The Rapidian Home

Interview: Chatting with the organizers of The Litribune

Underwriting support from:
Dan Climie (left) and Ben Davey (right) at a Litribune fundraiser.

Dan Climie (left) and Ben Davey (right) at a Litribune fundraiser. /<a href="" target=_blank">Jonathan Clay</a> on Flickr

After seeing and hearing about The Litribune at Literary Life's National Bookstore Day, I decided to dig a little deeper and find out what the founder/organizer, Benjamin Davey, and the relations manager/organizer, Dan Climie, are really all about. What I discovered was a couple of talented young gentlemen that truly care about literature and want to create positive change throughout their community. They're not alone though, and they want you to help. Read a little further to learn what The Litribune has been up to.
Katie Bauer (K): Tell me a little bit about The Litribune. What is it exactly, and how did it get started?

Benjamin Davey (B): Well, The Litribune is a lot of things. It started out as a literary magazine. I came up with the idea about four years ago when I was at boarding school in Indiana. I had a really inspiring independent study in English. I've always been into writing, and it sort of just became this project idea of mine, and in January of 2008, I brought Dan in.
Dan Climie (D): January of this year.
B: The kick off was in 2007 though. I did a fundraiser here in Grand Rapids before I moved down to Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo is a great community where they supported a lot of arts culture.
D: It's small, but it's very centralized.
B: So it just seemed like a great place to get a collaborative project started. I started running meetings, and Dan and I started to read a lot of books.
D: We started to research how to run meetings, how to start planning things out, doing events so we actually know what we're doing.
B: From there, we developed the magazine concept.  We got our editors, started taking submissions and started feeling out what our vision really was--our purpose. We narrowed it down to our mission being to inspire and to foster a collaborative in a community who works together for positive change. We say whether that's engaging people in media literacy or engaging people in the community which they inhabit.
Also, a large part of it is educating. That's where we're moving. We're working with Lori, who runs The Sparrows, and the people at Schuler's who put together a nonprofit tutoring center for underprivileged kids ages 8-16. The idea is to offer all our tutoring for free that will be in full collaboration for the Litribune. We'll be publishing all of our pieces in house, and we'll be focusing a lot of our publishing projects on students. We'll do all ages as well, and we'll work with the homeless.
We've always done workshops. That's always been our bread and butter. We've found a great format that's really comfortable for people and effective. I think that's the one way that people really grow as writers. I don't believe so much in the educational platform that exist in the universities.
K: What age are the workshops geared toward?
B: The workshops we run right now are definitely for adults and college students. If you're in high school, you're also welcome to come.
K: Do you ever move to different locations?
No, it's pretty central. We generally do it at the editor's house on Lake Street. They're going to be running from the Gibbs house in Kalamazoo, but they did just switch locations down there. We've been running them down there for two years now.
K: And how often are they?
B: Once a week. Sometimes twice a week. It depends on consistency of attendance.
K: What are the workshops like? What kinds of topics are covered?
D: People can bring in their writing, and we go around in a circle and talk about what we liked, what we didn't like, and what they need to work on.
B: It's all just based on pure [critique] and gives everyone a chance to say their piece. Everyone is encouraged to say the positive and the negative. One of the important things we do is to ask the author to not give any sort of exposition until the end. They're not allowed to say anything about the piece until everyone has given their honest reaction. We feel like that's something the author doesn't get a chance to do a lot. They're often so nervous or self-indulgant that they can't explain their piece before or after. It affects their ability to critique their own work.
D: It's nice if people bring a piece, receive criticism, and then come back with an edited version too.
B: A lot of our published pieces actually come from people that attend our workshops. We accept all genres.
K: How often is The Litribune published?
B: Quarterly. That's one of the things I wanted to mention. A lot of the times when you see a publication that is quarterly, it's because they're not making enough money or downsizing. I wouldn't want our quarterly publication to be mistaken with downsizing because it's more in a mode of expansion. With our moving into the tutoring center, we're going to be taking on a lot more publishing tasks.
K: Where is The Litribune available to purchase, and is it possible to subscribe?
B: Subscriptions are not available yet. It's not prudent to come up with a subscription at this point because our issue costs are so varied.
K: Where is it published?
B: It's published here and in Kalamazoo. We work with local printers, we do printing on demand, and we do small runs as we sell.  A lot of the time it's just a more prudent and economical way to go. That way we can keep our funds liquid to do other community activities.
K: How do authors submit their pieces?
D: Online, or you can submit it to Literary Life. We're constructing these dropboxes for Literary Life, 76 Coffeeshop, and Vertigo, so if you don't want to submit it online, you can just drop it off at one of these locations.
B: We also have a few places in Kalamazoo as well. We started running that promotion about four or five months ago. You can just hand them to one of the employees, and they have a folder to put our stuff in.
But I didn't address your question about where you can buy it. You can buy it online, you can pick it up at The Sparrows, Literary Life, or the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo. We're working on expanding that. You can always order a copy online, and we'll mail it to you.
K: Say someone wants to volunteer. How can they get involved?
B: We're definitely aggressively expanding. We're working on  a classified ads page we're going to post on our website [sidenote: NOW HIRING page is up!] We're trying to build up a street team mentality. We're looking for people to come on board working head to head and plenty of people who can just put up posters and spread the word. We're always looking for more graphic designers, artists, staff writers, and people who want to work on the production crew. We do a lot of handmade work with our books, so sometimes it takes a long time to put each one together. There's room for pretty much anyone in our organization.
K: Do you have any events coming up?
D: We have a benefit show coming up on December 10th in Kalamazoo at the Strutt. Aaron Young and His Night Jars are playing, and they're a folk rock band. They were pretty big a couple years ago, and the leader singer just moved back from Seattle. This will be their first show back together. Minutes are also playing, and they're like a shoe-gaze, early 90s band. They're very talented. Hailey Wojcik and Her Imaginary Friends will also be playing.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.