Live más, write más.
There are those who enjoy the occasional Cheesy Gordita Crunch or Soft Taco Supreme. And then there are those who really love Taco Bell enough to express their sincere devotion through essays, poems and short stories in a literary magazine dedicated solely to the fast-food franchise.
Baltimore-based writer M.M. Carrigan cultivated a creative community with the Taco Bell Quarterly that’s anything but cheesy. Not affiliated with the purveyors of the bargain burritos, TBQ (for short) is on a mission to make literature and publishing more accessible, united by a passion for the chalupa chain.
Carrigan, 39, who prefers they/them pronouns, told The Post that they were tired of waiting to be “blessed” by an Oprah Book Club endorsement.
“There’s a lot of us nobody writers out there,” said Carrigan, whose second issue of TBQ is currently live online. “We don’t really feel a part of the literary world.”
The homepage hypes TBQ as “a reaction against everything,” including “The gatekeepers. The taste-makers. The hipsters. Health food. Artists Who Wear Cute Scarves” and “Bitch-ass Wendy’s.”
With poems such as”Imagining Our Taco Bell Wedding” by Gail Bello and an essay, “The Taco Bell in My Hometown Is on Fire” about adolescent memories by Brandon Mead, the mag invites writers of all merit — “whether you’re published in ‘The Paris Review,’ rejected from ‘The Paris Review,’ or [don’t give a f–k] what ‘The Paris Review’ is” — to contribute to the magazine.
Carrigan’s hope for TBQ, which they assured us is neither an advertisement nor a “viral gimmick,” is to create a welcoming space for the hungry writers of suburbia.
“Looking at where the literary world is, you think of New York, you think of LA,” Carrigan said. “[But] most of us are living in the suburbs next to three McD’s, two Taco Bells, a Wendy’s, a Burger King … We’re kind of writing about our lives living near strip malls.”
The first issue of TBQ published in August 2019. Before that, Carrigan was just another parent of two and struggling writer who longed to see their work in the New Yorker.
“I had an existential crisis, as writers do,” said Carrigan, who took the frustrated energy to Twitter. “I tweeted, ‘I’m gonna make a Taco Bell quarterly and get on top of the literary world,” and it got nine likes. I never get nine likes!”
Emboldened by the support on social media, Carrigan, who works as a recruiter in the mental health industry, wrote an essay about Taco Bell a few years ago: “It was just 2,000 words of psychodramatic therapy through the muse of Taco Bell.” Carrigan then wondered whether Taco Bell might serve as a conduit of inspiration for other artists.
“I think I’ve tapped into something,” said Carrigan. “There is … so much metaphorically to play around with.”
Carrigan says many writers who submitted to the first two editions were published for the very first time in TBQ, but they hope to coax a few bold names into the book, eventually.
“I want Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates to submit something. And I tell them we pay in exposure because I’m broke,” they joked.
For now, hundreds of submissions from fledgling poets, short story and nonfiction writers, and visual artists are pouring in for the third volume.
“We’re getting to the top, so, the New Yorker is going to have to make room,” Carrigan said.