An Interview with Postscript Magazine
Evelyn Maguire (Overheard) in conversation with Vamika Sinha (Postscript Magazine)
A monthly, online magazine, Postscript has published 38 issues since its founding in March 2018. With contributors and staff spanning the globe, Postscript is a prolific publisher of fiction, poetry, visual arts, interviews, personal essays, and arts & culture critique. Founded in Paris and now based in the UAE, the content, art, and media featured on Postscript leans into its international roots. From a historical examination of the refugee crisis to grappling with what it means to be productive in a capitalist society to an artistic exploration of male Arab identity, Postscript is interested in work that “expand[s] our own understanding of intersectional and cosmopolitan discourse.”
Speaking on behalf of Postscript is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Vamika Sinha (who you may recognize from Overheard’s Issue III!) Vamika is a poet, journalist and photographer from India and Botswana and is currently based in Dubai, where she works on the editorial team for the Middle Eastern art publication Canvas Magazine.
This Q&A is part of Overheard ’s interview series dedicated to highlighting and uplifting the many magazines and journals that make up our literary community. Many thanks to Postscript, and be sure to check out their open calls and submission guidelines here.
Q: Hi, Vamika! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak about Postscript. First, I want to commend you — and the entire PS team — on such a phenomenal publication. While prepping this interview, I was continuously being sidetracked by the seemingly endless, really striking work you’ve published. How does it feel to be 38 issues in? What has changed since issue one in 2018?
A: Thank you so much for having me and featuring Postscript! Honestly, we have changed and evolved so much since our founding. We started out just publishing our own writing and then expanded over time to include writers all over the world, and eventually introduced a visual arts section and then went further into multimedia and hybrid works. The growth and establishment of our reputation has been pretty phenomenal and what I particularly love is how we’ve been able to publish works together around an open-ended theme that come from vastly different backgrounds and places, but speak to each other in unusual or thoughtful ways you might not expect. It’s really come to embody a style of digital curation that manifests our initial goal to create a cosmopolitan publication which not only reflects but actually deeply engages in the concept of diversity in arts and publishing.
Another thing that has changed is that we’ve come to find more of a sense of roots or base in the UAE, where I myself and several members of our team are based. The arts scene and community here are nascent so it’s exciting to see how a grassroots publication can build connections and actually shape the future of arts critique, journalism and literature here. The scene for that is only just beginning to bloom so we feel like we’re at the budding stage where we can actually help to pioneer things for the future!
Q: What inspired you and PS’s co-founder, Zoe Jane Patterson, to start Postscript?
A: We were studying abroad in Paris at the time and were missing our literature classes on our home campus at NYU Abu Dhabi. We ended up spending a lot of time talking about books, literature and poetry together and using that as a conduit to also understand Paris as a city, which was new and intimidating in several ways to us. We wanted to use the city’s own literary history as a site for inciting major literary works and movements and find our own place as writers and editors within it. Our previous experiences working for other publications had been lackluster, and I think we wanted to exercise what we were learning in our unique literature programme at NYU, coupled with our experiences in this particular era of burgeoning social media, to write, disseminate and share in critical, cosmopolitan discourse that was truly diverse. Writing in the nuanced way we did and wanted to do, felt like it didn’t have the right platform in the gatekept, elite, or inadequate or stifling publications we personally had access to, and the limits of social media platforms and blogs just didn’t suffice for what we wanted to say. So, what started as a group chat of us sharing poems and thoughts with each other as we traversed Paris in our own ways, grew into quite a spontaneous decision one night while drinking in our dorms to just start our own magazine. In hindsight, it was quite an audacious and fearless thing to do. We didn’t think too much about it; we didn’t have elaborate plans like potential startup founders or anything. All we knew was that we really cared about what we were doing and had an intense passion for it that we wanted to follow through, no matter the outcome.
Q: For an independent magazine, PS now has a pretty sizable team. How have you come to manage nearly 20 people? Are there challenges with working in so many time-zones?
A: I won’t lie: it’s incredibly challenging. But having a diverse team from different places not only makes us feel like we have a community with a whole host of varying perspectives, but also enables us to learn from each other and bring different skills and ideas to Postscript. It truly exercises the cosmopolitan vision we began with. Working across time-zones is difficult indeed, but we work with it the best way we can, using Doodle polls and Slack to organize. For those of us in the UAE, it’s easier for us to physically meet and plan things and engage with the community around us, so that helps quite a bit. But I love how we can have different conversations about what we do; there are Black members on our team, South Asians, Palestinians…everyone has a unique background and it makes us more empathetic to each other as well as develop and exercise an inclusive, cosmopolitan outlook when making important editorial decisions, especially when they have a political aspect to them. It allows us to publish in different languages, to have conversations about pieces that directly affect some people’s constructions and manifestations of identity, and to be more sensitive. I’ve learnt a lot as an editor through the different people I work with and I’m so grateful for that, even if managing a sizeable team and meeting production goals can often get complicated, messy or frustrating. That’s part and parcel of any kind of collaborative, creative production though, and I take the lessons as they come.
Q: On behalf of all the Postscript fans out there — What do you look for in a submission? Or on the opposite end, is there anything that turns you away from a submission?
A: This is a great question. Our open calls are usually themed so I think the first thing we look for is how does a submission connect to or illuminate the theme at hand, and does it work. If it doesn’t and we find the piece still striking or interesting, we may consider publishing it in a later issue where it fits another theme better. Because we publish a variety of forms, we have “desks” for each form, and people there who are more well-versed in the practice and history of that form to make larger decisions (although every member has a voice and say on the submissions). Usually, we like pieces that play with the theme in an unexpected manner and surprise us. We look a lot at craft; how has the creator innovated and exercised their skills with language, or whatever form they are working in? We also take note if the submitter has taken time to read our submission guidelines; if they haven’t, it’s not an immediate reject but it does raise a flag.
Obviously, we turn away racist, misogynist, ableist, sexist, colonialist work, and are wary of using violence against women or marginalized communities as an unnecessary plot point (we see this a lot in fiction submissions).
I also want to emphasize here that we accept works in any language, as we can usually get access to speakers in that language through our network.
Ultimately, we like to look for work that has nuance, where you can see that the creator has put thought, care and intention into what they have made, without them having to directly tell us. We like things that push boundaries, but not just for that sake, but to make a unique statement or expression in their chosen form.
Q: Could you tell me about the VICE 2021 project? In particular, how it got started, and the goals of the project?
A: The Exit 11 theater company are friends of ours and they reached out to us to launch a collaborative, online residency with them. We happily agreed! It was an easy, doable way to bring creators to collaborate together across the world in new and interesting ways, and really exemplified our ethos. It was a way to create art in the pandemic and engage people through our joint platforms, while also providing mentorship on our ends. We’ve slowly been releasing the projects coming out of it on our website and we’re hoping to engage with the project residents further through more online events in the future.
Q: And finally, what’s next for Postscript?
A: We’ve been on a three-month summer hiatus but will be returning with our monthly issues this August! The open call for that will go out in July. We also have plans to come out with a print issue and merch and launch these at an exhibition in a local art space here in Dubai at the end of this year, which is very, very exciting. I think we want to strengthen our ties to the arts community in the Gulf region and continue creating connections with the scene here and contributors across the world. The UAE and the Middle East in general is not adequately portrayed in global media, and we have some power to really showcase the incredible creativity and conversations coming out of this region, so obviously we want to keep exercising that, and also make it more complex and nuanced, as well as easily accessible! Internally, we are working on removing hierarchies within our own internal format and transitioning to a more and more collective structure. That personally is really important to me as we move forward. We have to inwardly reflect the ethos we perpetuate outwardly.