Interview with The Murky Fringe Editors [Part 2]

April 8, 2010

That's Cassie on the left.

Cassie Deever and Rachel Tate have been neck deep in The Murky Fringe for several years now, sending strange emails back and forth to one another since their early college years. They sent riffs and thoughts and small bits of fiction or poetry with the sole intention of making the other laugh.

Mostly they were successful.

After college and later graduate school, the two ended up in Portland, OR. Eventually some of their friends read the emails and encouraged them to start a website in the tradition of McSweeney’s and other literary journals they all admired. With help from Cassie’s next door neighbor, Jesse the computer wunderkind, the two started The Murky Fringe on September 11, 2009, and have posted a piece of writing each day since.

Jesse: Are you a literary journal or are you a blog?

Cassie: Well, we’d love to be considered a literary journal, but we know better.

Rachel: We both worked on journals in grad school, so we know how much work goes into running one. The slush pile, the battles over what gets in and what gets cut. Soliciting pieces from writers who never send something in. The editing.

Cassie: Journals (the ones we like) are highly-polished. The work inside has been drafted and edited.

Rachel: There’s more of a safety net for quality. Way more.

Cassie: That’s not really something you can have when you put out something every day.

Rachel: Unless you’re a newspaper.

Cassie: I remember newspapers…

Jesse: But you’re not quite a blog either.

Cassie: No, the blogs I like are mostly commentary on current events. Politics, celebrity gossip.

Rachel: I like movie blogs.

Cassie: She’s a trailer whore.

Rachel: I like movie trailers. That doesn’t make me a whore.

Cassie: We’re like some blogs in that we post everyday and we don’t draft or edit. But we’re different from blogs because we’re not content driven.  We had Google Ads for a while but they were distracting and they never made any money for us. Or Google.

Rachel: They were hilarious though.

Cassie: I never really liked them. They were more of a reminder that The Murky Fringe was positioning itself as a profitable website, and I didn’t like the thought that that would affect content.

Rachel: And also, we don’t do much to push the site. We have a Twitter feed for each post and we started a Facebook Fan Page, but it’s not like we “drive traffic” with SEO or anything like that. We have other things going on. This is for fun.

Cassie: This is a sketchpad.

Rachel: It’s our pilot light, really. We do write other things.

Jesse: What are you working on?

Cassie: I have a bunch of short stories about a postal worker in the 1950s who’s obsessed with Emily Dickinson.

Rachel: No you don’t.

Cassie: No, I don’t. But now I might pursue that.

Rachel: She’s a great writer, but she never gives herself any credit. Mostly she deflects all serious conversation with humor. She’s a dude at heart.

Cassie: I’m always masturbating in the shower.

Rachel: Like I tell my boyfriend, just aim for the drain.

Cassie: Okay, that’s nasty. You took it to the nasty place.

Jesse: What about Rachel?

Cassie: She doesn’t like to talk about it either.

Rachel: That’s not true. I just don’t like to talk about the specific work that I’m engaged in. It messes with my process.

Cassie: She doesn’t like to talk about it.

Rachel: I’ve written a series of poems that are connected in tone. Mostly they draw emotion and energy from several years ago when I was completely depressed.

Cassie: Sounds fun.

Rachel: The poems aren’t depressing-I don’t think-I’ve just re-entered that emotional place from when I was depressed. I don’t write about depression or suicide or anything. It’s just the color of the lens is different than how I currently feel.

Cassie: They’re amazing, but what do I know? No really, she’s got some incredible work. Who knew that the woman who wrote Preston Ruggles: Vaseline Collector has such a lyric touch?

Rachel: Preston Ruggles just sounded like he’d collect vaseline.

Cassie: And be proud about it.

Jesse: How long will you guys do this?

Cassie: I’d like to think I could do it forever, but I’m not sure. Writing something every other day has been a great discipline, but I’m not sure I believe I can actually do this for the next 5 years.

Rachel: It’s like after you’ve been on a diet, and you think that you’re going to eat kale and brown rice forever, but two weeks later you have chicken wings and half a pitcher of beer and it just feels right and normal.

Cassie: It feels finite. And that kind of makes me sad.

Rachel: Breaking a dish makes you sad.

Cassie: Just the dishes that have meaning.

Rachel: That’s why I buy everything from Target. Crate and Barrel dishes are more of a commitment.

Jesse: Would you just close down The Murky Fringe or would you pass it on?

Rachel: Actually, we’ve been approached by a couple small journals already.

Cassie: They’re just interested to see what our long-term plans are, where we want to go with it.

Rachel: I think they see a potential to come in and ramp it up a little.

Cassie: I don’t think we’d shut it down. Someone could man the lighthouse. Of course, it would be hard to see it change. But maybe it would evolve into something better. Truthfully, I’d never want it to become something like Funny or Die or College Humor. I’d hope it would always be a little smart as well as silly.

Rachel: You look at Saturday Night Live and wonder what Gilda Radner would have thought if she saw the Farting Grace Kelly skit from last winter.

Cassie: That was the lowest I’ve ever seen them go.

Rachel: I felt really embarrassed. I felt like some WWII vet watching people burn the flag.

Cassie: They’ve had some bad skits before, but the fact that it made it out of the creative meeting totally blows my mind. There wasn’t one person to say, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Jesse: What’s the funniest/smartest thing you’ve seen in the last couple of years?

Cassie: Arrested Development. Hands down.

Rachel: The Wire. Okay, it’s not the funniest thing, I know. But it’s so damn good. I can’t wait to see Treme.

Cassie: Pretty much whatever smart people tell me is good.

Rachel: That’s actually true. And I’m okay with that.


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