Guest Blogger Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance and fiction writer with a comedic bent. Eva blogs about local places, people, and events on her writer website www.evabarrows.com. She founded Imitation Fruit Literary Journal, www.imitationfruit.com in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since.
Years of pent up technical knowledge about all aspects of publishing gathered in my brain. Tired of searching for an established outlet to release my talents, an all-consuming idea struck me. I would start my own literary journal! I revealed this novel idea to my husband John when we were waiting for our food order at a local restaurant. I was so excited that I twisted a red straw meant for my soda into a small wad of un-usable plastic. When I announced, “I’m going to start my own literary journal!” tingles of excitement radiated through my limbs.
At the time, I was still trying to come up with a name for the journal. I tossed possible names out to John over dinner. I wanted something inclusive, a wide net with a side of whimsy. As we all know stories aren’t always true to life but some quality in them is true. So how about the word “imitation”? And each story, poem, artwork is the reward of creative labor – the “fruit.” And this journal I’m creating would be the basket that holds all of the Imitation Fruit!
My curiosity with the world of publishing took me on a path of discovery and learning through high school, college and beyond. In high school, I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who created a collaborative environment in her literary journal class. I was able to participate in all aspects of creating the school’s literary journal. When in community college my friend Jenny and I attempted to create a student-led literary magazine, however, our attempt was hijacked and squashed by the established school newspaper. I went on to San Francisco State University and was a part of the undergrad literary journal, Transfer where I evaluated some of the stories that were submitted to the journal. After graduation, I landed an internship at Travelers’ Tales publishing where I participated in the entire cycle of producing a book from submission to star-studded launch party.
Thinking back on it now, I’m amazed that I didn’t feel afraid about the decision to start a journal. I wasn’t scared of failure because I knew what I was doing. Or at least I was confident in the skills that I had built up over the years to realize that I could figure anything out that had to do with making Imitation Fruit a success. There were things that I didn’t know like how to set up and design a website. Instead of letting that stop me, I bought manuals on HTML and CSS and walked myself through the process. It was challenging and still is when I need to tinker with the design of the website. I have lost hours and even days trying to figure out various technical issues but eventually, I find a solution.
What I’ve created in Imitation Fruit is a community of contributors and readers. The reach of the journal started out small. I got as many creative friends and family members involved with the journal as I could. They made up the first issue along with some local people who found my ad for contributors on Craigslist. After the journal initially got going I advertised in the magazine Poets & Writers for submissions and started getting content from all over the U.S. The journal has a pretty good sized email list now. I keep in touch with everyone once submission time rolls around each year. I enjoy finding out about the successes of Imitation Fruit contributors, such as authors publishing new books and artists getting new exposure on other platforms.
It’s important to me that Imitation Fruit be an uplifting experience for readers. The submission guidelines ask for “fun and upbeat” content. Many literary journals that I’ve studied publish some well written, albeit depressing stories. Personally, I want to focus on reading and writing stories that have necessary tension but ultimately the characters can overcome hardships in some positive way. And I always appreciate content that can give me a good laugh.
Imitation Fruit is also unique in its peacock display of color and artwork. I use the layout software Adobe InDesign so I can control the colors used on the pages and place the graphics wherever I want. I suppose this would be possible to do in HTML/CSS but that’s a little over my head…I’m an editor, not a web design aficionado! In the beginning, I admit I went a little crazy with the background colors and designs. As the issues progressed I streamlined the background color process which saves me time and made the layout less cluttered. The journal went from “arts and crafts” to a more sleek presentation but I’m the one saying it’s sleek now…hopefully, that’s correct.
“Oh yeah, this is going to be a great issue!”
There are two stages in the process of creating an issue of Imitation Fruit when I feel the most fulfillment in the process of publishing. The first time I feel really excited about an issue is when I come up for air after three rounds of review. My long-time friend Jenny assists me with the final review of content. Once I compare her marks with mine, the finalized list of poems and stories appears in front of me. Always, I think to myself, “Oh yeah, this is going to be a great issue!” Then I go back into the thick of it and produce the issue. Producing the issue encompasses a series of highly organized processes such as editing content, contributor permissions, sourcing artwork, layout design, web layout, editorial content, link-up website and then upload to the website. After all of that, I don’t celebrate. I let the issue simmer for about a week online then I take a look at all of the work I did along with all of the work the contributors did and then I give myself a second pat on the back.
For the past ten years, Imitation Fruit has been my main creative outlet. This opportunity I created for myself has paid off in many ways. I’ve succeeded in my goal to keep up my publishing skills, and have learned a lot along the way. The journal itself has fostered a community of contributors and readers who eagerly await the release of each issue. I’ve stayed in touch with several contributors and I am always happy to see their mounting triumphs in the world of publishing. Most of all I’ve enjoyed the opportunity the journal has given me to publish content that makes me smile, and I hope it makes you smile as well.