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An Interview With Ben Kerns: Editor in Chief, Magazine1

Updated: Apr 17

Poet and Educator Bubba Henson interviews Ben Kerns: Editor in Chief of Magazine1, Bookstore1's new literary magazine.

When Georgia Court and Ben Kerns announced the creation and launch of a new literary magazine based in Sarasota, Magazine1!, it was very exciting news. It couldn't come at a better time as you'll see when you read Ben's interview below. 


Ben is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at Florida Atlantic University and is currently the manager of Bookstore1. He lives in Sarasota with his wife and cat, and when he's not busy running Bookstore1 and Magazine1, he is trying to corner you to tell you about some of his favorite books, such as Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler,Liveblog by Megan Boyle, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy, and I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek.

Bubba caught up with Ben via email for an interview. Below is their virtual conversation: 

Ben, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. What is the vision for Magazine1?

I hope that the magazine can act as a sort of centralizing point for writers living in the Sarasota area and surrounding Gulf Coast environs, and also as a way of showcasing the literary talent of our area to a wider audience. I definitely don't view it as the center of said community, but rather hope it can act as a sort of node in a network for what I see as an already established group of writers. There are people here making interesting things, and I think that needs to be pointed out more often than it is. Especially in relation to Sarasota itself, which has a reputation as an "arts" city, but so often the art being highlighted by that reputation are things like touring theater or the presentation of work by very established artists. I feel like we need more emphasis on the art being made by people who live and work in this city, not just the transient art that comes here as a result of money.


Additionally, I want to highlight writing that really pushes boundaries, especially in the national call for submissions. I'm fascinated by writing that challenges our traditional notions of form and function. I want to read nonfiction that feels like poetry and fiction that looks like visual art. I think writing is at its most interesting when it pushes away the idea that there are hard and fast rules something is supposed to follow. The blank page doesn't care what people think it's supposed to be filled with, so why should we come to the filled page with expectations of what's supposed to be there?

How did Magazine1 come about?

I had helped run a literary magazine when I was in grad school, and realized that I could run something similar out of Bookstore1. Georgia (Bookstore1 owner) is a super supportive and intelligent person. She's always interested in her employee's ideas, and was very happy to hear me out when I came to her with this one. After I told her about it, she essentially asked me, "When can you start doing it?" I was happy to tell her, "Well, right now if that sounds good."

What is the greatest challenge as an editor/publisher?

Reading everything. Even though we don't get a ton of submissions compared to other magazines, when you're the only one doing all of the work, a slush pile of 90 submissions can feel pretty daunting. So take this as a message, if you'd like to help me read for the magazine, please let me know (

How would you describe the literary scene in Sarasota?

In my view, it seems to be a relatively small but very passionate group of (mostly) poets. The people that I have met involved in literature here are all very kind and caring people. They seem to look out for each other, which is a good thing, because writing can be a lonely process. Community feels like it's pretty key to the people involved in literature out here. I also feel like I've only seen a small slice of what the full scene might actually be. I know there are writers living in Newtown, but I haven't gotten to meet them yet. I know there are people in Bradenton, but I haven't gotten to meet them either. I hope that the magazine can act as a way to connect us to each other.

Recently, there have been some developments in the small lit mag print space, notably the demise of SPD, Small Press Distribution, a 55 year old business that handled the distribution for some 400 small presses. How do you think this impacts Magazine1?

I was very saddened when I heard that SPD was shutting down. It's hard enough for small presses to get their legs under them and any blow to the small press network is a blow to everyone who cares about the future of literature. As far as direct effects to Magazine1, there aren't any, really. We're online only, so we don't have anything to distribute. But it does affect us in that it shuts down avenues of opportunity for readers to find the kind of stranger and more niche work that you can only find in small presses. I want to highlight similar kinds of work, and if readers don't have ways of accessing it, it gets harder for people to find out if they like it or not. Luckily there are other distributors who are trying to pick up the pieces. For anyone interested, I recommend checking out Asterism Books, a small press distributor that acts as a home for some of my favorite small publishers (11:11, Inside the Castle, Action Books, and Black Sun Lit to name a few) and I know they reached out to publishers when SPD announced their closures so we might see them get larger in the next few years.

Ben, thanks for taking the time to share! 

To submit to Magazine1, go here. What are you waiting for?

Bubba Henson worked for MTV in the early ‘80’s, co-founded the marketing company Seismic Communications, and was a creative consultant for broadcast and cable television networks. He discovered his love for teaching late in life, after teaching English at St. Luke’s School, Maru-a-Pula School, and IMG Academy. He has written for World Wrestling Entertainment and Golden Publishing, and is currently working on his first book of poetry. Bubba has a M.F.A. in Creative Writing in Poetry from Columbia University. Presently, he is a Volunteer Property Manager for Second Heart Homes in Sarasota. As always, he is seeking firsthand experience with the people, places, and events that shape our roles in the telling and retelling of this great story.

Bubba also hosts Bards by the Bay along with Tanya Young. It is a celebration of poetry the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month in Bayfront Park.

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