Anyone who knows me knows that I will never turn down the chance to talk Pokémon and Super Mario. I mean, is there anything better than those two things?
This Friday, I sat down with Tyler Pufpaff. Spoilers: we had a lot of fun.
Sit back, relax, grab a drink, and enjoy!
Variant Lit is like the cool kid at school everyone wants to be friends with. How did Variant Lit come about?
Well, it’s hard to pin down the beginning, but I think leaving my burdensome 60-70/hr week job was the catalyst. Once I freed my mind and body of those demands I started to think about what I really cared about and wanted to do in my life. After another job that didn’t quite fit the bill for me I decided to go to college (UNCG) and pursue things more interesting. Here I found myself falling in love with literature all over again.
I was familiar with lit mags/zines at the time from some early publications but hadn’t been around people and spaces which would be interested in collaborating with me on one (something I had always thought about) for a long time; I lived my life rather nomadically up to this point and knew I would need to reach out for help since I was low on connections and one thing led to another. I found myself working with a small team at the college trying to create something bigger than the lit mag—an online writing community like Figment or Wattpad. We were fortunate to receive an NSF grant for this and started conducting research. At the same time, we had just started issue one of the journal and began reading, which was lovely.
To be honest, it feels like I tipped over a domino that toppled a chain of dominoes without an end in sight, which is truly exciting. Anyway, to keep it short, I connected with the presses and organizations in my state and received much support and generosity that would only compound my devotion to the project, but we found ourselves in over our head with website development costs and decided to pivot to a press model in what was a pursuit to create something that would support authors & artists on a bigger scale. Since then, we have been doing both: functioning as a journal and a press and I’m very happy with where we ended up as an organization.
Give me the deets on some upcoming releases.
Haha ok. Most immediately, we have a micro chapbook, Alms Basket For Your Heart by Mackenzie Moore (Sept. 26th). Mackenzie sent us a knockout submission for one of journal issues so when she reached out about the manuscript, I was more than happy to give it a look and share it with the team.
Lararium by Ray Ball (Dec. 5th) and To Fall Fable by Alice Wickenden (Jan. 1st). Both of these authors were finalists in our chapbook contest earlier this year and I’m SO excited to see their books out in the world. Both projects are almost done so you should be seeing more on them soon.
We’ve also the Editors’ Pick to that contest in the works which I had anticipated coming out following Summertime Fine but we’re keeping a release date tentative at the moment as there have been a few delays. Lastly, we just signed a contract for our first nonfiction book. This will be a 2021 release.
Mario Sunshine is the best 3D mario game, right?
I feel like the Goombas haven’t popped the same since Super Mario N64. You’re going to get the new bundle coming out on the Switch this month, right?
You just turned 10 and you’re on your way to Professor Oak’s lab in Pallet Town. Who do you choose as your starter and why?
Bulbasaur. I play favorites not stats. I get this guy to Ivysaur and slap him with an Everstone. Then, just like Ash, he’ll be done growing up.
Any personal projects you’re working on right now?
I’m almost done with a micro-chap of relationship poems which took a lot of inspiration from Philip Larkin’s poetry, but I’m most excited for what may turn into a full-length sized body of work: a book exploring mental health struggles. I had something to say about the Prison Industrial-Complex and started reading as much as I could from poets like Etheridge Knight or actual incarcerated prisoners in In The Belly zine to help prime these thoughts but I keep drawing animals into my poems lately and have been thinking about finding a new medium through which I can say what I want to say that will align more with the where the poems are going.
Chili’s or Cheesecake Factory? Cite where necessary.
Easy. Chili’s. I don’t eat out much—I enjoy cooking my meals—so their free chips & salsa or drink on every visit (every 60days) is hard to pass on. Plus, I prefer my entrees be a bit more Texas-sized. Cheesecake Factory just doesn’t compare in my opinion.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
It would be pretty cool to earth bend. I like to build things, so I’d probably make a lot of elaborate structures and homes for the homeless. And labyrinths. And massive chess boards. And and…
Finally, the most important question: pumpkin beer. Yay or nay?
Tyler Pufpaff is the author of A Quarter Life. Tyler’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Torrid Literature Journal, Havik, Coraddi, perhappened, Emerge Literary Journal, and has been anthologized in Poetry Diversified 2019. Twitter: @TylerPufpaff
Shawn Berman (@sbb_writer) runs The Daily Drunk. Adam Sandler is his dad.