Introduction to the
History of The Dead Mule
2021 means the mule’s been Online for TWENTY-FIVE years. Rebuilt three times, now hosted by GoDaddy. Yup, 1996. Ain’t that sumpin’?
We once had a big old page about us, this is me reconstructing what I recall that was on it…
Everybody stays south of somewhere, remember that for your Southern Legitimacy Statement. It’s what we’ve been saying for 25 years! Have fun reading about us. We sure do spend a lot of time reading about you! (thank you all for your amazing southern legitimacy statements)
Valerie MacEwan, Publisher and Editor
Let us begin:
*First off, the Mule was compromised in 2015, so if you want to read what we published from around 2003 to 2015, you’ll need to go to our WordPress-hosted blog at TheDeadMule.wordpress.com and you’ll find over a thousand posts. We’re working to restore the Old Mule but most of our archival work is done over @wordpress.
The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature began as (if I can recall correctly) the Eastern North Carolina Literary Journal funded by a grant by the NC Arts Council and initially supported by the Pamlico Writer’s Group in Washington, NC in 1996.
As most often happens, editorial differences took center stage to publication reality and we broke away from the group before the journal’s first “paper” limited edition hit the bookstores (remember them?). We will always ALWAYS be indebted to the group for their support, particularly Jerry Cuthrell (RIP) and Harley Dartt who initiated the idea of applying for funding during the Literary round of grants from the NC Arts Council in 1996.
Back in the day, writer’s group meetings met at Mr. Cuthrell’s office out on River Road. It was a wonderful supportive close-knit group. We’d all make copies of up to 6 pages of our work and go around the room, reading our latest words. Then the rest of the room would critique our offering. It was rural, small town south in its politeness and the kind attitude everyone had toward respecting the amount of work it takes to write as well as the amount of courage it takes to read one’s work to an audience for critique. Hats off to the Group.
It’s this small town background that fostered the kindness and cordiality of the Dead Mule’s editors when accepting or declining a piece of writing. We understand how much time it takes to write as well as how difficult it is for someone to offer up that bit of their soul to strangers to judge. Y’all are wonderful. We truly are nothing if not for our writers. Publications live and breathe by the written word and our writers amaze and confound us. Hats off to you all! Each month we publish 10-20 new pieces of work (each month! 25 years online!).
Onward and upward, back to the Mule’s history:
Then Beaufort County Arts Council, now The Arts of the Pamlico, a regional arts council, served as our fiscal agent for the original print edition. Once the edition reached publication/distribution stage, the Council ceased acting in that capacity as the grant money was spent and the fiscal agent/monitor role was a no longer necessary. The Mule became autonomous, so to speak.
Since that time, the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature has been bought and paid for solely by Robert and Valerie MacEwan. Twenty-five years of server fees, domain registration fees and more, all paid for by the MacEwan family. At one point, John Biggs, writer extraordinaire, hosted the site for free on his Big Wide Logic machine. That was a long long time ago but we’re still grateful to him. $
It’s never been totaled but the amount figures to be a decent amount, what with monthly fees in the early days. It used to cost $60 to register a domain name and to hold it for a year. Multiply time spent at some random writer’s hourly wage (let’s say $20 an hour, rather than figure by the word) doing all the editing, formatting, publishing, correspondence resulting in the journal every month and you’d get a gazillion in mule dollars.
This year we had to pay to secure the site and for 10 years of the deadmule.com domain name. We had to pay for a managed WordPress account on GoDaddy and our fees totaled over $500 by the time we were through with a 2 year run. Shit. That’s a lot of money but we can’t stop now, can we? We moved the domain name registration from GANDI.NET to GoDaddy.com and were able to pay for secure hosting and managed word press.
Yes, it cost around $500 or more by the time we were done with it all but it means we have backups, won’t be hacked, and have that nice little lock, see it in the URL? That lock is closed! because we paid the fees to have the site https and secure. It costs us around $450 a year (a little more) to run a managed WordPress site on GoDaddy, a secure one so we don’t get hacked again. Yes, once again, let me say — the MacEwan’s pay for it all. The Mule does not charge reading fees.
So, here’s a quick web lesson. If the lock in the URL isn’t closed, the site is insecure. Don’t buy anything from a site without a closed lock and personally, if they can’t afford to have a secure site, question their legitimacy. Question everything, hell, it’s the internet… we’re as paranoid as the next literary journal. My but we do go on, don’t we? We as in me.
Yup, and the cost of labor would greatly overwhelm any other figure.
We’d owe Helen Losse at least a two-week cruise on one of those European river boats … and some time, when money falls upon us like rain drops from heaven, we’ll put her on some cruise.
What a primer in online costs, eh? Adding it all up would still equal 24 – 25 years online, so we figure cost is irrelevant.
Why “The Dead Mule”?
Flash back to 1995 as discussion of creating a literary journal ensues amongst this small group of writer friends. It seemed then that we would be a regional journal and hence Eastern NC Literary Journal seemed apropos to our mission. In 1996, Dr. Jerry Leath Mills gave (I believe) a copy of his soon to be published work on Equine Signifiers in Southern Literature to Harley Dartt. [the link is to revision of Dr. Mills’ original article which is published on Project Muse as The Dead Mule Rides Again. Access to the original article is on “jstor” and not readily available.] Dartt then commented on what a great name that would be for a journal and for that — we are eternally grateful. Grateful to both Jerry Mills and to Dartt for giving us the notion to coin the phrase:
“No good Southern Fiction Is Complete Without a Dead Mule”.
We’ve been here for 25 years, quietly accepting some of the finest poetry, fiction, essays and interviews online. Now we’re working to restore the 1990’s writing while simultaneously publishing new issues every month. Thanks to the newly minted most current and high and mighty brouhaha of the Mule: Our Assistant Editor CL Bledsoe, we’ve caught up with our immense backlog (pretty much caught up) and are offering up a huge helping of goodness on the first through the third day of every month.
More to come… like details about how poet Helen Losse ramped up our poetry and helped us to publish poets laureates from many southern states including NC’s own Joseph Bathanti… and the unflagging support of our dear Phoebe Kate Foster as Fiction Editor. And the never-ending presence of Darrell Grayson’s poetry on the Mule.
Everyone is south of somewhere. Send us your writing and your southern legitimacy statement today!
Editor/Publisher/Founder of the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.
From TheDeadMule.WordPress.com website,
we reiterate the “old” about page found on that site:
*most of this information is from the very old 1990’s Dead Mule about page.
…AND, is published monthly at
We love The South.
We appreciate all the quirks, follies, and faults that have brought the region to where it is today. If our beloved “below the Mason-Dixon Line – self” gives way to the influences of a status quo world which requires all people to be of one idea — to walk in lock-step with all others — we cease to be The South.
Simply put Let us celebrate the individual. The South revels in individuality. Freedom and the right to be southern. It’s not a curse-word, or a curse. It’s just little old us. Not one race, not one religion, and certainly not just one cause — the South contains all sides of all arguments. And lots of those sides are awful, just awful so we don’t pay them any webspace. They’re not worth the breath it takes to dispute them.
Help the best of The South stay as is. Let the bitter past be studied –not re-lived — and let us not seek to destroy a unique culture. Remember, please, we are not simply a bunch of back-ass swamp-dwelling moonshine-drinking raccoon-hunting mother f’ers. We are arguably the last true bastion of individuality left in the US. The Dead Mule Southern Legitimacy Statement is about describing those things which are uniquely southern, wherever you are you are in some South.
The great, the bad and the ugly all come together and learn to survive right here along with the no-see ums, bullfrogs, water moccasins, tadpoles and crawdads. Embrace us. Nary a one of us owns a rebel flag.
Enjoy every new Mule issue. And remember, the south is just a place. And everyone is south of somewhere.
THE DEAD MULE SCHOOL OF SOUTHERN LITERATURE:
Founded in 1995 [Historical Dead Mule Faculty and Alumni will be republished here soon, it’s a massive list.] Began publishing, as you already know, in 1996.
Originally, the Mule was a traditional print literary journal supported in part by a grant from theNorth Carolina Arts Council. Note should be taken here that Ellen Roberson drew the original dead mule. After fulfilling grant specifications and publishing an inaugural paper copy of the Dead Mule, the Mule went online as a private publication supported by Valerie and Robert MacEwan, Ruth Heinold, and through Dead Mule Gear sales receipts. We’ve never asked for money to help pay for publication online. The bottom line is, server space was graciously donated by John Biggs on BigWideLogic for a while, we used Digital Space for a few years and then we were severely hacked (even the backups were compromised), and now we use GoDaddy. The Dead Mule is published in The South, USA.
The Mule does not discriminate but good taste and superb quality supersede all other criteria.
We also do not publish our contributor’s bios or previous publication credits. Google does a very good job of this for us.
Copyright “Creative Commons but also, we;d like to copy Half Drunk Muse’s copyright statement because it’s a good one. Obviously we’ve inserted our name:
Submission to and acceptance by Dead Mule grants us first electronic and indefinite archive rights. All other rights revert to the author upon publication. Please credit Dead Mule as the first publisher if you reprint elsewhere; we like seeing our name in print, too. Writer’s agreeing to be published on the Dead Mule also grant the right of the Mule to read their work on Brain Fertilizer, our podcast. If one does not wish to be read on the podcast, please tell us.
With gratitude and affection, we give thanks to those friends who have helped and encouraged us through the years:
Helen Losse is the Mule’s amazing Poetry Editor Emeritus as you well should know. Without Helen – quite simply put – there would be no poetry section on the Mule. Her hard work and determination set the Mule apart from other literary journals as her high standards and vast knowledge assure readers the finest poetry available anywhere – online or not.
Caroline Anthony Atkins
Jane and Andy Olsen
Kevin Blankenship – past co-editor/poetry
Danny Lee Ingram
the ever-fantastic Mr. Tim Bullard the original Mule Friend
Gideon C. Kennedy
G. C. Smith
and many more…
Wow, did ya’ll really read all that? Well, thanks for paying attention. It’s been a rough year, this Covid 2020 moving into Covid 2021, but that didn’t stop us from publishing truly phenomenal writing. Read back over the year and you won’t find any whining or grumpy behavior, you’ll just find quality work by quality folks. Maybe writing is what keeps people going throughout this shit time. We’re not accepting writing today (Dec 15, 2020) but we will begin accepting again in January 2021 for Fall issues, probably into winter.