As of next year, some of our country’s best small arts and literary magazines will no longer qualify for funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage. This decision has nothing to do with quality of their content or the commitment of their talented (and often unpaid) staff. It has simply to do with the number of readers they have and readers, by the way, are pretty expensive to find and keep. Trust me, I manage a small mag with an even smaller marketing budget. But rather than rant about this unfortunate DCH decision, I’m featuring my fellow small arts and lit mags here on the blog: this fabulous newcomer, Sad Mag, is third in this series. If you like what you read about Sad Mag, please support the work they’re doing by getting a copy of their very first issue! (And, er, vote for a government that cares about the arts, big and small, next time you get a chance.)
What does a day at the SAD Mag office look like?
The journey to bring Sad Mag to Vancouver readers started a year ago and really began to take shape in April 2009. Last year, Deanne Beattie, editor in chief, and Brandon Gaukel, creative director (pictured at left with lead designer Lon Garrick), were drinking sangria and with their courage emboldened they decided to create a print magazine for Vancouver’s young artists and writers. Our small team of five recent college graduates came together in April and started shaping a game plan to print our first issue in September 2009. Since then, we’ve worked in rented apartments, cafés, and even the attic of one East Vancouver home.
We’ve given our lives to make bring this dream to fruition–selling ads in our spare time between job interviews, checking proofs on the way to the dentist–and we’re all volunteers. Sad Mag is simply fueled by the talent and passion of our contributors, friends, and staff. In the past five months, we’ve learned everything about starting a non-profit organization, sourcing a printer, and working with other small independent magazines–the works! Starting from scratch has provided boundless learning opportunities.
How long has Sad Mag been in print, and what sets it apart from other mags on the shelf?
Between the five people on our editorial board, we read a lot of magazines. But the types of magazines we wanted to write for just do not exist in Vancouver. Sad Mag provided an avenue to try our hand at something we loved and to provide a space for writers and artists under the age 30 to express themselves without many constraints. Though it may not be difficult to get published in Vancouver, our experience was that the stories we wanted to write were being welcomed in large Vancouver publications. Largely the city’s major alt-weekly is a commercial enterprise with little critical or analytical content. We found that articles could get drowned out in a sea of ads; for so many reasons, finding an audience for a different conversation about Vancouver was more difficult than it needed to be.
Our magazine reveals our city in a way that we haven’t seen done before. Our mandate is to feature the lives and work of Vancouver’s residents and to tell their unheard stories. From the East Vancouver drag queen to the Gastown industrial designers to the Burnaby Laundromat owner, they are in our magazine.
And then there are the visuals. We’re working with exceptional artists. I’m a writer so I had little connection with the visual art world before working with Sad Mag. Now I’m being exposed to a massive font of artists whose work is just not being seen in other magazines or newspapers. Brandon Gaukel knew this and we’ve made visuals a strong focus of Sad Mag. [He took the photograph at left]. They tell the story as much as the writing in our magazine.
I’ve been most surprised by the immediate support for the magazine from readers and artists in Vancouver. We’ve had some truly stunning work given to us to print in our magazine because the artists and writers support our cause. It’s shocking to me that work of this calibre is not published and showcased already. I hope that readers will appreciate and value the vibrant creative community of young artists in Vancouver when they read Sad Mag.
What are some of the things Sad Mag does support Canadian writers, besides publishing them?
Sad Mag changes the story behind Vancouver. Instead of thinking of Vancouver as a creative or artistic “dry well,” we turned to writers we admired and asked them to contribute and to tell their stories of Vancouver. Not only did that expose some unique views of the city but it also produced some pieces we are sincerely proud to print.
With our first issue, we’ve worked with some writers to really foster their work and define their voice. That process has been rewarding for the writers and the editors.
Consumer mags measure their success in sales figures, but for not-for-profit niche mags like ours, these are hardly the most important metric. How do you define success at Sad Mag?
Our successes so far have been relatively small but absolutely meaningful. At the start, we received support from Geist Magazine, which fully invested their trust into the talent behind the magazine and gave space on their website for our editor in chief to blog about publishing magazines and the process of making Sad. That a magazine as established as Geist believed in our project was one major measure of success. Since then we’ve received compliments, attention, and support from other members of the publishing community and among Vancouver artists. [Katie Stewart, friend of Sad Mag, shows her support and some excitement at left!]. It’s gratifying to see our efforts pay off.
To date, sending a magazine to the printer that we were 100% supportive of and proud to have our names on has perhaps been our best accomplishment so far. Still, the defining measure of success will be to fulfill our mandate of supporting gifted artists on the periphery and bringing them to the fore to herald their talents. Hopefully the writers in our first issue will continue to contribute to Sad Mag and find new opportunities to showcase their work.