Since it launched last year, countercultural ladies’ journal Fat Quarter‘s made a welcome addition to my magazine rack with its gorgeous layouts, proper articles and amazingly thorough books pages.
Edited by London-based journalist Katie Allen, it’s inspired by the zine-tradition that gave us US indie-girl mags like Bust and Venus (as Katie explains below) and serves as a friendly reminder that some women’s lifestyle mags don’t have anything at all to do with our lives. FQ is independent, original and clever in a very English way: it looks cool, the content’s unique (where else would you find a piece on drag kings next to a DIY bento-box how-to?) and is excellent value – unlike some mags it’ll take you a lot longer to read than a cup of tea takes to sup. FQ is for keeps – and if one could subscribe, I would IMMEDIATELY. To celebrate the recent launch of issue 3, Katie answered a few questions about it for us…
How did FQ get started? FQ began as a website in June 2009. It was born out of my general frustration with women’s magazines—I love magazines, I’ve been known to buy them just to cut the pictures out—but I could never find any aimed at women that didn’t make me feel either downcast or furious afterwards, simply because of the rampant consumerism, patronising tone and endless twaddle about diets and men and celebrities.
So I started the site, and after badgering my friends to write copy for me, I began to get a wider circle of contributors and people contacting me through Facebook and the site, saying they wanted to get involved.
It seemed like I was on the right track, so in the spring of the following year I published the first print issue of the magazine, the second issue came out in the autumn of 2010, and FQ3 has just been published.
Although the mag is independently produced, you have very high production/design standards – did you have a concept for the look of the zine (see that cute sketchy typography in the pix below) when you started out and how did you start working with a designer? I had a sort-of concept! I knew I wanted it to reflect the ziney ethos of riot grrl and third-wave feminism -I produced my own photocopied zine at uni called Deflowered (!!) – but also I wanted it to be pretty and glossy and A4, to be a proper alternative to Cosmo and all the rest. Of course, in my dreams it would be about four times the size, but I haven’t quite got that budget to work with…
How I found my designers reflects the best thing about the magazine for me – meeting girls with the same ethos. The first magazine was designed by a friend of a friend, Susie Gray, while Kika Sroka-Miller who designed FQ2 and FQ3 basically harassed me at a party about wanting to help. She’s been totally great and helped me no end to make the magazine come together and look the way I like it, despite various crises along the way.
Your day job is as media editor at The Bookseller magazine – how do you make the time for FQ too? I just have to make time whenever I can! I’ve been known to get up at 6am on a Sunday to work on FQ, especially when I’m trying to update the website and finish the magazine at the same time! Quite often the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is look at a computer, but it is worth it in the end when someone buys a copy or comes up to me at an event or zine fair and tells me that they love the magazine. That’s why I do it!
and also you must be constantly bombarded with news about how books are dead/print is over, which makes it doubly special that FQ is a real magazine! how do you like to consume media – paper and digital? And what are your own favourite zines/indie mags? Ha tell me about it! I do think it’s necessary to have a digital element, of course it is, and that’s one of the most fun parts because it’s so spontaneous and contemporaneous (and relatively free!). Plus I do get most of my readers through Twitter and Facebook and blogs. Saying that, there is still something so special about a proper, tangible magazine, and that’s not going to go away.
I have a whole bookshelf full of magazines at home— I have a subscription to Bust, and whenever people go to America I make them buy Bitch and Venus and Nylon for me. I also like The Gentlewoman. If I go to a zine fair I’ll always hunt out ladymags like Pamflet of course, and Shebang. I’ve just discovered a lovely cycling magazine called Boneshaker too. As for online, that’s something I’d peruse in a different way – for a quick shot of entertainment, so magazine sites like Jezebel, and craft sites like Craftster.
how have you collaborated with other women in the DIY/zine/sphere on FQ projects? (am thinking for your parties and ladyfests etc) Golly, well, FQ pretty much wouldn’t exist without other people helping me out – in particular girls connected to the Storm in a Teacup collective. Elizabeth Martin has helped me organize parties (well, she basically did it and I got nervous/drunk in the background) and also generally kept me going when I wanted to give up. Verity Flecknell also helped me with parties, especially by performing at them. But also Ladyfest was really helpful, just in giving me exposure, so was the Southbank’s Women of the World festival. Plus sites like The Girls Are and For Books’ Sake – we operate in quite a friendly way I think, so I’ve written for them, and they’ve written for me and we promote each other.
Why do you include craft projects? I love craft, I always have, and I can’t quite believe it’s got so trendy as when I was younger it was always me making terrible Christmas presents for people and endlessly beading/knitting/sewing/gluing etc. I think it suits FQ’s DIY, punky, environmentally-aware vibe too— and I hope people like to make the projects! Plus, there’s such a massive boom in women starting their own cottage industries, especially online, I think it supports them to feature crafty girls, put in links to their sites etc.
Who would your ultimate FQ cover girl be? Wow, that’s a good one! PJ Harvey or Alison Mosshart or Imelda May, or Zadie Smith. Actually I would love to interview Stephenie Meyer- not necessarily for the front cover but just to understand the psyche of the person who created Twilight.
Can you tell us a bit about your FQ contributors and how they are ‘recruited’? It’s a gentle mixture of cajoling and being approached. Sometimes things are written by my journo friends (when I’ve badgered them saying ‘please please please…’) but most often it’s people approaching me, usually online, with ideas. Quite often they will write one thing and then disappear, but it would nice to be able to nurture a batch of writers. It would certainly make my life easier! But I just love it when people say they want to write for FQ, it makes me feel quite proud.
When can we expect an issue 4 and what else you you have planned for FQ in 2011? To be honest, I can’t do an FQ4 until I’ve sold all of FQ3! It comes out of my meagre pocket (much meagre-er now) so until I make the money back I can’t really justify another mag. So please, Pamflet readers, buy a copy. Buy two!
I don’t have any concrete plans for this year, although I am going to America in August so I will try and spread the FQ word Stateside then. I just want to make the site as good as it can be, and keep covering things people are interested in.
Fat Quarter issue 1 is sold out, but issues 2 and 3 are available to buy now here at £3.50 including UK p&p.
Below: A look inside FQ3