Debutiful was born on December 11, 2018 in a gray cubicle in a suburb of Phoenix. It was a conglomeration of factors that led to it and without a very specific series of events, this project would never have existed.
I had been interviewing authors for various sites, primarily Electric Literature and The Millions since 2015. Though I had the opportunity to interview the likes of Jesmyn Ward and Michael Chabon, I primarily interviewed emerging authors. I started scouring for debuts and pitching my editors conversations with them.
In 2018, I began working part-time at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix. My duties, other than being a bookseller, included event hosting (aka schmoozing with authors and introducing their reading) and helping run their social media. Twice a year the bookstore hosts First Fiction, where three debut authors read from their work and take questions. It’s a supersized author event that also is incredibly cozy. The first one I attended was Joseph Cassara, Fatima Farheen Mirza, and Tommy Orange. The room was electric. It felt different than any other event I had ever gone to.
Months later, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, R.O. Kwon, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras came through. I was politely invited out for drinks after by R.O. and Ingrid, but Nana couldn’t make it because he had to fly out at 6am the next morning. During that late night conversation, I was drawn to how the authors spoke about their debut year experience. I wanted to know more about their experiences and how they handled life on the road going from bookstore to bookstore.
That was in November. I began mulling over a podcast idea, but that seemed daunting. I’m not sure when exactly I thought of the name, but I quickly purchased the domain on December 11, 2018. It was actually another podcast that kicked my idea into gear. Stephen Fishbach (of Survivor fame) announced a podcast called Paraphrase, which explored the literary beginning of authors. Not necessarily debut authors.
I purchased the domain on a whim and started emailing publicists for authors who released their debut in 2018 to see if I could do a quick 5 question Q&A via email with them. Rachel Lyon and Joseph Cassara, both of whom I previously interviewed for Electric Literature responded. Once I new I had content, I quickly began figuring out how to make Debutiful a real thing.
There have been lots of growing pains, but for the most part running this DIY literary website has gone pretty smoothly and received great feedback that I am extremely gracious for.
I have a few more interviews popping up as the year winds down. Plus, the special, supersized episode of the podcast is launching on 12/23 that includes conversations with Kimberly King Parsons, Melissa Rivero, John Englehardt, and Lauren Wilkinson. You can subscribe to the podcast and learn more about it here.
Thank y’all so much. I love this site that makes me negative dollars per year and will keep doing it because I truly believe books can save the world.