tweet and retweet put a smile on my face, and I watched as so many writers shared that their work was featured in the issue. People were complimenting each other’s writing, having engaging conversations, and I put that issue together all on my own – that was before I had a team. I was struggling with feeling like a failure for quitting my full-time job and pursuing a passion project that made me no money – but when I saw the response to the first issue’s release? I knew I’d made the right choice.”
Forging ahead to continue making it the best decision, Martini is positive about the future of Moss Puppy, “I would love to expand on Moss Puppy’s lore, explore her world a bit more, and incorporate additional characters into her story. This may be through pop-up issues, chapbooks, contests, workshops, and more. I have a lot of ideas I want to look into, but nothing is set in stone just yet.”
For future submissions, each issue of Moss Puppy has its own theme. Issue 1 was Swampland, Issue 2 was Puppy Love, and Issue 3 is Blades. Martini will be announcing Issue 4’s theme on Twitter once they reach 4,000 followers. At the time of publication, Moss Puppy had 3867 Followers, so c’mon people! @mosspuppymag