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Guest post: Plenitude Magazine: Putting It Out There
This most recent post is by Andrea Routley. Thank you, Andrea!
On September 1st, 2012, I released the first issue of Plenitude Magazine, a literary magazine which publishes queer writers. In about four weeks, I’ll release Issue 2. And things are going really well. Issue 1 included pieces from both emerging and established writers such as Betsy Warland, Alex Leslie and Nancy Jo Cullen. Not only has Plenitude received stellar reviews, but we’ve had great interviews too–with CBC, CFUV, Monday Magazine, and more.
I’m fortunate to have the support of an Advisory Editorial Board which includes The Malahat Review editor and poet, John Barton, poet and novelist Arleen Paré, reviewer and scholar L. Chris Fox, filmmaker Maureen Bradley, and playwright and screenwriter Sara Graefe. To date, I’ve received hundreds of submissions from writers not only from Canada and the US, but also Germany, Philippines, UK, Ireland, Italy, and Malaysia.
Although I have this amazing support, the bulk of the work is still a one-person show: marketing, reading submissions, replying to queries and other emails, designing the issue, web maintenance. A couple of years ago, I couldn’t even make a spreadsheet, and now I’m using graphic design programs and customizing web pages.
In an earlier post here, Kerry Clare responds to CWILA’s report on the gender disparity among book reviewers and the authors of those books reviewed by urging us to get writing! It’s one thing to point out the disparity; it’s another thing to do the work of correcting it.
So I thought I’d share my “do the work” story of How Plenitude came to be.
I’m a 32-year-old lesbian who first came out in 1996 as the homo in my high school. So I have a 90s brand of queer consciousness.
That’s old news. Skip ahead. Whatever film and literature featuring queer characters or themes I do encounter most often revolve around Coming Out, Shame, or AIDS, and the story usually ends in either Death by Disease, Death by Suicide, Death by Drugs, or hooking up with the opposite sex (Ah! Redemption, right?).
Eventually, I enter a university writing program. The more I write, the more I notice patterns in my stories. For example, why are my mothers always absent? (Sorry, Mom!). Why are my men always stumbling to make sense of a confusing world around them? (No comment). Why do I never write about romantic/sexual relationships in my stories?
So then I write a couple. The first one is about (drum roll!) . . . Gay Shame! Okay, I think, I guess I needed to get that one out of my system. The next one is about myth-making, and uncovering cultural/spiritual history, specifically queer history and myth.
The workshop: Theories about “who is really a man” and “who is really a woman.” Theories about Gay Shame. Theories about the story as a Coming Out narrative.
So I think to myself, Canada needs a venue where we don’t have to write our way past these queer narratives that have dominated mainstream film and television. I don’t want to clarify the sexual history of every character because the “Average Reader” (read: straight) is unfamiliar with queer histories and cultures, for example. If I did that, then every story would be like a new conversation with a stranger. If we’re always introducing ourselves, how can we really dig in?
From our mandate: “Plenitude aims to complicate expressions of queerness through the publication of diverse, sophisticated literary writing, art and film, from the very subtle to the brash and unrelenting.”
But, as Kerry Clare pointed out, putting yourself out there—whether pitching book reviews, editing anthologies, or publishing a magazine—can be scary. When I started working on Plenitude, I was still an undergraduate student. I’d had a couple of things published, but I was—and still am—far, far from being an “established” writer or editor. When I edited Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women (Caitlin Press, 2010), I was a second-year college student with no experience at all. But it’s natural to feel like you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You just know something needs to be done.
Here’s how I think it usually works:
Step 1: You see something that troubles you. You update your Facebook status to inform your oh-so-intimate network of loved ones about this. You receive some frowny faces. Someone who comments clearly does not get you at all.
Step 2: You browse the blogosphere on the topic and slum it in the comment section. Bad idea! Bad! You rant to a real-life fleshy human friend over coffee.
Step 3: You rant to more friends. The subject of your rants is “they.” If only they did this or that. You email some exhausted, under-staffed non-profit your ideas. No one responds. You think this is rude.
You consider the idea that YOU might do something about it, and talk to your friends about that. To your surprise, this is much more interesting to them. To your even greater surprise, it is even interesting to people you admire and have never even met in person. People don’t seem to think of you as a hack. So you make big plans. You set the wheels in motion.
And that’s it.
It seems abrupt to stop there, but that’s really the toughest part. So write those queries, pitch that story, offer to help that under-staffed non-profit. Click “send.”
Andrea Routley is the editor of Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women (Caitlin Press, 2010), and the editor and founder of Plenitude Magazine. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as The Malahat Review and Room Magazine, and in 2008, she was shortlisted for the Rona Murray Prize for Literature for her poem “For Helen M. Winslow and her Love of Finer Things.” She completed a degree in writing from the University of Victoria.
Subscriptions to Plenitude Magazine are $10/year (2 issues), and may be purchased at www.PlenitudeMagazine.ca
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