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Since it's still an uneasy time for the print media, we asked three Triangle representatives for their takes on magazine publishing this fall. An editor of a small literary journal with a triennial print run of under 1,000, the circulation manager of a Carolina outdoors magazine sending 32 times that many issues out each month, and some Durham zinesters just having fun with words and a copy machine weighed in on the issues.

Surprisingly, none of them were complaining about the economy.

"The very best thing about my job is getting to tell emerging authors that their work is going to be published," notes new Carolina Quarterly editor Tara Powell. Her first issue at the helm of the UNC literary magazine comes out in early October, and it features an expanded poetry section. CQ only publishes one percent of its unsolicited submissions--close to 6,000 manuscripts last year.

Asked if "names" help her newsstand sales, Powell replies, "CQ's reputation is such that 'names' often come to us. There's nothing quite so exciting though as getting some highest quality material out of the blue: a completely dazzling manuscript that just comes in blind from no one we know, and bowls us over."

Powell points to the constantly changing editorial and reading staff as one of the strengths of her journal: "Its very nature is to be revitalized every year or two, which helps us stay on the cutting edge."

Meanwhile, David Thurber would rather be fishing. Or scuba diving, photographing wild turkeys or wind surfing. But don't be too concerned that his circulation manager's job at North Carolina Sportsman keeps him out of circulation from the great outdoors. Thurber's Hillsborough home office boasts two phones--and two dogs, two ponds and fields filled with deer, tobacco and arrowheads.

"I cruise the back roads looking for a good spot to sell our magazine," he says. "The folks in the little crossroads stores are witnessing first-hand what is happening to our forests, wetlands and waterways." The strategy's working: With 1,900 outlets from Murphy to Cape Hatteras, the Sportsman is the state's largest monthly guide to hunting and fishing. At 196 pages, their July issue's their largest to date.

In its editorial, Craig Holt lamented the lack of respect white-tailed deer receive when treated as neighborhood pests. He proposes an addition to the N.C. Wildlife Commission's code of hunting ethics: "A request that every hunter pour water into the mouth of a deer he's killed to thank the animal for giving up its life and help it on the journey to the Great Beyond."

Asked how many subscribers his Durham zine Atomic Blue Ribbon had, not-really-editor/not-really-publisher Stephen Mullaney grinned, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Uh, like, maybe two?"

ABR is the brainchild of artist/cartoonist Mark Cunningham. Cunningham, Mullaney and someone known only as "Dan the Head" write, edit, collate, staple and publish 200 copies of ABR each month. Then the free issues disappear from newsstands, bars, and record stores. Mullaney calls ABR's circulation plan "kind of a scavenger hunt-style distribution."

"We're creating a sense of community, an informal call and response," says Mark Cunningham. Stephen Mullaney adds, "Sometimes we call but get no response." But he adds, "The best part of a zine has got to be the amazingly kooky feedback that we get."

Here's what you'll find in the latest issue if you're lucky enough to catch the print run: about a dozen different typefaces, letters, an engaging to-be-continued story, a first-person book review, a suggested reading list, original comics, and a free-flowing rant about movies, Durham, NYC and the new mall.

Cunningham notes that the zine takes its name from "treats at a local watering hole: Atomic Fireballs and Pabst Blue Ribbon." Asked how many more issues were on the boards, Mullaney responded slyly, "I guess we will make as many as it takes."

ABR wants stories about the food service industry for a future fall issue: "Comix, rants, poems," says the inside cover, "about the glories of restaurant work from you poor suckers out there in the trenches." This time, they're paying. Can't think of a better way to start the fall.

Find them at: Carolina Quarterly www.unc.edu/depts/cq online, North Carolina Sportsman www.north carolinasportsman .com, The Atomic Blue Ribbon Flyer, 1305 Green St., Durham, N.C., 27705.

  • Encouraging news from three regional publications.

More by John Valentine

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