It has been a wild ride, is a fair description of my last two or three years of life. The same applies to the last six months, whether we talk about my personal life or running of Fragmented Voices.
The concept of our small press has had to change over time. There are several reasons: first, you do your homework, your market research and realise that certain things are not doable. For example, going to the bank and asking for a lot of money to run an independent small publisher is in all likelihood a way to bankruptcy. That if Natalie Crick and I were to look at the commercial route, we would have to forget about being inclusive, about selecting people on the work they present. Our decisions would have to be made on their previous achievements, plus we would have to do what many agents and major publishers still do: we would have to look at creators, artists and authors as someone who is potentially bankable, which actually excludes many people.
We are happy with our chosen path because we actually love what we do. It is hard at times but also incredibly rewarding, exhilarating and inspiring. It was easy to transform our Newcastle-based press into an international one when I moved with my family to Prague, Czech Republic. Artistic compromise is something we do not want to do.
Also, it was sensible to test whether our concept would even work, make small steps first, and see how readers and writers respond. Eighteen months of preparation and six months of running the magazine, one week before our summer break – it is time for reflection:
- Our Ups and Downs: we launched our periodical publication in January and have been filling the Internet with new creative work three times a week ever since. We have had some amazing contributions and mostly positive feedback. However, there have been technical glitches we did not anticipate: I have not received some emails and some of my emails have not been delivered (I am still not sure about the true extent of the damage); a lot of our artwork disappeared from our website for some reason, so I had to manually upload it again. We have had some days when our new item would not share on Facebook while the next day it worked. And it is very hard to keep the magazine three times a week with a full-time job on the side. There is more background work than meets the eye of an average reader or author.
And just when I thought things would become easier, my hands would be freed to do other things, COVID-19 struck. The little virus has affected the lives of everyone around the globe. I am lucky to live in the country that acted swiftly and the impact was not too bad although it is clear that the battle is far from over. I am also lucky that, as a teacher, I did not lose my job and could continue getting a salary, being able to support my family. However, my working days were all of a sudden up to 16 hours. My child needed home-schooling, too. He fell ill, he coughed and coughed day and night, but it was not the dreaded disease, for other things can cause problems, in this case, bacteria. Nothing two courses of antibiotics and complete isolation could not fix. Five weeks later, we can enjoy the outdoors again and like the rest of you in various corners of this planet, we are bracing ourselves for the second wave. But I believe that especially in this situation, it is important to give space to arts, to creativity, to share it and find words, other things to think about, solace, escape, emotional outlet.
- Love Poems: very early on, we decided that we would like to produce printed books. Small runs, once a year to begin with. The reason why it is not more is the cost. Digital publications are cheaper but therefore also more democratic and liberated than the traditional printed ones that heavily depend on sales. Our first choice was to compile a poetry anthology of love poems. It is something we would like to read ourselves, the very idea that lies behind many decisions we make. We have had a large number of astonishing, breath-taking submissions, so the ones we reject are also good, it is just that the competition is hard. Most of the rejected authors have accepted the decision graciously but occasionally, there has been an angry reply. I would like to stress here that we are not going to react to abusive letters as much as we understand the hurt an author may feel when his or her work is not accepted.
- Rue Collinge: as the volume of work increased, it became obvious that as a duo, we would struggle to deliver and progress with our intentions, that bringing in the third person would make things easier. Rue Collinge is our friend, colleague and someone we have worked with before so we know what to expect from her – she is bright, creative, reliable, easy-going. Her particular set of skills compliments ours and completes them. If it all sounds too simple, trust me, it is not. I have worked on many projects over the past decades, and the level of frustration one can feel when the other people in the team do not do what they are supposed to, and you end up running around, doing everything, while many times you don’t even get the credit for what you have done, is immeasurable. Working with Rue has always been smooth, and joy, inspiration. We believe she feels the same because she even gave up her chance of having her poems in the anthology in exchange for working with us. Thank you, Rue!
- The Changes: based on our experience from the past six months, we have made a decision to make some alterations to our online magazine. It is not going to be published in July and August. The much-needed break will be used for our background work.
- First of all, with the increasing volume of submissions and some emails lost, it has become obvious that we need a separate email address for prose, creative non-fiction and visual art. Please make sure that you check the email addresses that we will use from September.
- Our website will be updated to reflect the current state of Fragmented Voices and its current activities, rather than the grand vision we originally had (and still have but it will take a while to achieve it, we need to be patient).
- There will be changes in our online periodical: the magazine will be out twice a week – poetry once a week on Wednesdays, and prose, essays, creative non-fiction and art on Fridays. Three times a year, we will also give space to translations from various languages. Please watch out for the announcement in August.
I would like to thank you all for your ongoing support. On behalf of our team, I wish you a great summer break. And wherever you are, please stay healthy, safe and happy!