A new web journal for Meanjin

Volume 7 Number 8 August 15 - September 11 2011

Deputy Editor, Zora Sanders (BA 2009), along with Editor Sally Heath, will be part of publishing history this September when Meanjin, Australia’s second-oldest literary journal, launches a reinvigorated web journal to complement the continuing print edition. Lieu Pham reports.

Those familiar with the publication will know that it was established in December 1940 in Brisbane by Clem Christesen, the Founding Editor. It moved to Melbourne in 1945 at the invitation of The University of Melbourne and became an imprint of Melbourne University Publishing at the beginning of 2008.

There have been concerns that the publication might lose its identity in this transition, but for Ms Sanders, the benefits are clear.

“There will be more content,” she says. “We’ll always publish the best Australian writing from names you know, and with a website you also have the freedom to publish younger voices and emerging writers, take more risks and publish unusual pieces that you wouldn’t necessarily see in print.

“We will publish a new piece online every day. It will become more like an online journal similar to the ones in America such as Guernica, Salon and The Millions,“ says Ms Sanders. who has been with the publication since March this year.

“The point for me is to get Meanjin content to as many people as possible, in whatever format they want. There are still a lot of people who don’t want to read Meanjin online, in fact I think most of our current subscribers really enjoy having the hardcopy journal, but I don’t really see that publishing online and in hardcopy are mutually exclusive.”

Ms Sanders also contends that the move will see Meanjin meeting a niche in the market.

“There are some great websites, but I don’t think there’s a regular literary online magazine in Australia,” she says.

The online version will be free. “The greater part of our funding comes from the public, so if we’re going to go online, it needs to be free and accessible to the public.”

With the decision to turn Meanjin online, there was a clear need for someone with strong digital media skills to join the team.

“They [Meanjin] specifically asked me to bring some ideas for internet publication, what Meanjin should be like online’, says Ms Sanders, recalling her interview. “Basically, I like the internet and I read a lot on the internet. I had a lot of ideas for what Meanjin should be doing and I brought in examples, different sites that Meanjin could draw on and they seemed to like that.”

With the Twitter profile by-line of “internet wife”, Ms Sanders is in her element, but she admits that it took a while to find her footing in the publishing world.

“I applied for so many other jobs in all kinds of things. I applied to be the editor of a trade industry journal – Potato Grower Magazine. Now, I think, what if I gotten that job? I’m so grateful for all those jobs I didn’t get.”

Ms Sanders says that her University days, particularly her undergraduate degree and working at the Union student-run Farrago, was key to her landing the role at Meanjin.

“I think Farrago was an internship for me,” she says. “You do have to do those things. It’s is how most people get a foot into the industry and find out whether they like the job. My time at Farrago gave me those practical skills.”

She explains that it’s these extra things that you do at University that make a difference in the long run. “I keep telling my brother who is currently studying at the University, you’ve got to join everything.”

Her advice to graduates entering the workforce is to get involved. “The thing is, if I know a person, I’m more likely to spend time looking at their works. So what I’m saying is – come to events and get involved with the literary community. Even if you can’t be there, there are things like Twitter and blogs. People are more likely to trust you and give you a chance if they know you.”

She also advises would-be writers to do their homework.”Read the journal first. Most people don’t and you can tell. There are things you can do, if you read widely, you know what the publications are looking for. Pay attention to the submission guidelines.”

Ms Sanders warns that “No job is what you really think it will be and that the realities can be confronting. Every job is more about paperwork and replying to emails and talking to people on the phone. Although I do a reasonable amount of editing work – the vast majority of what I do is emailing people and chasing people up.”

When asked what the best thing about her job is, she says, “putting together an edition you feel strongly about is a wonderful thing, and finding authors is the most fun and satisfying thing I do.”

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