Interview: The Transgressions of Elizabeth MacDuffie
Interview conducted by Nolcha Fox
Magazines are more than just glossy pages filled with stories and images or text on a screen; they're a snapshot of culture, a window into our world, and a reflection of our values.
Behind every successful magazine is a team of dedicated professionals, including writers, photographers, designers, and, of course, editors. These editors are the masterminds behind the scenes, ensuring that every page is a perfect blend of information, entertainment, and inspiration.
Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with one such editor, Elizabeth MacDuffie, founder of Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, who has earned a reputation as a trailblazer in the industry. With years of experience under her belt, she has worked with some of the most influential people in the business, helping to shape the content that readers around the world have come to enjoy.
And while the industry may face its fair share of challenges, the passion and creativity of individuals like our guest are what keep it moving forward. So, to all the magazine editors out there - keep on pushing boundaries, keep on taking risks, and keep on telling the stories that matter. Because as Meat for Tea has shown us, magazines can change the world.
NF: Please tell me a little about your literary/artistic background.
EM: I did a double major in English and Visual Arts, with a German minor for my undergraduate degree, with a sub-specialization in British Tudor and Jacobean Literature. I was first assistant editor, then editor-in-chief, of the university’s arts & literary journal, “Impressions.” My M.A. was in Composition-Rhetoric, with a concentration in British Tudor and Jacobean Literature. While doing that degree I sat on the editorial board of “Dust and Fire,” a feminist literary journal. I went on to do most of a Ph.D. in Composition-Rhetoric.
NF: Where did the name Meat for Tea come from?
EM: That’s a funny story. Back in the days of My Space, a fellow asked me if I wanted to “meat for tea.” At the time I was adjunct faculty in English, so obviously, he didn’t get the date, but I very much liked how the words looked on the page, how the phrase almost skews palindrome. Meat for Tea was originally a band, which disbanded when members moved out of the area. On the fateful day when Alex suggested we create a literary journal, I know I wanted that to be the name.
NF: Alexandra Wagman is apparently no longer with Meat for Tea. What happened?
EM: Alex and I remain friends. She had a baby and simply didn’t have time to devote to the magazine anymore.
NF: How did Mark Alan Miller come into your life and into Meat for Tea?
EM: Mark Alan Miller and I met at a show years ago, when Meat for Tea had just begun. He was married at the time, so I simply gave him our business card and that was that. In 2008, we were Facebook friends and I was looking for films to show at the next magazine release party. Mark, divorce in progress, posted a vlog I quite liked and we met to talk about his involvement in that release party. The rest, as they say, is history, and he is now my husband, graphic designer for Meat for Tea and Meat for Tea Press, co-producer of the Meat for Teacast, and the love of my life.
NF: The Meat for Teacast includes interviews with all sorts of artists. What was your vision of the Teacast when you started it?
EM: The Meat for Teacast started organically. To celebrate the release of each issue of my quarterly publication, I produce a multimedia gala event, with art on exhibit, spoken word, films, and live music. Mark recorded the spoken word and the bands and we had a backlog of these event recordings, which we thought could be part of our podcast content. Because of Meat for Tea and the release parties, and also our social circle, Mark and I know lots of fascinating artists, writers, and musicians, and it just made sense to record conversations with them. During the pandemic shutdown, it was lovely to be able to visit with our friends in this manner.
NF: What made you decide to form Meat for Tea Press?
EM: I started Meat for Tea Press reluctantly, at the urging of Michael Alves. I felt he would do just as well to self-publish as to do a book with us, but he was persistent and became the author of our first chapbook, “My Father Is Voting for Donald Trump and Other reasons My Life Is Going to Hell.”
NF: Let’s talk about John Yamrus and his latest book, “Twenty Four Poems.” How did you and John initially connect?
EM: I discovered John on Facebook. If I recall properly, he’d shared some videos of his poetry readings. I was impressed with his writing and he became one of my first solicited submissions. He’s a frequent contributor to Meat for tea and has been for years.
NF: What made you decide to publish “Twenty Four Poems?”
EM: When John suggested we publish a book of his poems, I was honored to be given the opportunity. He’s a wonderful poet.
NF: Which are your favorite poems in John’s book, and why?
EM: It’s such a stellar book that it’s difficult to single out a few favorites. Honestly, I love the whole thing. However, if forced, “the poet sent me,” “it seems,” and “Shostakovich” hold special appeal for me. There’s a puckish humor in these poems, but that humor runs through most of John’s work.
NF: Tell me about your events. What inspires you to do them?
EM: I’ve held the release parties, or the Cirques, since the very first issue of Meat for Tea. There are increasingly few opportunities for artists working in a range of disciplines to connect, admire each other’s work, and form community. I’m proud of the vibrant community that’s come into being through the Cirques.
NF: Besides the “Dark” issue, what projects are you working on now?
EM: So many. We are getting our next book, “Midnight Glossolalia” by Scott Ferry, Lil Akov, and Lauren Scharhag, ready for a hopefully late February or early March release. We also have two manuscripts in the hopper after that. I’m collaborating with local gallery owner, Jean Pierre Pasche, creating a poetry/art event this February, and also hosting the local live poetry series “Unbuttoned” that same evening. We have the third part of our conversations with our Pushcart nominees yet to record for the next episode of the podcast. I’m also making sure I have the exhibiting artist and filmmaker for the March 11th, 17th anniversary, Cirque. The bands are already booked, thank goodness. I’ll be gathering ad revenue I’ll use to print the “Dark” issue too. Additionally, I belong to a book club that meets quite soon to discuss Genevieve Plunkett’s cool short story collection, “Prepare Her.” I like to try to make time to do my own writing, make art, and play piano.
NF: How do you plan to expand Meat for Tea in the future?
EM: We might start doing full-length books if we have the bandwidth. I’d also like to see Meat for Tea getting adopted for teaching in high school and college classes. It’s important to teach living artists and writers.
End of Interview
Nolcha Fox has written all her life, starting with crayons on the walls. Her poems have been published in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Alien Buddha Zine, Medusa’s Kitchen, and others. Her three chapbooks are available on Amazon.
Elizabeth MacDuffie, along with Alexandra Wagman, founded Meat for Tea: The Valley Review in 2006. Elizabeth and her husband, Mark Alan Miller, were thrilled to win first place in the 57th and 58th Annual New England Book Show, and even more thrilled to place best in the literary magazine category in the 60th Annual New England Book Show. In addition Elizabeth, Mark, and Michael Alves formed Meat for Tea Press in 2014. The press now has seven titles, including the recent release of Twenty Four Poems by John Yamrus. Mark and Elizabeth also started a podcast, the Meat for Teacast in 2019 and is now in its fourth season, and has ranked highly on Goodpods in both the indie performing arts and the indie arts categories. Elizabeth and Mark are also excited about the upcoming release of the “Dark” issue on March 11th, 2023, which they’ll celebrate with a multi-media gala event at Abandoned Building Brewery in Easthampton to mark the 17th anniversary of the magazine.