To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Ricepaper is planning a special 20.4 issue to coincide with the release of alliterAsian: The Best of Ricepaper, an anthology launched at the October Vancouver
Ricepaper, the longest running publication dedicated to Asian Canadian writing, is currently also the only literary magazine dedicated to Southeast Asian Canadian writing. The Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop (ACWW) Society publishes Ricepaper magazine and mandates ‘Asian,’ in this context, be defined as Southeast Asian.
“Certainly the tenacity of the ACWW Society, especially under Jim Wong Chu, has resulted in this long legacy of endurance,” says Anna Kaye, the magazine’s editor.
A long lasting publication
Jim Wong Chu points out that although there are more online vehicles available (aside from submitting to literary journals and periodicals) there is only one space dedicated to the publishing of Asian Canadian work on a continuing basis. Most of the attempts in the past, such as Banana and Jasmine Magazines, only lasted briefly.
He attributes the long-running success, which kept Ricepaper going for such a long time, to “dogged determination.”
“There were lots of good moments and bad ones, but we survived. We also had dedicated volunteers who believed in what we were doing,” says Wong Chu.
Ricepaper founder Wong Chu came up with the idea for the anthology, according to Kaye.
“The writers, who have been included in the anthology seem delighted; however, any anthologizing project will always have regrettable and notable omissions, in terms of work excluded and people unacknowledged,” says Kaye.
Ricepaper’s reputation has opened it to featuring an impressive roster of Southeast Asian Canadian writers, including Ruth Ozeki, Evelyn Lau and Fred Wah.
Kaye thinks there will be an increased focus on the literAsian festival: the priority of the ACWW Society.
Despite the recent and significant increase in Ricepaper subscribers, and an unprecedented increase in ad sales and donations, the ACWW Society board is offering little to no support for the magazine.
Kaye supports the mandate of the magazine, but recognizes the dwindling support and the challenges it faces in the future.
“The magazine [is] the strongest it ever has been in terms of content and production,” says Kaye. “It’s sad, as one of the many literary magazines in Canada, Ricepaper has a very good case for continuing.”
Roots of Ricepaper
Ricepaper started as a newsletter for the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop. Later the magazine was given money by Canada Council to develop Ricepaper into a magazine. Wong Chu was one of the early publishers and editors of the magazine.
“We wanted an opportunity and saw the magazine as a vehicle to seek out, develop and showcase emerging Asian Canadian writers,” says Wong Chu.
He recounts the early days, especially the first 10 years, as tough because it was hard to find enough materials to publish. The magazine struggled to meet its mandate.
“Things changed after that and more graduates were coming out of writing and publishing courses from colleges and university, and the content got better,” says Wong Chu. “Also the community lacked experienced, qualified people as editors, publishers, copy editors and personnel to run a proper publication. The quality suffered in those days.”
After 20 years, especially in the last five years, the magazine is receiving enough quality submissions to achieve its vision –
with good editorial staff and publishing work to stand well on its own.
“Unfortunately, this comes when print media is in decline along with the closure of many important periodicals. It’s a real challenge,” says Wong Chu.
For more information, visit www.ricepapermagazine.ca.