Monday, 9 September 2013

On Lighthouse Literary Journal: a Guest Blog

Lighthouse Literary Journal - How we Lit the Lamp (1)

Wake Up And
smell the coffee
smell the coughing
the cacophony
the cafard
the cavern 
wake up and smell Cavafy
wake up and smell Cephalonia
smell the kaftan
smell the kif
the kofte
the Kiefer
the O’Keefe
wake up and smell the cufflink
wake up and smell the coffin

Paul Stephenson
From issue #2 of Lighthouse Literary Journal

When George asked me to write a guest blog for his page about Lighthouse literary journal, I thought that it was a perfect opportunity to reflect on where we came from and where we’re heading. A little over a year and a half ago, I was approached by Tom Corbett, the managing director of Gatehouse Press, an award winning independent publisher, to see if I was interested in joining the board of directors and putting some energy into moving the press forward, and ye gods, turn a profit which could be invested back into publishing.

I had been thinking about creating a journal for a while, but didn’t have the framework in which to support a serious launch. Gatehouse offered an opportunity – it had key structures in place such as web development, typesetting and a long relationship with a printer. What we needed was the rationale to launch another journal, and a team of people to work as editors and advocates. Another driving force was the fact that I was about to become a father, my daughter arriving in mid October 2012. I wanted to fight the ‘pushchair in the hall’ mentality head on, and be involved in making something happen. On reflection, becoming a father probably made things easier, as I spent lots of time at home, finding time during baby naps and walks to email and generally chat about stuff on the phone.

Two things struck me: the first was that there is a huge amount of people on creative writing courses. Have a quick look on UCAS, or Google and you’ll find that the majority of universities offer the complete creative writing package from BA up to PhD. When you think that an average BA course probably has around 40 learners, that’s a lot of people who want to be published. The second thing that struck me was that there are not many magazines that take on emerging writers as editors or even work as a team. (NB The Rialto is currently fielding a scheme that is worth a look for anyone interested in editing). I felt that a new journal could be created that allowed the space for emerging writers to practice editorial skills and also engage critically with an audience via blog posts. So with that in mind, I had a rough sketch of what the journal would be:

1. A space specifically for new writing.

2. A space for emerging writers to gain editorial experience.

3. A platform to identify new talent that we could work with to produce pamphlets.

4. Affordable and handsome.

I approached some emerging poets, Laura Elliott, Meirion Jordan, Angus Sinclair and Julia Webb as I knew them to be engaged seriously with poetry and would be good people to work alongside. From the initial meetings, we also elected to bring in Philip Langeskov and Anna de Vaul to work as the prose editors. 

What was clear from the outset was that we wanted something that looked good and had a printerly feel, in fact the economics of printing helped crystallise the look and feel of the magazine. The printerly feel etc. was almost entirely down to the fact that we needed something that looked good in black and white, without a shred of colour anywhere. The latter was from the idea of doing something lo-fi, reflecting the vision and activism of small music labels we admired such as Domino, Drag City etc. We talked about what we liked and didn’t like about existing journals. We wanted something pocket sized and easy for book shops to stock, and also for it to have a spine. In retrospect this was one of the best calls we made, as many bookshops told us that they loved the fact it had a spine, as then it wouldn’t vanish on the shelf.  Lighthouse seemed an obvious title for a journal seeking to publish new writing, and we wanted to find a logo that was a lino-print or similar. Meirion suggested we approach Igino Marini, an Italian digital typesetter who takes old letterpress fonts and digitises them. Meirion found a beautiful Fell font: IM Fell English, slightly uneven and, well, if you are so inclined, a little bit sexy. We also found the excellent Norfolk-based printmaker Gini Hanbury who designed our logo by linocut:

* I invited Andrew McDonnell of Lighthouse to write a blogpost for me. This is the first part with a second to follow. I do welcome guest posts. I don't always have time to write longer posts myself but this is a useful space and I am keen to support Lighthouse.To the extent that I have give three different links to it.

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