Starling is New Zealand’s newest literary journal, focusing on fresh young voices. Poet and current Burns Fellow Louise Wallace is the person behind this initiative. I talked to her to find out more about the journal. With their first issue looming, she wants submissions—that poem, essay, or short fiction piece you’ve worked on might be just the thing she’s looking for.
What was the inspiration for this journal?
I was always interested in English at school, but I didn’t necessarily know how to direct that enthusiasm myself. When I started university I began to get into poetry. I was really learning how to write as I went, but I was very hungry for opportunities—submitting my work to competitions and journals. So the creation of Starling has really come out of my own personal experience, which I imagine is pretty similar to lots of young writers—they just want opportunities to showcase and advance their work. Starling will help move both their writing and career forward. Selected writers will instantly see their writing network grow—being placed alongside other emerging talent, but also established practitioners. And of course, publication looks great on your writing CV.
There is a strong emphasis on high schools being involved—what has driven that for you?
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A big priority for me is making sure we get the word out about Starling, but also that news of this opportunity reaches a wide range of writers, including ones not necessarily at university or in main centres. So high schools are a great place to do that, because at that stage a lot of people are still in one place! And teachers are also looking for opportunities to help their students, so they may be able to pass along the message for us.
I think there’s a lot of amazing talent out there, so by operating a journal where these writers only have to compete for publication space against people within a fairly close age range, the chance to see some of this great work in a public forum increases.
How did you decide the cut off should be 25?
Thinking of my own personal experience, 25 seemed to be the age where I became aware of what my voice was consistently sounding like. I know it’s different for everyone, and you can be an emerging writer at any age for sure, but I think in your early 20s you have so many other things going on at the same time to deal with, you might need a little extra support and direction. Australia has a similar print publication—Voiceworks—with the same age restriction, and they’ve just published their 100th issue!
How has Starling been funded?
So far, entirely out of my own pocket! This journal has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but just have never had the time to dedicate to establishing it. This year I am on the Robert Burns Fellowship, and creating Starling was actually part of my proposal. I knew the website would be fairly affordable to create and maintain, and I want to get people’s attention by publishing really modern, vibrant work. If we can build that reputation through the issues we produce, I think we’ll be in a position to approach supporters for funding for future endeavours—we have all sorts of ideas: print editions, workshops, competitions. But for now, I have to have blinkers on and make the journal something incredible to start with. We want to ensure longevity and we’ll do that by building a great foundation.
What sort of things will you be looking for as “best” or “good”? What speaks loudest?
I define “best” and “good” as something I really want to keep reading! We’ll be looking for things that surprise and excite us—that can involve engaging content, a unique perspective, innovative style, an unmistakeable voice—it’s up to you! We’re open to any genre—short fiction, poetry, personal essays, creative non-fiction, plays… The key is to show us something fresh; something we haven’t seen before.
How will diversity be accommodated and fostered in this magazine?
As I say, the reason it’s so important to us to spread the word is because we want submissions from a really diverse set of contributors—to showcase quality work, but also the immense range of writing voices in New Zealand. Each issue opens with new writing from a well-established New Zealand writer, and will close with an interview with someone of note from our literary industry (authors, editors, booksellers, scriptwriters…). These guest spots will also help ensure that we are able to include a range of viewpoints outside our own—we definitely want every reader to hear at least one voice they can connect to. There’s also the opportunity to look at arranging guest editors further down the track.
Submissions for the first issue close on 20 October. For more on how to submit, check out Starling’s website at www.starlingmag.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates.