What runs around the yard but never gets tired?

Anna Kate MacDonald takes a peek at the newest local literary journal, Riddle Fence.

To celebrate their twentieth anniversary, the non-profit group Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador is publishing a new literary journal.

Under the editorship of Mark Callanan, local poet and contributor to The Independent, Riddle Fence intends to shine a spotlight on local talent and serve as a venue for creative writing, as well as a venue for writing about writing.

But will it remain to publish again?

“For now, this is a one shot deal,” says Shoshanna Wingate, Executive Director of WANL and Managing Editor of the journal. “It’s no small feat to put out a literary journal. It takes a lot of time and a lot of money. That’s why so many fold after a few issues. “

So, she says, they plan to take things slow, test the waters and look for feedback from readers. They are hopeful to see it continue, but to do so, Riddle Fence needs to find an audience—both with association members and with the general public.
“After all”, Wingate quips, “writers need readers.”

Previous literary mags in the province have had a tumultuous history, with the last major publication, TickleAce, going under in 2000. TickleAce had a good showing, featuring acclaimed authors and publishing just under forty issues before it folded. Even more recently was Zeugma! which started in 2006 but disbanded shortly thereafter.

Wingate calls the future of Riddle Fence the “million dollar question.”

Literary mags can be a tough sell. The miscellany, the mix of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, is often daunting to the average reader who is typically looking for something easy to pass the time with. Add the fact that you are selling many lesser-known authors and it becomes even more difficult. And don’t forget your extremely limited budget, which translates into low publicity, a low number of copies printed to sell, and low pay for the contributors and editors.

But the literary journal serves an important role in the literary community. Most writers apply to journals as a stepping point, honing their talents on the way to larger publications. And conversely it gives those larger publications a place to look for new, burgeoning talent. It also provides the writers with a place to argue and flatter each other. And, of course, they are entertaining. They give the reader a chance to reflect on local issues and support local, home-grown culture.

Then who better than WANL to start up a journal? With roughly 350 members, Wingate describes the organization as a touchstone for many writers.

She says the Alliance also finds ways to reinforce the value of writers and connect with those who support them—like with this project.

Shoshanna is optimistic.

“I envision an overwhelming response, the press clamoring for interviews and stories, and a second printing by New Years,” she says.

Riddle Fence will be available at the Fine Craft and Design Fair from November 9-11 at the St. John’s Convention Centre. Copies are also available at the WANL office, 155 Water Street.


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