UPDATE, January 6: Mission accomplished! Thanks to all who contributed.
It’s probably never been easy to be a writer of short fiction, but it’s probably never been harder than right now to make a living at it. Brian White wants to fix that. And he needs a little help.
Brian is a copyeditor at the Boston Globe whom I follow on Twitter and on his blog, Talk Wordy to Me. His new project, Fireside, will be a quarterly magazine that publishes fiction of all genres and—here’s the important part—pays its writers a fair rate. (The going rate for fiction, Brian reports, is an appalling 5 cents a word. Fireside will pay 12.5 cents a word, or $500 for a 4,000-word story.)
To launch Fireside—a very appealing name, by the way—Brian has put it up on Kickstarter, which gets the public involved in the funding of creative projects. It’s an all-or-nothing deal: the project must be fully funded or no pledges are redeemed. Brian has set a goal of $6,500, and as of this morning he’d raised about $2,700 toward that amount, mostly in pledges of $25 or less. The deadline is January 6; if the full $6,500 isn’t raised by then, no money will change hands and Fireside may join the ranks of worthy ideas that never got off the ground.
I’d hate to see that happen. And it doesn’t have to, because I have a plan.
On an average day, about 750 regular readers (as opposed to random searchers) visit my blog. Those regular readers most likely come here because they—you—are interested in words and writing and the creative process. That means you’re in the target audience for Fireside. You may even be a fiction writer who’d like to be published in Fireside.
So here’s my idea: If each of you pledges $4 or more each, Brian will meet his goal and Fireside #1 will be on its way to reality. Pledge a little more, and there’s hope for an Issue #2.
As they say on public radio, you can make a pledge right now. Or, if you need a little more persuading, you can keep reading.
You regular readers know that I don’t do this sort of thing very often. I don’t think I’ve ever asked readers to send money anywhere. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I care a lot about this project of Brian’s.
Once upon a time, not all that long ago, almost every popular magazine published at least one short story, and often more than one, in every issue, all year round. And by popular magazines I mean mass-circulation and general interest, not “literary.” F. Scott Fitzgerald published his short stories in The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire; Willa Cather and Kurt Vonnegut wrote fiction for Collier’s Weekly. Tom Wolfe published The Bonfire of the Vanities in 27 installments in Rolling Stone. I grew up reading short stories by less-famous (but compulsively readable) authors in my mother’s copies of Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal; later on, I read the young-adult fiction—some of it written by actual young adults—in Seventeen.
Now? Good Housekeeping and Redbook still publish fiction, I’m happy to report, but not Ladies’ Home Journal or O or Real Simple or Wired or Esquire or Vanity Fair. The New Yorker and The Atlantic publish a single short story per issue (except for special all-fiction issues); they’re almost exclusively “literary” stories, which in my experience means they’re often plotless and unfathomable.
In every medium we’re inundated with information, opinion, and memoir. Fiction, which used to be part of every literate person’s everyday experience, is a threatened species.
Fireside aims to be a modest corrective to this discouraging trend. I’m eager to see what Brian, an excellent editor, can do with it. I’ve already made my pledge. How about you?