by Matt Potter, founding editor
Pure Slush was founded in December 2010 ... but really the journey towards its establishment started in mid 2009, and in Germany, not Australia.
I was living in Berlin across the northern summer of 2009, working as an English as a Second Language teacher one morning a week, and living off savings otherwise. And eager to meet new people, and do something different, I joined my first writing group.
Now, I’ve “written” since I was 12, in many different ways, and have often had jobs in communications and marketing, but writing for publication – fiction and non-fiction – or attempting to write for publication, and submitting, has been very on-off (and more off) for me. So I learned of a writing group about to start again, through Toytown. Toytown is a very large English-language internet forum for people living in Germany, and so on a Wednesday evening, I attended the first session of the writers’ group at a deutsche Sprachschule (or German language school) on the aptly named Kantstraβe. (Yes, even native Berliners smile when they say the name.)
The writing group was a bust, and the convenor, a nice American man long in Berlin, only confused everyone. (I have since come to learn the world is filled with many many bad writing groups.) But I did meet a number of other writers in the group I kept in contact with: Luisa Brenta, Claudia Bierschenk, D. M. Simone and Jason S. Andrews.
Cut to 2010 a year later, and I am back in Berlin over the northern summer again. Luisa and Claudia are attending a new writing group, one they have greater hope for, actually convened through SAND and run by Jason. This group is indeed much better – we actually write when we meet, writing exercises that are useful and fun and we come away from each session feeling we have learned something and developed and actually, on top of everything, had a good time.
Marcus Speh is also part of this group, and one session, the second I attended, he introduces flash fiction. I think I have heard of it before – I think – but I’m unsure.
We complete an exercise – write a very short story in a certain number of minutes. And to be honest, I find it easy. Really quite easy. And exciting.
Marcus says – maybe then in the group, maybe later via email, maybe the next time the group meets – he is taking part in 52 / 250, a weekly challenge where you write and submit a maximum 250 word story every week, for a year. I submit a slightly rewritten version of the flash fiction piece I wrote in the group – now called Bag – to 52 / 250 and it is accepted, for Week #9.
This is exciting, my first online publication. And for the next 43 weeks, a story of mine is accepted and published on 52 / 250.
(52 / 250 was founded by John Wentworth Chapin, Michelle Elvy, and Walter Bjorkman. And through the site I meet many other writers: Susan Gibb, Linda Simoni-Wastila, Kim Hutchinson, Len Kuntz, Michael Webb and Nicolette Wong and oh quite a few others. And some of these writers I’ve since met in the flesh as well.)
Soon I start submitting to other fiction sites I discover online.
In late August 2010 I return to Adelaide, Australia, and my intense productivity continues. But I become annoyed at the approachability of some of the editors whose websites and e-zines I send stories to – no correspondence will be entered into, they would say, if they could be bothered even communicating – and I start to think, you know, I could do better. (Or, I certainly couldn’t do worse.) And so many of them seem so ... well ... precious. And it makes me cringe.
The idea of starting my own website forms. One where the editor (me) is actually responsive and polite. And one where the editor (me) works with people to make their stories better. And one where the editor (me) publishes stories that are fun and meaningful and not precious, one that has an open, approachable, distinctive feel to it. And yes, one that has a no-bullshit Australian flavour as well.
I think about it, for two months, but I don’t have the hook I need to get going. What to call it? I’m good with names and titles, I know this, but I want the right one and the right one is eluding me ...
It’s now Monday 6th December, early summer in Australia. Soon to return to fulltime work, I visit the Adelaide Central Market, a produce market in the centre (as its name suggests!) of the city. Among other things, I buy some spelt pasta, which I promptly drop on its end. The pasta strips, bent double to fit into the cellophane packet, snap in half.
Looking the packet over, Broken Spelt, I think, that can be the name of my website. But I’m uneasy about it, and not convinced. But I want to start this website, the time is right, right now, and if I leave it too long, it will go off the boil and I won’t want to do it. The momentum has to be caught and harnessed and too long is too late and over and out.
Driving home from the Market, mulling over Broken Spelt, there’s a huge downpour as the expected cool change arrives. Rain buckets down on my car, the wipers thrash across the windscreen and the gutters are awash with dirty water. Idling at traffic lights, Look at all that slush, I think, as the water rushes around corners and floods across the intersection.
And that’s where the name came from - dirty water - with a nod to Tallulah Bankhead.
It’s perfect, I think, the right combination of highbrow and trashy.
At home, I email four writers I know, asking them to contribute a story to my new website. Perhaps more out of curiosity, they send me stories. They know me online, but of course, really don’t know me at all. Susan Gibb replies first, and Marcus Speh (yes, Marcus does know me) second. (The fourth is Sheldon Lee Compton, who sends me a story. I reply, you know that Facebook update you wrote the other day, I’d love a story about that. And so, for the first time, a story is commissioned for Pure Slush.)
Susan Gibb’s Black Bears and Green Broccoli Trees is the first fiction piece published on Pure Slush, two days later, on Wednesday 8th December.
I am interviewed about Pure Slush for Fictionaut later that month, and I muse online about publishing non-fiction. So the first non-fiction piece is published online on January 1st 2011, A Free Rinse, written by me, a recounting of an incident that happened earlier that day.
And later in 2011, I decide Pure Slush should move into print publishing. A friend tells me about print-on-demand, and so slut Pure Slush Vol. 1 is conceived, and published in November 2011.
So this is nothing new for me, really, this starting my own thing. I like a good project, and I knew I would be committed to it. What did surprise me is how much work it takes, but the results pay off.
Many of the early writers on Pure Slush went out on a limb and submitted stories – new fiction (and non-fiction) websites are established every day – without knowing the result, and it’s nice to know that, as of writing this in February 2013, their faith has paid off in some measure. And thanks also to the hundreds of writers published since.