Launch of a New Lit Mag: Welcome Humber Literary Review

At the launch party on Wednesday, hooting and hollering accompanied publisher Vera Beletzan’s announcement of the birth of The Humber Literary Review. At a time when every other self-appointed arts pundit proclaims the death of the book/magazine/reader, the enthusiasm in the packed Gladstone Hotel venue was heartening.

A year ago, Vera Beletzan and her colleagues in Humber College’s English Department floated the idea and asked: (1) Does Canada need another literary magazine? and, after the resounding Yes, (2) How hard can this be?

Issue 1, Volume 1. Designed by Kilby Smith-McGregor. Featured artist Kirsten McCrea.

Issue 1, Volume 1 of The Humber Literary Review. Designed by writer and Descant contributor, Kilby Smith-McGregor. Featured artist Kirsten McCrea.

If you’ve ever tried to design and run even your own blog, you can perhaps imagine the answer to their second question. But one year later, Issue 1, Volume 1 of The Humber Literary Review is hot off the press. Which may help explain the heat in that second floor gallery venue. (Let’s just say that women of a certain age were willing to bare arms).

This is not a bad photo of a crowd. It is a photo of the distant door that I really wanted someone to open!

This is not a bad photo of a crowd. It is a photo of the distant door that I really wanted someone to open.

The first issue is a real looker, thanks to the design work of Kilby Smith-McGregor and featured artist Kirsten McCrea. Vera Beletzan joked that, for a Department of English faculty, they were surprisingly unable to articulate a vision for how the magazine should look. A good designer is first an excellent listener, so kudos to writer Kilby Smith-McGregor for turning catatonic academic-itis into an appealing format — one with a wee bit of an intro textbook look to me, but not in a bad way.

I’m pleased to see Kirsten McCrea’s work on the cover and throughout the magazine. I discovered her at church about a year ago. The annual arts and crafts sale at Trinity United, that is. In fact, I bought and framed one of her colourful ampersand prints and it hangs above my desk; there’s one on page 33 of the HLR that I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you tore out and stuck to your bulletin board. I think of it as a sign-of-encouragement-and-prompt-rolled-into-one, for writers: “& then what?… .” I hope the HLR folks keep her patterned designs as part of the regular layout.

Micah Toub and Bryony Halpin(+), talking to Christopher Doda who has two poems in the new magazine. Micah told me that his own first-in-print work in the inaugural issue is a bit dirty. But we agreed that I should call his story "edgy" instead.

Micah Toub and Bryony Halpin(+), talking to Christopher Doda who has two poems in the new magazine. Micah told me that his own first-in-print work in the inaugural issue is a bit dirty. But we agreed that I should call his story “edgy” instead.

Russell Smith and Eufemia Fantetti were acting very normally -- until I pulled out my camera.

Russell Smith and Eufemia Fantetti were acting very normally — until I pulled out my camera. It’s a recipe for disaster, especially if you’re girl crazy.

The Humber Literary Review will be published twice a year, with spring and fall launch parties. They’re also online which is where you’ll find interviews with:

  • Eufemia Fantetti, recently shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed award for her debut collection of short stories, A Recipe for Disaster;
  • Beverley Cooper, playwright and Governor General’s literary award nominee for “Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott,” and
  • Krista Bridge, author of The Eliot Girls, and Rogers Writers’ Trust and Danuta Gleed nominee for The Virgin Spy.
Eufemia Fantetti, Jael Richardson and Beverley Cooper...

Eufemia Fantetti, CBC award-winning author Jael Richardson, and Beverley Cooper.

Becky Blake and Ayelet Tsabari...

Becky Blake, 2012 CBC short story prize winner, and Ayelet Tsabari, author of the short story collection, The Best Place on Earth

But you weren’t at the HLR launch and you don’t know all these people walking around waving $9 glasses of wine and bottles of beer, hoping no one hugs them in that stifling heat. You are not an adept schmoozer, a wearer of fancies, or an award-winning/nominated author. But… you’d like to have the chance. Maybe at all three. So here’s the scoop. And it is a scoop. I cornered Managing Editor Hillary Rexe and asked her for something for our Descant readers. She started to tell me about the new magazine and I stopped her (ever so politely) and said no, I want something I can’t find online.

Online! Here’s the scoop: The Humber Literary Review, published in its colourful inky glory twice a year, will also publish (other) poetry and non/fiction online, throughout the year. Things may change, so keep your eye on their website, but the policy Hillary Rexe told me is that you must first submit a query email. (Let me just say here, as someone who reads a lot of cover letters, do yourself a favour and brush up on the skill of the well-written, succinct query letter).

Meaghan Strimas and Hillary Rexe, the "scarily capable" Managing Editors of The Humber Literary Review, according to publisher Vera Beletzan.

Meaghan Strimas and Hillary Rexe, the “scarily capable” Managing Editors of The Humber Literary Review, according to publisher Vera Beletzan.

In the main venue space for the launch of the HLR, most people wore black, nibbled from artfully arranged appetizer plates and listened to a musical trio. But off to the side I spotted a table of bright orange- and blue-iced cupcakes, topped with sprinkles and decorations. Naturally, I had to ask. It turns out that Meaghan Strimas and Hillary Rexe made all 200 of the cupcakes themselves for the launch.

Cupcake code!

Cupcake code!

Now you have all the information you need. You know there’s a new literary magazine looking for work, both for print and online, and you know a thing or three about the managing editors. Yes, you do. Look at those cupcakes. They are detailed, individual, a tad ironic; whimsical, but warmhearted. Open to the alternative perspective (there was a separate, gluten-free tray). And amongst the sweaty and schmoozing literati — a breath of fresh air.

Now get to work. It’s Friday already! The day to send out congratulations emails. You can count it towards your daily word count. Writing Tip #67: the worse your writing week, the more supportive/congratulations emails you should send to other writerly people. When you build up your community, you build up yourself. And … it’s a great way to have your cake and eat it too.

One Response to Launch of a New Lit Mag: Welcome Humber Literary Review

  1. Peter Haase

    Eufemia RULES. FANTASTICO.

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