Luke: So we are here to talk about the Bosphorus Review and the work we’ve done over the past year.
Thomas: We are. (Editors note, Thomas is affecting a British accent here. This will be relevant later.)
Luke: I’m going to start with Thomas. It’s nothing personal Erica he was just in the door first.
Erica: Feelings hurt.
Luke: Thomas I asked you to join me on the Bosphorus review almost as soon as I had the idea.
Thomas: Indeed, you did old chap. (ed. I told you it would be relevant)
Luke: Did you think we would be here a year later?
Thomas: Like still have a magazine, six issues later?
Luke: Yes, and with it still getting better.
Thomas: To be honest, I’m not really sure if I thought we would be here a year later. I didn't think about it that much in the long term, where are we going to be with this a year from now, two years from now. It was a very much an impulsive thing, ‘This sounds great why not?’ But, if I were to envision it back then I would not have envisioned it being as successful as it has been.
Luke: How would you define success?
Thomas: I think part of the success has been in our content. Some of our content has been much more phenomenal than I expected, very professional, some great stuff. In terms of the diversity of forms that we do publish and in terms of the overall size of the magazine, none of this was stuff I could have foreseen or envisioned.
Luke: Erica, your turn now, why did you choose to join us?
Erica: Partly it’s in the tagline. This is the only English-language literary journal in Istanbul, not in Turkey because I think there are some in Ankara. I just feel there is a lot more room for literary development especially for emerging authors in this area. There are lots of expat journals in other cities such Buenos Aires and Berlin. These are places I’ve travelled to. Also, because I came from a creative writing masters degree and another masters degree in literature I used to work on literary journals in various capacities and I just wanted to get involved with them again.
Thomas: It might be interesting for our readers to know about some of the other stuff you've done.
Erica: Sure. When I was first in my creative writing program we had a journal called 14 Hills that was published by the university. We had an all student staff and we got around 400 submissions each time an edition was published.
Erica: I think it was a bi-annual edition but it came out in hard copy as well as online. I think I worked on promotion at that point and I was working on fiction editing. I enjoyed working on that magazine and later I started a reading series in San Francisco that still exists--the Hazel Reading Series. I started it out of my living room. That one was focused on getting women in the community to read their work because San Francisco is flooded with literary readings. Oftentimes in readings, the first people to step up are men. There are a lot of women with very accomplished writings in their back pockets, but they weren’t always available to the public for readings so the reading series aims to welcome them to read by an invite-only system. We kept it diverse because each of the authors that read would invite their own choice for the next reading, so it was sort of a hand-me-down project. For that I spoke on a panel in the American Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) national conference to talk about my reading series, in 2014, right before I moved abroad. While I’ve been living here I’ve started a small creative writing group in which we meet and work on prompts. We help workshop each other's work and that network has been a good resource for getting writers for the Bosphorus Review. We have a mutually beneficial community. The same goes for Spoken Word; I see that as a very beneficial group in the area.
Luke: Erica, you have been bumped up, you are now running the nonfiction section. Thank you for taking that off my hands. What are you going to do differently now you are in charge?
Erica: I’d like to continue focusing on regional literature or literature that represents translated work that people don't really have a great understanding of. For example, in the coming edition I’m writing about an experimental novel from Bulgaria. As I’ve been doing research I’ve found that Bulgarians complain that there are no famous Bulgarian authors. So putting writers on the map who aren’t Orhan Pamuk or Elif Şafak. We want to dive into the thick of things and maybe through our own powers of translation and different approaches we can find what’s really exciting people in the moment. So for example, just browsing through Ekşi Sözlük is very exciting because you can hear Turkish people talking about authors, it's really raw and I want to hear and expose these impressions. So maybe finding more unique approaches to the genre of review could be one way.
Also we could broaden our set of genres. For example reviews of comics, that would be amazing.
Luke: I’ve already done a few of those.
Erica: I want more!
Luke: Alright, I’m on it.
Erica: Also more comparative pieces. Comparing two pieces of literature across cultures.
Luke: That's true. I think we’ve only had one comparative piece written by Thomas.
Erica: Yep, I’d like to do more of that.
Luke: That would be interesting.
Erica: One last note. Works to be translated.
Luke: Yes, we did one of those in the… err last edition I think (ed. it was September), or was it the one before?
Erica: By invite a friend of mine, a brilliant young author wrote it--Yağmur Ali Coşkun--and there are many brilliant young actors who know about other literature that hasn't been translated so I want to get those thoughts.
Luke: That's something that's very pertinent right now. We are living through a time when Turkish literature is exploding onto the international scene. A few years ago you could only find Orhan Pamuk and Elif Şafak but there is more and more getting translated and I think it is very exciting to be writing about that right now.
Thomas: I would like it to be a goal for us to have at least one of those pieces for every edition.
Luke: I think that's a good idea. Thanks for that. Ok moving onto you now, Thomas. What’s your aim for the poetry section going forward?
Thomas: I don't know if my goals have changed too much there. But one of the goals that I set myself is to have at least one or two translated poems per issue, which I've been decently successful at. I actually think that our translated poems are some of the best we've published. So I would like to keep doing that. I would like to have a highly diverse range of content. I would like to have enough submissions to where I’m only selecting things that I think should really be published, that 100% deserve it. Like, I open the email, I read it and say, “I have to publish it.” If I get ten of those poems, two of them translations per issue, I’m a happy poetry editor.
Luke: So are you going to start accepting un-translated poetry or only stuff that has already been translated. I mean are you going to be accepting poetry in Turkish or Arabic to be translated?
Thomas: Yeah, that has always been a thing where if an original poet sends me a poem that they would really like translated I would be happy to. We got a couple of those where the person sent me the poem and said, “I think this would be just a bit better if we changed this.” We’ve had some where it was a collaborative process and I’m happy to do it either way. So definitely I’m always open to un-translated works--always.
Luke: So Erica, you've done some translation for us as well. How did you find it?
Erica: I enjoyed it. I’d like to offer writers the chance to submit book reviews in a different language. I’m able to translate from Turkish or Spanish, so I don't want to hold people back from writing if English is their barrier. I think translation is a resource we can offer. It’s not a primary focus for me, but I want to keep it available so people don't feel shy about submitting their work.
Luke: Sure. Let's talk about interviews. We’ve all done interviews at some point or had you done them before?
Erica: I’ve done a few before.
Luke: Cool, Thomas?
Thomas: I think it was my first time but I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't.
Luke: For me it they were the first interviews I’ve ever done and I found them very rewarding. So what kind of interviews would you like to do in the future? Who are your dream interviewees?
Erica: Of course, it would be great to get some bigger names in literature, especially from the region. One of my biggest dreams is to interview Birhan Keskin. She’s a Turkish poet and a collection of her work has been translated into English.
Thomas: Same thing here. I would love to talk to some big names in Turkish or Arabic and translate them. I think I would be interested in doing an interview with a literary translator, someone like Dick Davis for example. That would be awesome, especially someone who is also producing original literature as well as translating other people’s work. They are related but distinct things.
Luke: So an idea for an interview or series of interviews that I had was translators discussing translations.
Thomas: Specific translations?
Luke: Yes. About their translation of a specific work. Talking about choices they made while doing the translation. It’s something that I have no ability to do myself but it would be something that I would like to read, for example, somebody sitting down with Maureen Freely to discuss how she went about translating Sait Faik or something like that. I'd find that fascinating to read.
Erica: The interviews are interesting because we've kind of expanded into publishing and the mechanics of producing literature, rather than talking directly about literary content. A lot of good ideas have come up when we’ve talked about ideas for interviews, for example, interviewing book cover artists or translators.
Erica: Definitely, I’m curious about their lives and work and I’m sure other people are as well. There are a lot of opportunities there.
Luke: I’ve particularly enjoyed interviewing my historians. I’ve enjoyed doing the research for them. I think it's good because often these academics, although their work is important, they aren’t widely known outside their fields. People don't come to us to read academic work but if they do and they read an interview in an academic field I think that's something useful that I’d like to keep doing.
Thomas: I’d like to interview an academic. I tried to in the past. It just didn't work. I have one or two in the pipeline.
Luke: I’ve found academics are usually more open to being interviewed than novelists. I don't know if it’s because they do it less or are less precious or they want to do it more.
Moving on. One of the things that I’ve been quite pleased about is that we represent quite a broad cross-section of different people, from different backgrounds. How do you think we’ve done on that? Do you think we've got a good balance or we could do more?
Erica: I think we could do more, but I also think we have a good balance. Istanbul is a very fluid city where we have a lot of people coming and going at the same time we have some people with a very strong sense of identity. I think finding a balance where we can get both involved is very important.
Luke: I’ve been reasonably pleased. We haven’t had enough women in our interviews but we’re getting better at that. But we’ve had a lot of diversity in our cover artists in particular. What do you think Thomas?
Thomas: I think we’ve shown a decent balance especially in terms of world literature vs specifically Turkish or regional literature. I think I would, of course, want us to be diveres in that sense but also to have some sense of identity or core audience, so to say. So, I think we’ve had a decent balance but could always do better.
Luke: Alright any questions for me? Time to put the boot on the other foot.
Thomas: The questioner becomes the questioned.
Erica: Alright, one year ahead, where would you like the journal to be?
Luke: Well, I would like a print edition. That's a high priority for me. I’d like to still be here in a year, still producing decent content, getting better and better. That's what I’d like to be doing, running that same ship but with even better articles. The other thing I keep thinking about is doing a few special editions. It was something I thought about when I was setting this up. A couple of ideas I had in mind were, obviously, a women’s edition. I'd like to do another one about Turkish minorities, so Kurdish, Armenian, Zaza would all be fascinating. That's going to take organization and thinking but it’s something I’d like to do going.
Another distant ambition would be somehow raising some money from a literary grant or whatever. It really bothers me that we don't pay our writers, not that we make money ourselves, of course. But if we did raise some money paying the writers would be the number one priority.
Erica: What are the biggest highlights from the past year?
Luke: Getting onto the fellowship for the Tanpınar Literature Festival. It was very kind of them to invite me on that program. I spent the best part of a week traveling around the various publishers and meeting lots of the industry workers. That was very interesting because it gave me an idea of where we could go and things we could be doing. They were all very supportive and said they liked what we were doing. Quite a lot of them said, “Why are you doing this? Why are you trying to start a literary review in Istanbul now?” I said, “I kind of need something to do with my weekends.”
Erica: Do you hope to go back to the festival next year?
Luke: I’m hoping to organise some sort of event. I was thinking that one of you two should apply for the fellowship next. You’ll have to fight between yourselves over who gets on it.
Thomas: I think the Yabangee event was a highlight.
Luke: Oh yeah. That was fun I enjoyed that.
Thomas: It gave us a lot of publicity. We met a couple of writers. We met Erica there.
Luke: We did indeed.
Erica: Yeah I forgot to mention Yabangee as an important community group that sort of intersects with us.
Luke: They've given quite a bit of support. They’ve been very good at sharing our submissions page and new editions. In fact, we had an article that we couldn't use in the Bosphorus Review ended up in Yabangee.
Erica: How do you hope to reach out to new people?
Luke: Yeah, so that's tricky. I keep getting told that I need to play the twitter game.
Erica: Yeah, twitter’s where it’s at for literary journals.
Thomas: One must tweet (Ed. British accent again)
Luke: I despise it. I really don't like twitter.
The other thing I’m trying to is to reach out to other journals that do other things similar to us. I’m meeting with the guy who runs Reorient tomorrow to talk about his work. Reorient moves in a very similar space to us. We did a bit of outreach with William Armstrong’s Turkey Book Talk podcast, which I strongly recommend. Seriously, it’s excellent.
I thought there aren’t that many journals doing what we do in the Middle East. The other group is the Maviblau people. They have been very helpful through their exchanges. We need to keep looking for stuff like that.
Erica: Do you think we could expand and take on more volunteers?
Luke: What would you see them doing?
Erica: Twitter… maybe an art director.
Luke: I was thinking about that actually. We have so many events going on here in Istanbul. We just had the Biennale. For example, it would be great to have a residence art or theater critic writing about what's going on in Istanbul. I know that other magazines touch on that kind of stuff more than we do but it would still be interesting. It’s not really my field and I’m hesitant to go into areas where I’m not comfortable. But, at the same time, if somebody is interested in doing it I would be open to that.
Thomas: I’ve heard that suggestion once or twice.
Erica: If there is someone who is interested in art and has connections it would be cool to have them featured in the magazine as well.
Thomas: I would love to see more creative works as well. For example, one of our poets sent in some poems that had accompanying pictures. I think that's really cool.
Erica: Different varieties of digital media?
Thomas: Exactly. There is all sort of stuff that could be done there. I would even be open to a photo essay that incorporates creative non-fiction and photography as a central element. I think that would be great.
Luke: That sounds very good.
Thomas: A graphic novel.
Luke: Oh man. I would love to have a comic.
Thomas: Can you have a graphic short story?
Luke: Yeah, blood, gore, tits.
Thomas: Not that kind of graphic.
Erica: Shall we have some closing statements?
Thomas: BROB is awesome!
Luke: BROB sounds like the kind of thing that lives under a bridge and terrorises children.
Thomas: If you don't read your literature the BROB will come and get you.
Erica: We could have that as a cover; the BROB monster.
Luke: That is one thing I should say. I want to give a big thanks to all our cover artists, who’ve been excellent. We’ve had some really really good stuff. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how different artists have interpreted the brief. Any final thoughts?
Erica: Thank you to Merve [Pehlivan, organiser of Spoken Word, and a frequent contributor].
Thomas: Always a shout out to Merve.
Erica: She’s got our backs.
Luke: And our fronts as well to be honest.
Thomas: I would just like to repeat… BROB!!