SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE PAPER CUTS
HEY GUYS! So I have some news. This is my last issue of Broken Pencil.
I started at this magazine five years ago as assistant editor. Without getting too much into it, I was grieving, getting my bearings in a new city and feeling generally unmoored. Although I had a background in journalism and culture writing, I was unaware of the demands that come with working on an independent arts-and-culture magazine: namely, that everyone does everything.the learning curve was high! Thanks to Hal and then-editor (and now my very good pal) Lindsay Gibb, I started to figure out what I was doing. It was always hard work, but it got fun.
In 2014, Lindsay left the editor position and I took over, staring squarely in the face of a bunch of new initiatives (Hal loves initiatives, guys!) plus a 20th anniversary celebration and issue. It got hard again. Then it got fun again. And now it’s time for me to go and for our current assistant editor Jonathan Valelly to take the job. You know him; he’s a gem. He’ll be great.
I think this is a space where one is supposed to reflect on legacy, or something. To me the word “legacy” suggests a creaky old Mr. Burns-type rubbing his hands together over reams of dusty paper; it feels weird and self-aggrandizing and boring, and also I’ve only been here for five years, so calm the hell down already, Lang! This being said, it’s interesting to think about how the mag has changed in such a short period of time. It’s definitely true that Broken Pencil made me love and appreciate zines more—how could it not? However, my takeaway from five years of working on a magazine about zines also made me realize that zine culture has made a sharp and distinctive impact on our editorial mandate in recent years. When I became editor, Jonathan and I began to discuss ways to make the magazine more of a mirror image of zine culture itself—a place to focus not only on the weirdos (BP’S eternal bread-and-butter) but also the people who are making the art that asks important questions about accessibility, culture and representation. And more and more, we struggled to figure out what kind of magazine Broken Pencil actually was. We wanted to figure out how we could continue to challenge and excite our wide-ranging readership while making a concerted effort to understand the many ways indie art is changing in a culture that is becoming increasingly disconnected, politically fraught and economically untenable. How do we achieve the same type of connection as the best, funniest and most challenging zines? Additionally, through our work with Canzine (which will soon start up its fourth incarnation in Calgary this year) we also wanted to become more of an indie culture bat signal: I wanted people to see us and identify us as an organization they could contribute to, collaborate with and find support in.
This is usually where I would say something self-deprecating about how disorganized I am and how I always have food on my face, etc, but to be quite honest I think we made some big strides in the above criteria. I’m very proud of our cover stories on POC genre fiction, the progressive possibilities of the Twine game-making software, or our cover story about “cripple punks” reclaiming portrayals of disability through selfie culture. We also had a lot of fucking fun: I cannot wait to tell my grandchildren about the issue we made that shat all over Donald Trump and featured a cover with his face being brutally gouged by pencils. I feel so lucky that I got to meet and work with so many brilliant writers, artists and creators on every issue and meet so many sweet zinesters at Canzine(s). My zine library now spills off my shelves, and my walls are covered with art by people who have drawn in our pages. I love you, fellow freaks! You were one of the best parts of my job. I’ll see you at Canzine 2017.
Speaking of best guys (and gals): Broken Pencil has a small but very mighty staff that works for peanuts and yet still manages to constantly punch above its weight. Moreover, they are all the loveliest pals: friends who I have drank with, yelled at, walked dogs with, cried with and confided in. Colin, Natalie, Faith and AGP: you’re the best fiction team we’ve had in forever. Annie Wong is a tremendously smart and accomplished artist and facilitator who would be insanely intimidating if she wasn’t so bloody sweet. Tara Gordonflint is the spine of the magazine: without her organization and management of our funding and operations, Broken Pencil would literally collapse in on itself (also she is great at karaoke and gives very good hugs). Ian Sullivan-cant is a gifted and innovative designer (and amazing illustrator, too) who has patiently worked with me, an actual rube, for all these years now, and his work on our recent issues in particular has often taken my breath away. JV, your energy and talent continually astonishes me: a lot of people are great artists, writers and organizers, but you bring an added warmth and generosity to your interactions that has deeply enriched our community and will be of tremendous value going forward as editor.
Hi Hal! During my job interview all those years ago (2011??) you seemed really bored and I was worried we would not be friends. I think you’re my friend now (even though you don’t like my dog, WTF?) You were also the best boss I have ever had: you were hard on me and made me mad sometimes, and you were also endlessly supportive and generous in ways that amazed me, given how busy you are. You made me think about what I was doing in a critical way and it has changed my brain. You always made time for my questions and worries even when you were busy. You have made me a smarter, more capable and more useful person. But that’s what you do with everyone. Thank you Hal. Thank you guys. Thanks for reading.