Q&A: Lisa Lucas Looks to Guernica’s Future

Cat Richardson

Lisa Lucas, the volunteer publisher of Guernica for the past two years, recently became its first-ever paid staff member and will continue her role as publisher in a new, full-time capacity. Along with announcing her appointment, the ten-year-old online magazine of art and politics is celebrating its continuing success in a number of ways: by launching an initiative to pay its writers, who previously contributed on a volunteer basis; by publishing a print edition (the 2014 Guernica Annual, which after a successful crowdfunding campaign over the summer was released in October); and by throwing a gala this month at New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image. As she prepares to guide the magazine into its second decade, Lucas speaks about the past and future of Guernica.

What’s different now that you’re coming on full-time as Guernica’s publisher?
I was laughing about this with a friend—“we announced that I have the exact same job!” But coming on full-time means I’m not distracted and can take some of the burden off the staff. Everyone has a paying job [outside of the magazine], and on top of that they’re spending hours and hours sneaking Guernica in before breakfast, sneaking it in at lunch, because everybody loves it so much. There’s nothing that I’m more passionate about or believe in more. Now more of our ideas can be made real more quickly, whereas sometimes we took a year to do something because there just wasn’t the manpower.

Guernica has always been digital. Why a print annual?
It’s tangible and beautiful. You can actually see the breadth and scope of all the work that the contributors and editors have been doing, and I think that really commemorates the past year. Digital media is tricky because the way you interact with it is all over the place—you see a link on Facebook or Twitter, then maybe scroll through, but it’s difficult to see the whole picture, which is easier to see in print.

How would you like to see the magazine grow?
We want to continually think about voice, and the people represented in our pages, and how that reflects the world. We’ve always tried to be diverse. For me, being a person of color in an industry where there aren’t a ton of them means that you push harder. Our staff is very diverse right now, and that changes what the work is like. Everyone’s curiosity is different, and the writers they know and the networks they move in are different. And I think everyone can always do better, even Guernica. It’s not that we’re not thoughtful. [The founding editors] are global in their thinking across the board, and I want to respect and honor that while also acknowledging that we’re not flawless. No one is. Except Beyoncé—she woke up like that. We have to do the work, and we have to think about speaking to new audiences. I want more people to come to the table and feel invited. I want to speak to them through the writers we publish, how we market and disseminate the work, and to make sure we’re paying attention.

What are you holding on to as Guernica moves forward?
Guernica has always known what it is as a magazine. We were digital in 2004, which was pretty early. There were no guidelines and no money being exchanged, so we were able to just be honest and work hard, and do things we believe in, and work with people we love. I came in at year eight, but that was the feeling then—and is very much the feeling that still exists—and it’s really beautiful. Retaining that spirit as we plan for what we want to be at twenty-five is an interesting challenge. It’s important to think internationally, and to be intricate, and edit beautifully in a digital setting, and now it’s groundwork time.

Cat Richardson is the managing editor of Bodega Magazine and a poetry editor at Phantom Limb Press.