Here I am, sitting in the car with the engine off and a poster draped over the steering wheel. I’m trying to utilise my time better, you see? It wasn’t a new year’s resolution but a necessity: too many hours wasted at work, getting paid to do nothing, too chicken to blog or go on Facebook. The poster stares back at me: scores of pickled Voldemort heads in a sea of waves. Lakes of text. The font is small, the lines are treacherous; I skate over them and sometimes slip into a different story. This poster magazine is for Art (with a capital ‘A’) and writing. I admire the gnat-sized fiction of Laura Middlebrook —’#1′ is repetitiously yellow and ‘#3’ is a muffled love-guilt—and Daniel Walker but am unmoved by the Patrick Lenton, a leviathan in comparison; I fear that such larger creatures of work cannot survive the manufactured rivers of text, which have orphaned more than just words and phrases, until Chris Somerville’s quiet violence in ‘Most Brilliant White Light’ sustains me the whole way down the page, and everything’s okay again.
Launching its first issue next week at Avid Reader in Brisbane, Small Room is proof that things do get published outside of Melbourne. (Thank dog!) Content will be from writers I heart like Josephine Rowe, Christopher Currie, and Chris Somerville, and will be presented on a fold-up poster.
Yep, Small Room is resurrecting the poster format that was the trademark of Is Not Magazine, a now defunct Melbourne institution (may it rest in peace). According to Small Room editor Bryan Whalen, the Gold Coast team independently came up with the idea; once they realised it had been done before, they caught up with Is Not’s Penny Modra for an interstate exchange. ‘Turns out the projects are similar, but different,’ Bryan explained. ‘Both poster mags, just different ways of going about distribution, folding, execution.’
Out to prove that big is not always better, Small Room publishes small fiction, poetry, and art: fiction under 1000 words, poetry under 1000 stanzas*, and artwork under 100 dpi. I had submitted one of my shorter pieces, and got promptly rejected, but turned the rejection into an information-gathering exercise. I sent the magazine questions like ‘Hey, why do you not like my work?’ and ‘How can you not see the beautiful genius of my words…?’ No, I didn’t ask anything obnoxious like that, but I did ask what they were looking for and whether there were any other literary journals that they dug.
Bryan sent me a lengthy reply:
…we’re not really a literary journal. We never want to be a journal. We like being a poster. Art is integral to Small Room, as is literature. Thus, each issue will have a new guest designer who, after receiving the stories, will design the issue with in any medium they choose (as long as it remains poster sized).
He gave a detailed explanation of the selection process. Three editors go through the submissions pile, then ‘Maybes’ are sent out to a circle of acquaintances for extra feedback.
I suppose what we’re looking for is what we believe is “quality writing;” however, “quality” is obviously subjective. What makes good writing? I’m not certain. Every argument I could put forth, I could just as easily argue against. Perhaps good writing is rife with paradox. I have no idea…
So, what did SR hope to achieve?
Small Room would like to expose up-and-coming writers to the masses, while also featuring respected talents. Issue One will be sold in art galleries, bookshops and coffee bistros around Brisbane, Gold Coast and Byron Bay. We’d like to grow into Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth and overseas, but this takes time. Small Room will always be a poster, because the format can vary: eventually we’ll play with themes, folds, designs, etc. Also, we’d like to remain relatively inexpensive, so as to get more posters into more hands.
The next submission deadline will be late March 2010—plenty of time to nab a copy of the first issue, read it, and create an appropriate submission, unless you’re lit-journal rich and reading-time poor like me. Ergh.
*Hang on, that’s not small at all. Crazy kids.
Newcastle. Unreliable taxi services. Drunk youths. Cheap retro. Love it, hate it, can’t stand the sight of it. Home of TINA (This Is Not Art Festival) and, consequently, the National Young Writers’ Festival.
Over the last four days, I’ve hugged Lawrence Leung, discovered Chris Somerville and Michaela McGuire’s work, hung out at a Lucky Seven with Angela Meyer, and learnt swing-dancing from Visible Ink’s Anthony Noack. I’ve chatted to distro owners, potential subscribers and contributors, and random punters at the zine fair, and compared Buffy notes with Thomas Benjamin Guerney. Oh yeah, and I started crying during the Artistic Resilience Intensive’s meditation exercise (which wasn’t very resilient of me). I’ve drunk, and danced, and done the meet and greet. It’s been fun, but I’m glad to be home and finally catch up on some sleep.
Thank you Amy Ingram, Daniel Evans, Sarah Howell and Ronnie Scott for a wicked festival, and thank you everyone else for being the cool cats that you are.
Until next year,