Journal Spotlight: Junto Magazine
Written by: Mary Keutelian

junto-magazine-logoI’m pleased to welcome Joe Attanasio to Niche. Joe, a recent graduate of George Washington University’s publishing program alongside Niche Media Coordinator Mary Keutelian, is Publisher for the recently launched online magazine Junto. A big thank you goes out to Joe for taking the time out to speak with Mary and Niche about Junto.

NICHE: Starting, building and launching an online publication doesn’t generally happen overnight. When did the idea for an online magazine start? How long did it take to corral the team?

Joe Attanasio: No, it definitely does not. The idea for this publication is about two years old, nearly three. I was a history major, and a friend of mine had proposed the idea of starting an academic journal that published undergraduate research. I had just had copies of my thesis printed and bound for my family, and he pointed out that, except for people who did that or were like someone from the previous year who wanted to continue his research to try to get in a journal, most of us would never see the fruit of our effort in print. So I thought back to that, and realized that while that idea may not have been feasible at the time (maybe a future project? one product at a time) what about creative pieces? Many of my friends were artists or writers either in their free time or had their degree in the topic but were doing other things career-wise. Our Associate Publisher (J. T. Ledan) was a creative writing major at the time and was working the night shift at Scholastic’s warehouse. I immediately brought him on board and we started throwing ideas around. I knew that I had no credentials in art or music or film, but luckily I knew a lot of people who did. I reached out to people I knew, to try to see who would be interested in working on this project with me. I brought on teachers and industry professionals because I wanted to make sure that people saw my editors’ credentials and knew they knew what they were talking about when they made suggestions.

NICHE: How did you settle on the name Junto? Does the name of the magazine have any significance reflected someway in the mission?

Joe Attanasio: Initially, the magazine’s name was Howl. When I first began doing research into that two years ago, there was only one other magazine going by that name, and it was a sort of cultural magazine for a town in Massachusetts. The intent was for the magazine to be a calling point for all sorts of artists, just like wolves howl to convey information to each other. It was a long stretch and, admittedly, one that my Editor-in-Chief hated. But as I spoke about it with individuals in the industry, a lot of people asked me if it was in reference to the poem by Allen Ginsberg. It wasn’t, but that question came up a lot. I was OK with that, all it meant would be a strong branding campaign. But in February of this year, when I went to register the domain and get everything set up, Howl was no longer really an option. Our website would have had to be Not to mention the number of other magazines had spread from one to five others. Some were different, others were doing very similar things but more niche audiences. Creative expression in a specific town in Florida, one out in California I think, another for the LGBT community. It meant we would have needed to fight a branding war on five fronts… not something I wanted to do.

So we brainstormed. I brought my Assoc. Publisher, my EIC, and my Social Media Editor into a Skype call and tried to figure out what would be a good alternative because for two years this had always been Howl. Thankfully I have a good and creative team who could think of things I couldn’t. We tried going back to the origins of the press, and one thing that popped up were the juntos started by Benjamin Franklin. They were clubs that Franklin started for tradesmen to share their secrets and create an atmosphere of self-improvement out of the discussion of philosophy, morality, politics and, most important, exchanging knowledge, especially of business and their trades. I believe there was also a membership library as well. That was brought up and I remember thinking, “That’s actually perfect.” So it meant a logo redesign, a website redesign, and a template redesign, and the change was palpable. The design is so much cleaner now, streamlined and professional. Much, much better than what it was.

NICHE: Clarify your role, specifically: How is your role as a publisher different from an editor-in-chief or managing editor? Don’t EICs or MEs sometimes assume the responsibilities of a publisher?

Joe Attanasio: They absolutely can, especially in a small publication such as this. Ours kind of is unusual in that sense, in many other startups a few people would wear many different hats. When a topic came up that I wasn’t good at or I knew someone who could do it better, I brought them on. Sometimes that was someone we already had, sometimes it was someone new. The role of publisher is going to vary from place to place, but for us specifically my role is exclusively non-editorial. We have completely segregated the money and business side of the publication from the editorial, which is generally accepted to be best practices anyway. I also run the production side of the magazine because that is my day job as well and I know how to do that. Originally there were three EIC roles (maybe more like two and a half) and then six editors working under them. It was a bit of a mess. So I pulled up and out into Publisher, made another one Assoc. Publisher and gave him oversight of marketing and social media/tech (roles we then created) and pulled one of the Editors up into the sole EIC role. He had functioned in a similar capacity for a failing newsletter and was able to completely turn it around and was interested in trying his hand at a bigger production. I drop down where needed but my EIC selects which accepted pieces will appear in the issue based on themes we have selected, assigns new submissions to the individual editors who work under him based off of their schedules and areas of specialty, etc.

NICHE: As a completely online magazine, how will you distribute each volume and issue? Will you use a service like Issuu? Also, is there a cost associated for readers or will it be available online for free?

Joe Attanasio: Currently our distribution vendor is a website called Joomag. We build the magazine using their tools or upload the PDF that I design and build myself and create the product for distribution. They allow us to produce it for different devices or platforms, or embed it in social media. We are paying right now for the ability to produce it on tablets, desktops, and phones across all platforms. That was one thing that was really important for me was being able to access it by everyone regardless of device or OS.

In the future, there will probably be a subscription, but right now it is available online for free and will remain so for probably the first year. I want to make sure we are providing a good, strong product before we start asking people to pay for it, and even then all of our initial issues will remain freely available. We don’t know what our readership is going to be like or what our costs will be once we really start the ball rolling so it’s kind of hard to determine what the subscription model will look like. We may be able to generate enough money through advertisement when we start including them in the issues (right now there are none) or maybe we will be able to provide everything with a freemium model where a subscription gains access to the whole issue, but there are large portions that are available for free. At this point there is no telling what the future will look like, but I can tell you that for the near future we will be freely available to readers.

NICHE: Junto’s website ( states it’s a “monthly, web-based magazine.” How did you decide to be a monthly magazine rather than bimonthly/quarterly/biyearly/annual magazine?

Joe Attanasio: The original plan was for a quarterly magazine, since my staff is volunteering their time with the Junto I wanted to make sure that there was plenty of time for submitting, editing and pulling together a good product. After talking with a professor from my program and discussing this, it did not really make sense for a digital product to be producing on a quarterly basis. The biggest obstruction, guaranteeing enough content, was easily solved by promoting a longer period of open submissions. So, right now we have our premiere issue which will showcase what the magazine is capable of doing and the direction we will go. Once that is released submissions will be open for several months as we fill the pipeline with content to produce an issue every month.

NICHE: When is the first issue planned to be released, and what is the submission period for the first issue? How will subsequent submission periods work since Junto is a monthly publication?

Joe Attanasio: The first issue is slated to be released early in 2016, but of course that date is fluid and depends on the amount of submissions we have that are ready to be produced and present the best product. Our submission periods will never really ever close. Even this first one, once we are no longer accepting submissions for the premiere issue it will go into the pipeline to start building the base for our first issues. From there it will keep going as we continuously take in submissions and move it through the editing process, until it is ready for publication.

NICHE: Final question(s): What’s the theme for the first issue, if there is one? What genres and formats does Junto accept?

Joe Attanasio: Initially, we were using a set of themes for the final issue. It was to be arranged around the Life, Death, and Rebirth. But in continued discussions with my Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher, one thing we saw was that putting the themes into it this early was just too restrictive. We didn’t want to turn away some really great talent because they didn’t have anything to submit to this issue, so we pulled it. The content internally may still find itself arranged by theme, but for this issue as a whole there wouldn’t be an overarching theme. That will probably stay in place for the first several issues, while we build up our pool of completed pieces waiting for publication. Once that’s done, we may bring the idea of thematic issues back, but of course we would put out that schedule ahead of time so that people know if they have a piece on a particular theme, it would need to be in by a certain date.

NICHE: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share about Junto?

Joe Attanasio: There is a lot of really great talent out there, and my team and I are really excited to see what we are going to get to work with. Like I said before, this is a project that we’ve been working on for a while so it is thrilling to see it start up and get moving. Even still though, we’re already looking to the future and what we at this stage is different from where we started even four months ago. We’re all going to be doing a lot of growing and evolving together.

Niche News: A Review of Niche No. 5!
Written by: Niche Lit Magazine

Niche_5The Review Review ran a review of Niche No. 5. Review contributor Joshua Tuttle had this to say:

These stories have a timeliness about them which I found refreshing.  There is no pretension here; just stories, from our world, lived by the people of today.  Often, authors who seek to avoid letting their stories become dated strive to do so by cutting out any ties to the world-at-present; equally often, the result is a bland work with no remaining ties to the testimony of life.  Not so with Niche. This magazine tells us what it’s like to live now, in 2015, with all the right references to make the reader nod his head and say “yes, I am reading about the world in front of me in this very moment; I recognize this.”  There is an immediacy to this kind of truth that is valuable. 

Read the rest of the review here:

Chats With Artists: Pearl Hodges
Written by: Niche Lit Magazine


I’m pleased to welcome Pearl Hodges to Niche  Features, and I want to take this opportunity to thank her again for conducting an interview about her artwork, which has appeared in multiple issues of Niche. If you want to view her current artwork, please take a look at our current issue.

NICHE: Welcome to Niche Features. I believe that one of your pieces has appeared in an almost every issue of Niche. The first one was entitled “The Day the Cranes Ate the Wolves” and this most recent one is called “Take Only What You Need.”  Your pieces usually have ideas or messages they want to impart.  What comes first when you’re crafting a piece? The images, or the message? 

PEARL HODGES: The process varies for me, sometimes I very strongly have a short phrase or background that I want to portray, this is the case with ‘The Day the Crane Ate the Wolves’.  I draw on a lot of influence from both world mythologies and my own dreams, and I was caught up with the idea of alternate mythologies at the time.  The phrase struck me as a mythology I wanted to visually interpret.  With ‘Take Only What You Need’ the process was quite reversed.  The image came from a dream I had several years ago, the title did come with within the context of its own story, but followed the image in my mind.

NICHE: Is there any one feeling you want to evoke in the people who view your work?

PEARL HODGES: I’m not sure there’s any one feeling in particular I aim to provoke, but as an artist with a theater background, ideally I aim for any kind of connection.  I’m not particularly caught up as to whether a person takes my own interpretation from a piece or one that is their own, so much as they find some moment of interest and perhaps their own story within it.

NICHE: What can you tell us about your artistic process? That is, what medium do you work in, and why do you work in it? 

PEARL HODGES:  I consider myself highly variable as an artist, and on a whole I’m not particularly limited to one medium.  However, I lean most toward watercolor when working traditionally, and digitally, I do find that I create a lot of work that mimics my process there.  I admit I like both mediums as I’m someone who likes quick results.  I don’t tend to belabor pieces, and while digital can become a drawn out process, I favor a workflow that keeps results in a reasonably tight frame.  Perhaps not the best for my own artistic growth, but I like quick finished results where I can get them.  No drying times is a delight.  I think the style itself evolved naturally from there.  Favoring organic lines, bright colors, and wrenched out of a lot of influences, I do try to continually learn and grow to improve what I do.

NicheNo4NICHE: It doesn’t appear as if you limit yourself to one style. For instance, I see you work with clay as well. So I’m curious as to how your style has evolved over a span of four or five years?

PEARL HODGES: Honestly variety in medium has been an ongoing thing for me.  I have had access to art supplies and willing teachers since I was small, and I would bring my dad ideas as a kid and he would help me realize them.  The final result was always the most important thing over the process (apart from respecting the difficulties of it if need be) and so I’ve had both 2D and 3D in my background as long as I’ve been making things.  I’m not sure the development of what I do can be summed up in four or five years, as its been an ongoing process as long as I’ve been able to work on it, still, I’ve learned in that time to play to my strengths, yet remain open to growth.

NICHE: You’ve said elsewhere that you’ve been influenced by fantasy. Can you tell us a little more about that? Do you mean fantasy from books or graphic novels? Along the same lines, how has your theater experience influenced your art? 

 PEARL HODGES: Books, graphic novels, movies, tales, stories, anything fantastic, unusual, or weird catches my eye and has since I was small.  I think it’s a twofold thing, one, on the more serious side, everyone in their own way has their own fantasy, they are the hero of their own story and magnify their thoughts into dreams beyond their scope of life, whether it’s as simple as a promotion as work, or as elaborate as wurm riding swords and sorcery.  Humans need fantasy in their lives, and I find myself drawn to it.  The second part of this, however, is the part of me that just thinks dragons are rad.  As for theater, I feel my work there has given me a perspective into the relationship of viewer and artist that generally isn’t something visual artists are privy to.  It has highlighted the nature of complete work as an entity in and of itself that the artist no longer has control over.  The audience reaction is their own, and while the creator can direct and build it, the pay off is a tremendously personal thing.

NICHE: What advice would you give other artists who want to take up freelancing?

PEARL HODGES: Hm, I’d say the best thing to do is never mind the bollocks.  I mean, I think that’s what it all boils down to.  Freelancing is hard, making art is a skill, and there’s no other career where people simultaneously deride what you do as lacking in value while simultaneously demanding your services.  In the end, you just have to keep going, put your foot down, and make what you love.  I will say, finding the right market for your work is important too, its not always that there is something inherently wrong, just that you have to find your own niche (and it’s no easy feat, so… see the above I suppose too).

NICHE: Are you working on any special projects now?

Niche_5 copyPEARL HODGES:  Unfortunately as a freelancer who still has a day job (it is what it is) I don’t have a lot of time at the moment between it and commissioned work, however, I have a current and presently ongoing bestiary project cataloging and detailing an area of magic fallout called ‘The Darkening Wood’ the blog is here:

NICHE: Where can people buy or see your work?

I have quite a few places where people can see what I do!  I keep a personal portfolio at my website here: as well as a blog here where I post my own work, process sketches, casual personal works, and other ephemera here  I have an etsy shop where I sell a variety of odds and ends I’ve made as well as a Society6 shop where I sell prints of my work