Review : The New Niche – Journals Proving Print Ain’t Dead

Press Room blogger Jessica Alice reviews Saturday’s The New Niche: Journals Proving Print Ain’t Dead.
On Saturday morning I took a walk up Watt Street to The Gun Club for The New Niche panel. This session focused on specialised print journals, with a trifecta of awesome babes: Meg Clune, Holly Childs and Brodie Lancaster. Chaired by Wilfred Brandt, the zinesters and independent publishers shared their experiences acting as the bosses of small operations and all the work that entails, including editing, distributing and so on. The all-women (excluding the host) panel recognised early on how gender intersects with their art. Brodie and Meg noted that in their respective male-dominated fields (film and classical music) women receive less exposure and support, and that for Meg this drove her to pursue a ‘subtly feminist’ agenda. As fans, Brodie noted, women are required to be experts on a subject or face derision for not being ‘legitimate’—women can’t ever just be surface-level fans in the same way that men can be. The internet has been talking about sexism in fandom a lot lately, especially in regards to gaming and cosplay, and it seems we’re talking about it more and more in a literary context.
I really liked the way the panellists candidly discussed the quirks of running a small magazine, like the weirdness of Australia Post’s pricing system and the perils of sending print magazines to places where it snows. As a reader or consumer we don’t always think about how independent literature gets to us, whether it’s ordered online or making its way to stockists like Melbourne’s Sticky. There was the honest and familiar notion of writing and making because you instinctively have to—even it means working a full time job (or several part-time ones—but hey, at least you can use the photocopiers there for free) and multiple side projects, of always being super busy but ultimately doing what you really desire to do. It’s something that everyone at NYWF understands pretty intimately, either remembering their past chaotic literary lives, or the many of us who are currently working on ridiculous amounts of really great projects because we love it.
This panel emphasised the necessity of being a creator to run to an independent publication, that you need have the desire to make and produce something tangible. When seeing friends, Holly said that she would prefer to use that time making things—her friendships are based on working together. (Fittingly, Brodie mentioned how Kathleen Hannah says she has to be in bands with her friends.) Meg founded her magazine after studying as a classical musician. She wanted to have something concrete after the ephemeral experience of recitals.
I came out of this session wanting to get really hands on with my writing, to make zines and collaborate with friends. And I loved Holly’s question about what do you do if existing journals aren’t the right fit for what you’re writing? You make your own publication. Duh!
You can find out what else Jess is doing at NYWF via her Twitter, @jessica_alice_