Introducing Okey-Panky

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[Editors note: Okay-Panky is a new weekly online magazine of short, darkly comic, ironic, and experimental fiction, essay, poetry, and graphic narrative published by Electric Literature. We are throwing a launch party for Okey-Panky in NYC on January 8th. Please join us!]

Back in the early nineties, my not-yet-wife Rhian Ellis came up with an idea for a literary magazine: Five bucks would get you the magazine, a muffin, and the hot beverage of your choice, and it would take you around the same amount of time to finish all three. She devised a visual and literary aesthetic: offbeat, darkly comic, a bit oblique. The magazine was called Teacup. Rhian enlisted my help, and we sold it in the coffee shops and bookstores of Missoula, Montana, where we lived. The first few issues were stapled; the last couple, perfect bound. We were surprised at how many of our favorite writers were willing to throw in: Stephen Dixon, Heather McHugh, Charles Simic (“I like your little mag,” he wrote us in response to our pleading query). Friends destined for great things contributed: Ed Skoog, Andrew Sean Greer. Art came from our pal Science Woman, from Rhian’s sister, and from the children’s writer Aliki. We took real pleasure in gathering evidently incompatible works and combining them into a pleasing whole. It was less than a slick, but more than a zine. It was its own thing.

Teacup only lasted a few issues, but we’ve wanted to follow up on it for years. This past summer, I accidentally came up with the phrase “Okey-Panky” while pursuing a writing prompt, and Rhian joked that that should be our magazine. A month later, I was in Brooklyn, hatching a plot with the EL gang. Okey-Panky would be dedicated to brevity, eccentricity, and dark humor. It would publish every Monday morning, which is when you desperately need something short and weird. We recruited Skoog to hunt down some poetry, and Alice Bolin to find new and uncategorizable writers. I would look for cartoonists, because I love indie comics and have long thought they deserved to live alongside traditional literary forms. (Mainstream Lit? The MSL?)

We’re thrilled to have a few months’ worth of great new writing ready to go, and are eager to see what comes in when we open next month for general submissions. Each week we’ll bring you fiction, poetry, essay, graphic narrative, or whatever, followed by brief (of course) interviews with the writers, and audio and video clips of them reading and working.

Okey-Panky is going to be low-key, but, we hope, always interesting. We’re the spray of plastic flowers pulled from the magician’s tux pocket, the horse that can do long division, a dirty joke from the Mother Superior. We’re the streetlight that flickers as you walk underneath. We’re the robin building a nest out of Christmas tinsel. We’re Silly Putty, except when we’re Serious Putty. We’re a virtuoso tambourinist, a left on red, your hot French-Canadian cousin. See you every Monday at

J. Robert Lennon

Editor-in-Chief of Okey-Panky

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