Far Off Places

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Jul 21, 2013 /
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Once in a while, I come across writing so magical that a) I reread each page before going to the next; and b) I can't wait to share it. Such is the case with new literary journal Far Off Places. We were sent a review copy of Issue 2 (out now!) and I tell you - I couldn't put it down. Far Off Places features a mix of art (although I wish there was more), poetry (love), and prose (also love). The theme for Issue 2 is The Back of Beyond. And, while I was reading it, I kept thinking of how clearly the journal stuck to the theme - and how vibrant and far-flung people's minds and experiences are. For each writer (and artist), the Back of Beyond is something different - this, of course, is the human experience. But reading it? I loved it. I made a cup of tea from the back of beyond (tulsi chai, India), propped my feet up, and entered.

 

Far Off Places

What I discovered, as you will, too, upon reading Far Off Places, is that literary journals have a yawning space to fill. In this age of constant connection, ever-present feeds, and a tsunami of electronic need, we need to sit back, take our minds elsewhere, dream. Far Off Places offers just that - a space to read, think, be surprised (the piece by Anne Goodwin), reread well-written phrases (to be honest, from every author), laugh out loud (I'm talking to you, Nicole Strachan). My favorite? Viticuso, 1913 and 2005, by Annie Pia. If you'd like to read Viticuso, 1913 and 2005, Far Off Places has allowed us to reprint it here. Here's a suggestion, though, before digging in to Far Off Places - read the biographies in the back, first. They are funny, sparkling, and definitely enhance the reading experience of each author's work.

 

Far Off Places offers us a chance to dream, read well-written pieces, catch a glimpse into other lives and cultures, and step back and enjoy the wit and writing of smart people. Highly recommended - I love it!

 

Far Off Places - at Yesnaby, by Lee Harrison

Far Off Places - At Yesnaby, by Lee Harrison

 

We had a chance to catch up with Editor in Chief Annie Rutherford and Digital Publisher Trevor Fountain, to get the backstory on Far Off Places, inspiration, and more. Here's what they had to say...

 

Please tell us about Far Off Places...

Annie: Far Off Places is a literary magazine publishing a selection of whimsical poetry and prose four times a year. Each issue is based around a different theme – we’ve had Fairy Tales Retold and The Back of Beyond so far, and we’re currently putting together our third issue, which will be released in the run up to Halloween, on the theme of Under the Bed.

There are four of us at the helm – Ceris and I are the editors, Beth is our creative designer, and Trevor is in charge of all things webby. (That’s interweb, not ducks.) At the moment the magazine is published digitally but we’re hoping to branch out and go print as well at some point in the near future.

Our first issue was released in March, but the birthday of the original idea is actually coming up – Beth and I dreamed up the seed of the magazine last August, although back then I really was just daydreaming, so I can’t believe we’re now working on our third issue! Hmm, maybe we should organise a birthday party…

 

What inspired you to start this journal?

Annie: Haha, okay, here is our origins myth. I’m afraid my answer is lifted from our first blog post – but I wrote it myself, and I doubt I’d be as eloquent a second time round:

The idea was born in the brief sunshine between showers, as we lounged in literary deckchairs in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square. The plan, as hazy as the chill clinging to our clothes, was to disseminate poetry amongst innocent bystanders and to give young writers a chance to flex their wing muscles. Weapon of choice: the quill. Well, not quite - we envisaged a zine, accidentally on purpose left in the cafes and bars of this gothic city. Exquisitely crafted and small enough to slip into a pocket, it would be so entrancing that even the most cynical of poetry sceptics would find themselves stroking its spine.

Nights of scheming turned into days of dreaming and the plan took stubborn root and grew. The zine turned into a magazine, published both digitally and with a limited print run. Illustrations, sparked by stories, sprouted. We argued over font size. We debated the merits of flash fiction. And one fine frosty day, we woke up to find we had a website. We had arrived.

Trevor: Magazines that publish poetry and literary fiction tend to have a pretty limited readership, which we think is a shame. With Far Off Places we're trying to attract readers who wouldn't normally read poetry or capital-L Literature, which is why we describe ourselves as a magazine of written whimsy.

We also know first-hand how difficult it is to find great places to publish as a new writer, where editors are really willing to polish work until it shines and where published pieces won't languish in obscurity. Where else can a previously-unpublished writer submit a piece and work with a talented editorial team to shape it, then see it published in an online magazine, a podcast, and multiple mobile apps?

 

What can readers find, in Far Off Places?

Annie: Readers can find…a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. Um, yes. Other than occasional Disney references (alongside references to children’s books and modernist poetry!), readers can find a whole range fantastic prose pieces and poems – I’d wager there’s something to tickle everyone’s fancy in there. We’ve published memoir type pieces next to bedtime stories, and we even had a piece in the form of a lonely hearts ad in our first issue!

 

What might readers be surprised, about Far Off Places?

Annie: I hope that there’s a lot that surprising! Some of our stories certainly have some unexpected twists. (I’m thinking in particular of DJ Mac’s tale Grumpy in our first issue – a take on Snow White which you will never have imagined!)

Mmm, we publish all forms of prose and poetry and an unexpected result of this is that in both of our issues so far we have a couple of prose pieces and poems which are shorter than the writers’ biographies! The astounding thing is how much can be evoked in just three short lines – you imagine you know what’s coming next, and yet the final sentence will tickle you in a way which will make you smile for the rest of the day.

And a surprising fact about the Far Off Places team is quite how accurate our title is (although it was never intended in this way): we’re spread across three countries and two continents. Ceris and Trevor both live in Edinburgh, I’m away studying in Göttingen (right in the centre of Germany) and Beth’s in New England. We were all based in Edinburgh when we conceived of the magazine, though.

Trevor: That it's entirely run by volunteers! All of our revenue from subscriptions and issue sales goes toward paying our distribution costs; one of our long-term goals is to build up enough subscribers and regular readers that we can pay our amazing writers for their work. We think that will really raise the quality of the magazine, and besides, it's the way things *ought* to be.

 

What's up next?

Annie: We’ve got a reading coming up in September, which we’re all quite excited about! I’ll be back in Edinburgh then, and we’re going to try to get our Scotland-based writers together. An unexpected pleasure of editing Far Off Places has been being in contact with all of our writers – they’re not just talented, but also really lovely people! (We have a brilliant rapport of bad jokes going with Pallavi Rao, who we published in Issue II.) So without even fully intending it, we ended up building up something of a network, particularly with the writers based closer to home. The reading in September is both a result of that and an attempt to solidify it. We want to give our writers a chance to strut their stuff in front of an audience – but also, as with the magazine itself, we want to frame storytelling and pleasure in poetry in a setting which is fun and friendly. We haven’t got the exact details worked out yet, but at the moment we’re thinking something along the lines of an organised reading, followed by a more informal storytelling café, where anyone can get up and tell a tale or a joke.

(Date for your diaries: 12th September, The Meadow Bar. You should come.)

Trevor: We've got a few projects in the works that should help us bring our writers to a larger audience. One of these is the Far Off Podcast, where we take our favourite pieces from the magazine and assemble them into a free fortnightly podcast. We're also developing an app for distributing the magazine on iPhones and iPads, and another app (Pocket Poetry) for introducing people to poetry.

The magazine app won't be released until later this summer, but you can check out Pocket Poetry right now (it's free!) from iTunes:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocket-poetry/id657222094

 

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Annie: Hmm. Read the magazine! If you’re not sure it’s for you, check out our free teaser for Issue I, or listen to our podcasts. Anyone who’s curious can take a peek at our blog as well – we publish news about the magazine there, as well as writing prompts related to the themes of the issue.

 

Also, here’s one of Ceris’ best (or worst) jokes:

            Oh, by the way, did you hear the joke about the tortilla?

            It was corny.

 

 

 

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