These days we hear a lot about the demise of print publication and the general plight of the publishing world. But many agree that there will always remain an interest in local news and therefore local newspapers. The Newtowner is essentially local literary news for Newtown, Connecticut. For those engaged in the world of Arts and Literature, having a publication like this available to your community is something of a dream come true. After all, who wouldn't subscribe to a magazine highlighting the local goings-on pertaining to your niche area of interest?
On The Newtowner's website, the magazine asserts that it “is a first-of-its-kind quarterly arts and literary magazine featuring fiction, poetry, memoir, essays and features celebrating literary, visual and performing artists.” First-of-its-kind could be a bit of an overstatement; although, unless you reside in New York City, what you call your hometown is probably not privileged to have a publication with a focus on your community.
Also on the magazine's website is a bullet list of goals which includes: “[to] bring the work of local new and established writers and artists to a [wider] audience,” “make a positive contribution to the local community's cultural scene,” and involve "as many locals as possible across all ages and demographics.” The magazine has a team of “Youth Expressions” staff members reinforcing their aim to include youth perspectives, to reach out to aspiring writers and artists within the community and give them a platform where they can have their voices heard.
The Newtowner succeeds in featuring diverse voices and in covering a range of topics relevant to the community. The Summer 2011 issue features an interview with author Justin Scott, whose “Ben Abbott series revolves around mysterious happenings in the Newtown-inspired fictional town of Newbury.” In the interview, Scott discusses author collaboration, the joy of writing, and reminds us that “you can't rewrite until you write.”
This issue also includes several poems by inmates, credited by first name only, of Garden Correctional Institution. In a heartfelt poem entitled “Dove's Cry,” the author identified as “Barry” writes:
One morning my cellmate Mac told me to look out
the window. To my surprise, sitting on the window
ledge was a dove. How that was possible I don't
know because outside our cell window is a small courtyard with four walls and a cage-like roof.
Doves are life partners and stay in pairs.
Every day and night the dove's partner sat on top
of the fence looking down helplessly. In order for
her to escape through the roof, her wings would
have to fold completely in midair. That whole scene
almost brought me to tears.
If you live in a major city, you might expect that it's relatively easy to get informed about literary events in your area, right? Those of you who have searched will likely have discovered that the process is not at all simple and you may yearn for a source with centralized information. The Newtowner has a “Calendar of Arts and Literary Events,” which includes listings for book groups, writing groups, and various activities in the surrounding area.
One way to improve the magazine would be to revamp the visual layout. The issue looks a little too much like the mass mailers universities send to alumni, which feature images situated in such a manner as to produce the appearance of having been cut and pasted using a word processing program.
The Newtowner’s Fiction/Copy Editor, Wendy Wipprecht, explains that her “mission is to save English prose not only from such lapses in taste as the Thuggish Dash, but from mistakes that can embarrass and even hurt their makers.” This insight into the professional life and goals of the magazine's staff is an example of The Newtowner's personal, homey vibe.
Check out the backgrounds of The Newtowner's editorial team and prepare to be impressed. You will find that the magazine's staff is not a group of friends who started a publication just because no one else would accept their poetry, but rather a team of professionals who have each achieved acclaim in their respective fields. If only all communities had an arts resource like Newtown, Connecticut's The Newtowner.