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Chroma Interview

Posted on 08 July 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Shaun Levin, editor of queer fiction journal Chroma

Tell us all about Chroma's history, ethos, content etc

Chroma was set up in 2004 as the only queer literary journal in the UK, and the first ever of its kind in England. There was one in Wales for a while, called Queer Words, but it folded a few years ago. We publish short stories, poetry and artwork by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered writers and artists. We publish work that is not mainstream, that is challenging, exciting and lyrical. We don’t expect people to identify as belonging to any alternative sexuality, so it’s happened that we’ve published the work of writers who identify as straight. Queerness is about a resistance to labelling and a more fluid and inclusive approach to sexual identity. I think the way each individual chooses to live or have sex is not a constant. We’re not a political journal, but as Kathy Acker wrote: “Any appearance of the individual heart is a political occurrence.”

Why did I set up Chroma? I’d been running creative writing workshops for about seven years and coming across these powerful and exciting writers around the UK, and I just thought: Someone has to publish these voices. So I put in a funding application to the Arts Council, and they said yes, and Chroma was on its way. We owe so much to the Arts Council; they are a modern-day patron of the arts.

How do you find writers?

Most of the work we publish comes to Chroma through general submissions. Other stories and poems come from writers myself or the Poetry Editor, Saradha Soobrayen, has worked with in workshops, or seen perform at literary and performance poetry events around the country. For the first few issues our policy was to keep the journal open to only UK-based writers and artists. I wanted to show readers and other writers that there was a queer literary scene in the UK, and that we didn’t have to turn to the States to find those strong, lyrical, non-mainstream voices. And now that we’ve established that, Chroma is becoming more of an international literary journal. One of the ways of getting a worldwide interest was to launch an international writing competition with big cash prizes and prominent writers like Ali Smith, Mark Doty, and Michael Arditti as the judges.

What excites you about a piece of writing-

What excites you about a piece of writing?
The voice. I love a story with a distinct and exciting voice; the kind of voice that makes me think: no-one but this specific writer could have written this story, or this poem. I don’t care how much the plot of a story is full of suspense or humour or horror; if the voice telling the story doesn’t engage me, I’ll stop reading. I love writing that takes me to places I’ve never been, whether physically or psychologically. I love writing that teaches me something about myself, that shows a kind of courage I don’t always have, that is prepared to take thematic and emotional risks.

and what makes your heart sink?

…and what makes your heart sink?
Clichés, unintentionally bad grammar, lazy writing, writing without urgency, the kind of writing that says “I’m writing the way I think I should be writing because I’m too scared to look inside and discover a way to write that reflects my deepest narratives.”

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Elbowsnitch at 10:36 on 10 July 2006  Report this post
This is a really great interview. I love what Shaun says about a more fluid and inclusive approach to sexual identity - and the quote from Kathy Acker.


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