guest post from founder & editor Brenna Kischuk
Pioneertown – the namesake of this literary journal – recently made headlines thanks to a New York Times article that alludes to the town’s growing presence among artists and non-artists alike. Indeed, the feature captures many of the wonderful things about the tiny desert enclave: creativity, exploration, a strong and quiet beauty. But most importantly, it calls attention to a place that continues to reinvent itself, that continues to evolve and exist as both authentic and ongoing.
Coming up with a name for this project felt as important as naming a child. I wanted the name to reflect the openness and innovation I hoped to encounter, to capture an aesthetic and draw work that thought and felt and spoke in new ways. And while a name cannot in and of itself determine the direction of any one thing, it is a reflection of its makers, a push in some direction, and a beacon to call you home.
After nearly eight years in Chicago, I am again living in my home state of California. In those eight years I’d rarely gone more than a month without dipping my toes in the Pacific thanks to an ever-constant calendar of holidays, weddings, babies, birthdays, and the occasional funeral. Despite my frequent visits out west I felt Chicago was my home. The city brought me love, loss, and literature – in no particular order – and became a part of my identity in a way that I never allowed Los Angeles to access.
It is easy to leave Chicago in January. It is easy to move near the beach, to watch the earth move as the sun sinks into the ocean. It is less easy, however, to come home. My relationship with California is complex, and with Los Angeles, even more so. In my eight years away I was constantly fielding questions about why someone would choose to leave Los Angeles, and while answering with a laundry list of the wonderful things Chicago has to offer (Museums! Culture! Seasons! Friendly people! Cheap beer!), I was silently asking myself why anyone would ever stay. But, as my visits to The Golden State might suggest, I could never really shake Los Angeles. And now, I find myself once more only 115 miles west of Pioneertown.
I’ve always felt grounded in open spaces. The vastness of the Mojave made me feel small, but significant. The loneliness of joshua trees and tumbleweeds made me feel less alone. As soon as I could drive I’d bring a book and recline on the hood of my car, reading until the desert light was too far gone. The trips were an escape in all the ways one might expect, but the escape felt uniquely my own and was arguably healthier than many of the other ways I tend to seek cover. These sentiments rang true with what I hoped to find in this literary endeavor, and when pioneertown popped into my head, the journal was born.
We often underestimate the gravity of change. We rely too heavily on the familiar. I’ve returned to a new Los Angeles and acquired a new life in a relatively short amount of time. The move brings many exciting and wonderful things, but it is also accompanied by the loss of Chicago, and the loss of a Los Angeles that I’d held onto for too long. I am staring squarely in the eyes of the person I was eight years ago, watching a reel of old patterns and stale feelings. My frequent visits were perhaps a misguided attempt to be in two places at once, an effort to stop time. But this place, and the people I love who live here, obviously and simply and beautifully go on. Now, I must find my footing among friends as someone who is here, and not simply passing through.
Five months. I have yet to drive east since coming home but, for now, the idea of it – and the words held here in pioneertown, are enough. I have yet to write very many words of my own in this new old place, under the weight of change. The words will come. The past and present will continue to converge and rearrange, a dust devil rising from sand to sky.
Brenna Kischuk is a writer and editor with a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was also a Teaching Fellow. She is the founder and editor of pioneertown literary journal and executive editor of The Angle Magazine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in STORY magazine, The Empty Bottle Chicago: 21+ Years of Music / Friendly / Dancing (Curbside Splendor), NOÖ Journal, theEEEL (from tNY Press), Queen Mob's Teahouse, HTMLGIANT, Chicago Arts Journal, Matchbook Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.