There’s a new circumpolar arts and culture magazine in town.
Other northern literary magazines have popped up in the past, but they haven’t had much staying power.
Out of Service, for instance, only published three issues before given in to the irony of its name.
Lily Gontard was the fiction editor for Out of Service.
She’s also worked at a number of literary magazines Outside, including the Malahat Review and Geist magazine.
Gontard continues to be a regular contributor to the endnotes section of Geist.
Now she is the senior editor of Arctica.
“I’ve worked in magazines from the bottom, doing the schlepping around, to doing the editing and managing,” she said.
“I’ve always wanted to start a magazine up here.
“Magazines are a lot of work, but it’s fun – it’s fun to create something and the people that are working on Arctica are all really enthusiastic.”
You won’t find the magazine in the book store’s periodical section though.
There won’t be a print edition.
Instead, issues will be published online with new additions added monthly.
“The way publishing is going, everything is going online – even books are now being published online,” said Gontard.
“I think we’re seeing the end of paper publications.”
Getting rid of the paper edition save a few trees and using the internet to distribute the material also will help Arctica reach a much larger audience.
And it allows the magazine reach out to and incorporate other circumpolar countries.
Arctica already has an editorial board member from Iceland and another in Alaska.
For Canadians, the North is very much about rural existence, but in Scandinavia it’s not rural at all – its where most people live, said Gontard.
“To see what people are doing in Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway will be very interesting for us and our readers.”
Arctica isn’t just about writing.
The editors hope to post exciting work in visual art, photography, video and audio.
But everything will have to be about the North.
“It’s the niche of this magazine,” Gontard explained.
“Each magazine has to have a focus and the more narrow that focus is the easier it is to attract readers.”
Readers will know that they can come to Arctica for that cultural and artistic taste of the North.
Arctica already has the content selected for the first issue, which will be launched sometime in mid-Decemeber.
But the magazine is still receiving submissions.
“We got quite a few submissions, but because the magazine hasn’t been released yet, people don’t know what we’re looking for,” she said.
“So we got some things that were well written, but maybe not what we’re looking for as an editorial board.”
Some of the 12 editorial board members aren’t even sure what they’re looking for and, in a way, all those submissions are helping shape the direction of the magazine.
“It was great to see,” said Gontard.
“It tells us that the writing culture is really alive in Alaska and the Yukon. It was quite dormant in the Yukon for a few years there, but there seems to be quite a resurgence.”
Another big problem for fledgling literary magazines is money and Arctica is no exception.
The magazine will not charge visitors to the site to view the material and will instead try to raise funds through arts grants and advertising.
But the magazine will also look at less tradition ways to scrounge up a little dough.
Arctica plans to hold workshops and readings and be creative about raising money.
A lot of this money will be paid out to the contributing artists – another aspect that makes the magazine unusual.
Not only that, Arctica plans to pay its contributors well.
They’ll also pay for previously published work, although not quite as much.
This is bound to be appreciated by those under-appreciated artists.
“We’re starting out small and building,” said Gontard.
“We have to admit that we’re a volunteer-run organization and we all have jobs and so we can only put so much time on it.
“But we’re exploring. We’re trying new things out. The internet is a very fluid medium so we’re seeing what we can do with it.
“It’s a learning experience for sure.”
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