25th September 2017

What I learnt from starting a literary journal

As we near Foxglove’s first birthday, Elizabeth Gibson calls on young writers to persue their dreams

Sending your work out to literary journals and magazines in the hope of being published is an important milestone in the life of a creative writer. I myself have spent about five years trying to perfect the art of cover letters, biographies, and layout. Reading and interpreting other people’s writing has been, and still remains, greatly enjoyable. It is a world I have always wanted to be a part of.

However, I did not anticipate quite how much I would learn and grow from founding my own magazine. I had no idea when I started out nearly a year ago, quite how much Foxglove Journal would bring to my life.

Foxglove came into being on a cold night in October 2016, in Avignon, France. I was there on my year abroad as a languages student, and maybe it was the lavender and cicadas that inspired me, or maybe just a random burst of motivation, but something made me take the plunge and finally embark upon a project I had been planning for years: setting up a literary journal.

By the end of the night I had learnt to navigate WordPress and I named my journal Foxglove, after a plant that fascinated me. I contacted my writer friends and encouraged them to submit some work. I set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for the Journal and did everything I could to spread the word.

I posted Foxglove’s first two poems – one by me, about my travels, and one by a friend, about Pluto’s planetary status. I illustrated each piece with one of my own photos that felt relevant.

Suddenly, my journal was no longer merely a pretty — but empty — blog, it now had writing on it, and art, coupled together in an interesting and new way. I was putting something out into the world, sharing something I loved with others.

Submissions began rolling in and I adjusted to life as an editor. I learnt how to say yes to people, how to say no to people but not upset them, and how to gently suggest small improvements they could make. Editing is definitely an exercise in people skills!

I spent winter in France, then headed to Spain for my second placement. Foxglove was always there, a constant among all the travels and adventures of my year abroad. Having a project that not only made me happy but made so many others happy, too — based on the lovely reviews and comments received — was really wonderful.

From just two poems, Foxglove has grown and blossomed. It has now featured over 150 pieces of writing — including poetry, short fiction, and flash fiction, in a multitude of styles — and writers from Australia, Canada, the US, Italy, and Ireland, among other places. Posts tend to be uploaded every few days.

Very soon Foxglove will celebrate its first birthday. It is very hard to believe that it has been a year since that autumn night in Provence. I had no idea how much Foxglove would come to mean to me, to its contributors and to its readers. I hope to keep the journal going well into the future. For that I need writing, so please consider submitting your work via the website.

As cheesy as it sounds, if you have a dream — pursue it. I pondered starting a magazine for at least two or three years, before suddenly making a decision and amazing myself by laying all the foundations for my new publication over the course of one evening. You will be amazed at how things can just fall into place if you pursue them and stop doubting yourself.

You can read Foxglove and send writing to it at https://foxglovejournal.wordpress.com. We are on Twitter at https://twitter.com/journalfoxglove. We would love to hear from you!

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