There are lots of great ‘literary’ journals in Australia – Overland, Meanjin, GoingDownSwinging, The Sleepers Almanac, Etchings, Kill Your Darlings, and the list goes on. These are journals that have been around a while and have become iconic in the literary community.
Then there’s the newer journals that are always popping up, or trying to establish themselves. This is a route we’ve gone through ourselves with [untitled], so we can empathise with the evolution many of these journals are undertaking. What usually occurs is that enthusiasm fuels the creative staff behind the first issue, and possibly the second.
Then reality sets in.
In honesty, there’s not a lot (if any) money (as in profit) in producing a journal, and it’s improbable (although I guess not impossible) that one will ever suddenly go viral and become a bestseller, the way something like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray did. The production of these journals are (pardon the cliché) labours of love.
They’re also a lot of hard work – reading, reading, editing, editing, editing, layout and design, proofreading, not to mention all the administrative work underpinning each endeavour. Some of our interns might read hundreds of stories in any given year. Our editors might read the same story fifteen times as they work with the author to get the best out of it.
The reward for this is the promotion of new and emerging talent in the Australian literary landscape. Either you’ll recognise the names that are becoming immediately familiar (e.g. Ryan O’Neill, A.S. Patric, Laurie Steed) or you’ll stumble upon names you’d previously never known existed.
Whatever the case, every one of those authors (like so many of us) is trying to get somewhere with their writing. Motivations may vary somewhat, as well as aspirations. Some might write as a hobby; some might do it with the hope of producing a best-seller. But, ultimately, we all write because we want to tell stories and, theoretically, a story’s not a story until an audience is there to read it. Otherwise, it’s just words on a page.
Australia produces a lot of talent. Unfortunately, whilst Australia’s arts community is healthy, and whilst there are some great funding bodies out there trying their best, the arts – whether it’s in publishing, in filmmaking, in music, et al – struggle for financing. The money just isn’t here the way it is the US, or the UK. Obviously, the logistics are different but, still, we have a financially malnourished arts community.
And yet we still manage to produce quality in all these fields. It’d be fantastic if more people could get a look in, but sometimes you just have to work with what you have at your disposal.
Which brings us back to journals. We all know about the heavyweights. But spare a thought for the newer journals that are trying to forge reputations for themselves. If you’re a reader, buy them, subscribe to them, support them. If you’re a writer, submit to them, contribute to building their foundation, become a part of their legacy.
One new journal is Asterism, headed by one of Busybird’s interns and assistant editors, Danielle Gori. Asterism is looking for everything – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, travel pieces, interviews, and artwork (paintings, pencil drawings, illustrations, photography, comic strips). Check them out and like them on Facebook.
Support your journals. It’s hard enough for writers and artists to make it here, so it’s always helpful (and encouraging!) to get a shoulder to lean on.