The Canary Press is an Australian quarterly magazine of short stories founded by Robert Skinner and Andy Josselyn. Based in Melbourne, it publishes new and local writers as well as more well-known Australian and international writers. The magazine also showcases beautiful cover designs and illustrations in each issue.
AWM interviewed The Canary Press in 2014 and recently decided to catch up with the entertaining Robert once again to find out about the magazine’s progress over the years. AWM learned that the magazine is now available in airports, allowing you to buy and fly away with your copy. AWM also asked Robert what might be in store for The Canary Press after its hiatus until 2017.
Visit The Canary Press to buy the magazine online or locate stockists.
The Canary Press has just released Issue 10 — congratulations! I really enjoyed reading the mix of stories in this issue and travelling from the outback to hell. AWM checked in with you two years ago when the magazine was in its infancy. Can you give us a quick update on any highlights and changes since 2014?
We’ve tripled our circulation since then, published some of our heroes, thrown some wildly irresponsible launch parties, and somehow made it to ten issues, of which we are very proud.
Oh, and the magazine is in airports now! We now live in an Australia where you can buy a short story magazine at your boarding gate and hop on a plane. Fancy that.
Issue 10 starts off with some translated fiction from an Israeli-Polish writer and an outback story brimming with suspense. Could you describe what makes for a memorable short story in the eyes of the team at The Canary Press?
There are two short stories that I still remember reading in high school, some 16 years ago. One was “The Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, the other was “How to Build a Fire” by Jack London. I had no idea at the time that these were both well-known stories by well-known writers. They could have been written by my teacher, for all I knew. But I went through the next decade or so with them clanging around in my head. That is a rare and magical thing. There are many competent, sophisticated and beautifully written stories out there that can pass through a thousand hands without ever leaving a mark on a reader.
We publish a pretty eclectic bunch of stories. And we all have different tastes, of course. But we particularly like stories that tackle big themes with a busload of disappearing monkeys, for instance. Or on the high seas. And we love funny. For a country that prides itself on its humour, there is not enough of it in our fiction.
Short stories have historically been harder for publishers to sell when compared to long fiction, or even non-fiction. How do you think The Canary Press has contributed to a higher level of interest in short stories?
We work in a very dark and uninspiring office. And we flap away in there, surrounded by cups, boxes, mysterious invoices and old balloons. It’s very hard to know if we are making a difference most of the time.
I know that we have managed to connect with a bunch of people who weren’t reading short stories before. That is one of the things we’re proudest of. But we’re still talking pretty small numbers in the scheme of things. I continue to stubbornly insist that there is no good reason why short stories do not have a much wider audience than they do. And dammit if we won’t keep trying to create one.
(We have also led at least one eight year old boy astray: he came up to me at his mother’s dinner party: ‘I was really enjoying the story about rabies,’ he said. ‘Until’ — and here he looked at me pointedly — ‘I encountered the F-word.’)
After three years as the Editor of The Canary Press you have a wealth of editorial and publishing experience. What advice do you have for aspiring editors who would like to create their own literary journal or magazine in Australia?
I have a theory that a Publishing Degree teaches you, in very sophisticated ways, why publishing is such a terrible idea. And it is, of course, by many measures. It leads very quickly to poverty, despair, and destitution. But you can have a helluva time on the way down.
It might be comforting to know that we had no idea what we were doing when we started out. And at most stages along the way. But many wonderful things are created by people who don’t know what they’re doing. Most books are written that way, for instance.
The Canary Press has published ten issues since 2013. You have announced you’ll be taking a break until 2017. Could you tell us what exciting new changes we can expect on your return?
Some of them are mysteries even to us!
One of the reasons we’re taking the break is to give us a chance to rethink the possibilities of the magazine. It’s not very cool to say it, but it takes a hell of an effort and a lot of people power to put out an issue of the magazine. And that means there is not much time for what people in suits call ‘blue sky thinking’ — to ask ourselves: if we could do anything with this magazine, what would we do? Issue 10 seems like a pretty good time to do that.
Zoe Biddlestone is currently studying a Master of Arts in Writing, Editing and Publishing at The University of Queensland. She also has Bachelor degrees in Arts and Law. Zoe works full-time and enjoys freelance editing and proofreading after hours. She loves reading travel writing, the classics and translated fiction.