In this series of blogs we meet the team who bring you Firewords, starting with our Editor-in-Chief, Dan Burgess. (Interview by Jen Scott, Associate Editor.)
Dan Burgess is a name many of you will be familiar with. Although I work with him daily, he can be a fairly reticent character (sorry, Dan). Now this is my chance to interrogate question him – bearing in mind that he’ll get his own back later when it’s my turn to be interviewed!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello! I’m originally from Yorkshire but have lived all over the place. I find it hard to stay still. Currently I’m in Newcastle but will be moving to Toronto, Canada, next month. My day job is as a graphic designer, which means I solve problems visually, whether that be branding for a company, print design or even some screen based stuff. It’s a fun job that is different every single day, which is why I love it. Firewords fits in at all other times: before work in the early hours, after work and at weekends. It’s pretty all consuming but is definitely worth it.
As the editor, I’m involved in all areas of the magazine production, but I’d say my biggest role is organising everyone and making sure everything gets done on time (well, that’s the idea). I also design the publication, so most of the visual side of things is done by me, except when we collaborate with some extremely talented artists to bring the stories and poems to life.
I’m also a keen writer myself, though I’ve barely had any time to write anything since starting Firewords! That’s fine though, I believe we all go through seasons and right now my season is design and publishing. Writing will find me again when the time is right.
Describe the three most defining moments of your life so far.
1) Not exactly a moment, but the travelling I’ve done has been one of my most defining experiences. In my early twenties I spent roughly 4 years moving around the world, with longer periods in both Canada and Australia. It changed me a lot, and not only the amazing things I saw and experienced, but the time and space to think. It sounds like a bit of a cliche, but the chance to pause and look inwards, away from a screen, was really refreshing.
2) Choosing to get into design was one of my best decisions. I had always dabbled in art & design but for some reason never really considered it as a career. After returning from travelling I felt a bit lost. I’d studied media before but realised it wasn’t for me. I decided on graphic design and have never looked back. Nothing beats getting paid for doing what you love.
3) Taking Issue 1 to the Post Office for the first time and sending it to all those amazing people who’d supported the project was equally thrilling and terrifying, and the point of no return! Sending each issue off into the world has been just as exhilarating.
Where did the inspiration for Firewords come from?
As a writer and designer, I’d always been keen to bring these two worlds together. I didn’t find the majority of literary magazines already out there very inspiring or accessible. I’m a very visual person and the pages and pages of text didn’t do much for me. I also thought a writing magazine with aesthetic appeal could open the world of short fiction and poetry up to readers who don’t necessarily read this kind of stuff. The first iteration of the magazine came while at university, in the form of a literary newspaper. It got a great reaction so I decided to try it in the real world. It’s come a long way since then but that’s where it started life.
We all remember the Kickstarter campaign that you relied on to get this project off the ground. Can you tell us a bit about that experience and what it meant to you?
It was a crazy and frantic 30 days but a really enjoyable experience. Putting the project on Kickstarter, for me, was a bit like testing the water. Is this a good idea? Is there actually a desire for a publication like this? It turns out there was because we managed to raise 140% of the initial goal. The money it raised was obviously great and helped a lot with getting Issue 1 to print, but the real benefit was spreading the word and meeting so many people who were as passionate about the idea as me.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
There’s lots I love about this job, like getting to work with so many creative and wonderful people, but the best feeling is probably when we accept pieces to be published - especially when it’s clear how much it can mean to a writer to get an affirming yes.
What do you find most challenging?
Straight after the feel-good experience of accepting work comes the worst job of having to reject submissions. It’s particularly difficult when a piece is good but not quite for us for whatever reason (of which there are many). That’s why we try and give feedback to every submission. I know how down-heartening it can feel to get a rejection, so if we can provide something positive to take away from the experience - an area to work on or a reason it’s not right for Firewords - it makes it a little easier, for us and for the writer.
Has anything surprised you since undertaking the role of Editor in Chief at Firewords?
The sheer amount of submissions we receive. Each time we start work on an issue I have a moment of panic that we won’t have enough content, but we always do and always have more amazing writing than we can conceivably publish. It’s humbling that so many writers choose our little magazine to send their work to. It’s a scary step putting writing out into the world, so I hope I never get blasé about that part of the process. Without our submitters, Firewords would be nothing.
It has been a big year. Looking to the future, what do you predict for Firewords in 2015?
Hopefully the continued growth we’ve experienced so far. Marketing is far from my favourite part of this job but it’s vital to keep spreading the word and keep up the momentum. I’m keen to get the magazine into more hands, especially making it easier for our international readers to get hold of a copy by setting up more international stockists. We have some other big plans in the pipeline, but I’ll have to keep quiet about those for a little while longer.
Any final words?
This was intimidating and felt slightly like therapy. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported the project so far. To some extent we’re making it up as we go along, so it’s nice to have so many great people on board for the journey.
Interview by Jen Scott, Associate Editor
Check back soon for the next Meet the Team interview, or head to our About page for info about each member of staff.