MEET Rachel and Cristina: magazine mavens and wordy wonders
Tired of store-bought magazines? Having trouble deciding on your next fictional read? Grab the latest issue of LooseChange Magazine and all of your literary problems will be solved. This all volunteer publication is taking Atlanta by storm- hosting word themed events, popping up on rooftops for sunset readings, and publishing some in-your-face works. We sat down with two of the magazine’s enthusiastic volunteers, Cristina and Rachel, to help you MEET LooseChange.
Tell us about your project:
Cristina: LooseChange is WonderRoot’s literary magazine, one of the many branches of programs that they have. We have two things that we try to do. One, we actively engage our writers, giving them feedback, letting them know if something is really striking. Maybe we really like the story but it needs to be workshopped. We offer workshops for people that want to be writers or just need a place to share their work. We also have events to engage our community. Things like readings, people writing 10 word stories while they sit at a location around town, word play with kids at Sweet Auburn Market. We want to … provide support to literary folk, especially people just starting out in their craft. We want to promote that literature can be fun and doesn’t have to be stuffy. That is at the heart of what we do, while providing a quality publication to our readers.
Rachel: I will speak to providing a quality publication. We want to lift up writers and give them the tools they need. I am very pleased with the standard of product we publish; we have gotten great feedback on the quality of submissions that we garner.
How did you get started?
Cristina: I started volunteering at WonderRoot. I was looking for an artistic outlet. I met with Chris Appleton, WonderRoot’s Executive Director, and we both had a similar background in creative writing. I asked him if they thought about a literary magazine. That must have stuck with him because every time I saw him he brought it up. It took me a while to realize he wanted me to lead it. It … took us a while to get it up and running, but over time volunteers and submissions began to trickle in and shape what would be the magazine.
What is cool about Rachel, well a lot of things, but she was originally someone who submitted and was accepted as a writer. And now she is very involved, and was clutch in helping us launch the magazine.
Rachel: I had heard through the grapevine that there was a new literary magazine at WonderRoot and I wanted to be involved. It is one of those things where you have no idea what you are doing- no idea who the people around you are or what is ahead, but you say “we will see what happens”. We ended up hosting a launch party. I did not think I would be doing marketing or shaping social media campaigns because I didn’t know about them. But here I am!
What challenges have you faced?
Rachel: We are all volunteers, we work full time at least, or attend school. People’s lives change. Because this is purely volunteer, people must learn to manage themselves and their time. That is a big challenge.
Cristina: In the beginning, just starting a literary magazine was a challenge. Any time you start something you have never done it is hard. We didn’t know what the response would be. For myself, I had personal challenges. How could I let people know about this? How could I legitimize this? Proving that we were a real thing was difficult. The answer to that was publishing, that solidified our existence. To help spread the word, I met with anyone who was willing to talk to me. I tried to be an advocate for the magazine. Now we have people who at least know who we are or people that approach us about things. And for people that don’t know about us, we have 4 issues under our belt so we can show past success.
Rachel: There are some quantifiable things like the number of issues or quality of publication that can make a difference. We have had several setbacks or times to rethink strategy. But you quickly learn and adapt and grow.
Cristina: I have really learned to embrace letting go of the reigns a little and letting it evolve. My favorite part of this sometimes is getting all the submissions in for an issue and seeing how they fit together. How they flow. It isn’t something we plan but often all the items really flow.
What inspires you about this project?
Rachel: There are more people each time we do something! At our anniversary party at Kavarna in August, we had seventy or eighty people at a coffee shop in Decatur for a lit mag party. That was a good feeling. We had a rooftop reading with people climbing onto a roof at the Arts Exchange with no lights or electricity for a reading.
Cristina: I love hearing people read their work. I read their stuff but when I get to hear it from them, it is awesome to me. At the rooftop reading I heard some great work from our writers and I remember leaning back and thinking “I could do this for the rest of my life”. It was kind of a romantic feeling. When we launched there was blood, sweat and tears poured into that issue. Not only were we publishing our first issue but we were planning an event on top of it. I remember being on the deck of Arizona Pub and there were people clawing to get up the stairs on a Saturday night in Atlanta for a poetry reading. People were scribbling down haikus. It is amazing. When I have nights like that, it really gets me going. In our latest issue, The Elevate Issue, we were able to get a group of writers to turn out work for us in a week. Having people be kind enough to write for you with such a tight deadline, and then turn out such brilliant work is inspirational.
Rachel: There is a learning curve, but what we have learned is that we can do it. We just start brainstorming and saying the dumbest things. Finally someone will say something that gives you the “ah ha” moment. It’s moments like that that keep you going. They push you forward. And knowing we can accomplish those things will stick with me in life.
What impacts do you hope to have on the community?
Rachel: There are always new literary magazines and blogs starting up and some big names like poetry.org who have been around for a while. I like the idea of Loose Change being part of a ground swelling to push that movement- its culture and resources- closer to Atlanta’s horizon and vision line. There are local startups like Flycatcher. There is constant movement and communication among us, it’s like cracking open a network. I love that we are a part of it. I also love that we can provide fun things for people to do. We can create events while promoting this cause.
Cristina: Longterm, I think changing what peoples idea of literature is. From a view of it as a stuffy, academia idea of a poetry reading to something more engaging and diverse. We want to empower people and give them the platform to display their work. We are mindful of what we publish, but we want to be a welcoming space. We have had people write their first poem with us. Keeping that welcoming attitude is an important long term goal.
Rachel: I am always struck by how different our writers are, from their styles to their backgrounds. There is a constant thread of thoughtfulness, uniqueness and high quality work. Whatever I can do to perpetuate that in Atlanta, I will do it.
Cristina: Short term, I hate to put timelines on things, but having a print issues is really important to us. That is something we are striving for. All our volunteers are in love with the tactile experience of reading works. We use online publications because that is what we have available, but we look forward to hard copies. We are researching what it takes to make that happen, but it will happen. We are always looking for new ways to engage people and to collaborate with other groups. Lately it has been great to connect with others who are heading up other literary efforts. We try to promote them, we are not trying to compete with anybody. We are building partnerships.
Who are you collaborating with?
Cristina: Kill Your Darlings has an event on the 15th that we are sponsoring, 7 Deadly Sins. The people at The Arts Exchange have been so gracious working with us as a venue for our Rooftop Readings (next one Oct 20!). We are also going to be a part of Lucky Penny’s art festival on November 11. We’ll be hosting an extra special reading that night with them. Vouched Atlanta is awesome and let us hang out with them a bit during the Decatur Book Fest. We hope to do more with them very, very soon. With our installation in Elevate we didn’t necessarily collaborate with and outside party, but we had our writers collaborate with photographers in a way, which was really important to us. We always want to show how literature relates back to visual art. Then, there are a lot of people who we are not directly working with but we would like to. I would love to do something with Dad’s Garage. I won’t say what, but if you are listening Dad’s Garage, I have ideas for you and I am really pumped about them!
Rachel: When I think of collaboration, I think of local businesses. Arizona Pub was insanely kind to us for our launch party. Dannaman’s, and Looking Glass Cupcakes, too. Also, Kavarna was great for hosting our anniversary party.
Cristina: We’ve also worked with fellow WonderRoot organizations. Creative Reuse came to our anniversary party and did some great crafts. We hosted an open mike night with Cameron Stuart at WonderRoot. We would love to do something with their local film series… I am pretty willing to work with anyone. I would love to do something at a farm or at a grocery store.
What kind of help or assistance might you need?
Rachel: We have grown a lot in this last year. We have realized there is a lot we cannot do ourselves. It can be hard to let go of certain things, but volunteer work should be shared. The more help we get the better it can be.
Cristina: And for volunteers, you can do as much as you want. We have a guy, Cody Reyes, who goes above and beyond. I will send an email about an event and he will start feeding it to twitter. Doing extra things like that is what makes something like this grow.
Rachel: You can go in any direction as a volunteer. If you want to plan events, do social media strategy, do AV, help with the website, copy edit. We need people who are sincere about volunteering. We are lucky enough that everyone we have right now is fantastic, but the more we hope to take on, the more people we will need.
Cristina: We will let people grab the bull by the horns. That is what we need… We also won’t turn our nose up at any donations. We try to be as resourceful as possible, but we know, especially when talking about printing the magazine, we are going to need some help with funding.
What are some key issues facing Atlanta?
Rachel: We have transit problems. It isn’t funded. I will pay more money for better transit.
Cristina: I take MARTA and live beside a station and luckily work by a station, too. But, if that isn’t your situation, the transit in this system doesn’t serve you. Taking buses in the city is ridiculous. If you are a third shift worker catching a train at 11pm can take 30 min. If you are working those hours you shouldn’t have to wait that long…
Rachel: It is my hope for Atlanta as we continue to grow, that we have learned our lessons from the 90’s, and that as we expand upward and outward we will look at our actual patterns of growth. There are still places with no sidewalks. And there is a lack of citizen understanding of how to use your city, how to use the available sidewalks and transit. It is very telling that when you look at streets or sidewalks, the people who actually live here and use these things seem to be the most overlooked.
Cristina: When it comes to food, I want good food to be affordable for everyone. I want people who are lower income to know about Wholesome Wave and know how they can get good food. I also want it to be accessible. What if you can’t drive to EAV or Grant Park? There should be a place where you don’t have to get pale tomatoes or watery cucumbers. Having good quality nutritious food is a right and I don’t see it in many supermarkets. I want more people to be upset about that. I know there are people working on that issue, but I hope those efforts get magnified even more. My neighborhood is racially, economically and age diverse. This kind of diversity is part of Atlanta. I want to see that diversity in the markets. I want there to be a demand so great that it becomes easily accessible to everyone.
What are some of your favorite organizations working around the city?
Rachel: I am pleased with how eager Atlanta’s small businesses and restaurants are willing to host people, not just our magazine. I see it in all the neighborhoods. There are a lot of groups promoting small businesses. I want to see this continuum of nonprofits and small business helping each other out. Food trucks, boutiques, dog biscuit bakeries. There are endless pockets for these places to pop up and people continue to support them.
Cristina: I love what Vouched and Wink are doing. I love how Write Club is presenting local writers in a new way. In the food world, I am really pumped about the Spotted Trotter opening up. I love that I am going to drive down Hosea Williams and pick up some local sausage to share. They have carving classes that I am excited about. I really admire people who are honing their craft and passionate about it. People like Brittany Grace at Grace’s Goodness or Little Tart Bakeshop who are putting their all into it and taking a risk for what they love. I am also a big, big fan of the BAZOOKALUCA podcast. Listening to it always gives me a good laugh, and it’s put on by the classiest local guy I know.
Where can interested readers find you?
To read all our issues and know what we are all about:
You can email me at LooseChange@WonderRoot.org
You can also “Like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @LooseChangeMag
Also be sure to check out WonderRoot.org for info on Loose Change and all the other great programs WonderRoot has to offer.
What FEEDs your soul?
Cristina: I FEED my soul with dancing!