Moveable Type: Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments
November 19, 2015
A conversation with Simmons Buntin, Editor in Chief
How did Terrain begin? Terrain.org began in 1997 just before fellow cofounder Todd Ziebarth and I graduated from the University of Colorado at Denver. We were interested in continuing our examinations of place, and particularly further exploring the intersection of the built and natural environments through literature, art, and design. Our goal was to create a beautiful magazine that explored place both pragmatically and poetically. Our first issue appeared in 1998. Since that time, we’ve expanded our offerings to include more interviews and editorials, but we’ve always had as a base poetry, nonfiction, fiction, artwork, and the Unsprawl case study, which examines a particular community with an eye toward sustainability. We were the first place-based online literary journal, and up until 2013 published theme-based issues. Since then, we’ve published on a rolling schedule, with two or three featured contributions per week, ad-free and at no cost to access.
Describe your decision making process for selecting work. While we do solicit some work, most of our contributions are submitted through our online submission manager. Terrain.org is not just an online publication but also a virtual organization. We have an international editorial board that serves in an advisory capacity, and some editorial board members—including Elizabeth Dodd, David Rothenberg, and Lauret Savoy—write columns. Additionally, we have a network of bloggers who maintain blog series, including recent dispatches from Hong Kong, Spain, and South America. I find it encouraging that contributors both urge other writers to submit, and also continue to submit themselves.
If your magazine has an ethos, what is it? I’d say Terrain.org is about beauty in an age of radical environmental change. Despite our subtitle of the built and natural environments, however, I think of Terrain.org as place-based more than environmental. Our agenda is literary and artistic versus political, if indeed you could separate the two.
After Terrain, what’s your favorite writing venue? I’ve always been a big fan of Orion magazine, and in fact Orion has long served as a model for Terrain.org.
What is your plan for the future? From a contribution perspective, we’ll continue to take advantage of our online medium and offer rich multimedia content. We already offer audio, image galleries, and some video, but we’d like to expand video and other tools for delivering the best place-based work. Organizationally, our parent organization, Terrain Publishing, has just achieved fiscal sponsorship, and ultimately we’ll expand our educational offerings to include writing workshops, artist residencies, design charettes, and community-building activities. But Terrain.org’s focus of publishing the best place-based literature, art, and design will always, I hope, remain our goal.