This week, Cascadia Magazine officially published its first online issue. The nonprofit publication promises to cover all of the Cascadian bioregion, and they look to publish "quality journalism, personal essays, arts coverage, environmental reporting, fiction, poetry, and photography you won’t find anywhere else." I talked with the Seattle-based publisher of Cascadia, Andrew Engelson, about why he's starting a magazine in 2018, and what he hopes to do with the publication.
Why start a magazine now? What sort of niche are you filling that's not already being filled?
It feels like an important time to pay attention to quality writing, to something that requires a more time to reflect on than a Twitter post. After the election of 2016, like many of us, I thought long and hard about what I could do that would actually make a difference.
Plus, I’d recently returned to Seattle after living overseas for seven years. And I realized I identified more with Seattle and the Pacific Northwest than I do as being American. In the course of my obsessive reading of the news, I noticed there wasn’t a publication that treated the region as a whole. You’ve got plenty of city magazines and alt-weeklies, and a wonderful assortment of literary journals and presses—but nothing that looks at Cascadia as a single cultural entity.
Uh, didn't you get the memo that magazines are dead?
Yeah, I’ve been notorious in my career for ignoring big trends. Like that time I blew a chance to pursue a job at Amazon in 1997 when they had twelve employees.
But anyhow, I’m very aware that a ton of newspapers and online magazines have folded in the past few years. And the crazy thing is, I believe it’s an exciting time for writing and creative expression. You can do a lot with a small budget, which is why top-heavy media organizations are struggling. I’m optimistic because the Pacific Northwest has no shortage of great readers and talented writers—the trick is finding a financially sustainable way to connect them.
What are you looking for in submissions?
I’m for an eclectic mix: my only standards are that something be well-written and explore an important issue in some depth. I’ve started working with freelance journalists on stories that have a longer shelf life than what you’d normally find at the dailies and alt-weeklies. In terms of essays and fiction—it shouldn’t be too long, and have a sense of urgency and timeliness. As for poetry I’m not committed to any particular style; just that it connects readers in some way to the intensity of experience. Also, I’m committed to seeking out a variety of voices, whether it’s writers who are women, LGBTQ, indigenous, or people of color. Plus I’m interested in hearing from people who live in rural areas or who aren’t from the upper middle class.
What does Cascadia mean to you? The term has been embraced by a bunch of different groups. What are you trying to say with the name?
For me, Cascadia is a bioregion that stretches from Northern California to Southeast Alaska, from the coasts of Washington and Oregon to the mountains of Idaho. It’s a region of 15 million people from many different cultures and experiences. I’m really interested in communicating across that border on the 49th parallel — I find it amazing that people in Seattle know more about the politics and artistic culture of New York City than they do about Vancouver, a city just three hours to the north—and vice-versa. There are a lot of issues that we share in common—the environment being one obvious example. If you have an oil spill in Anacortes, it’s going to effect salmon runs in the Fraser River. As for the Cascadia movement, I’m not especially interested in any sort of political independence, but rather connecting people across an arbitrary boundary.
If they like what they see when they visit your site, what should readers do if they want to support you?
Well, first, we’d love readers to read what we publish. Second, sign up for our free newsletter, Cascadia Daily, which curates news and culture from across the region, and where we’ll let people know when new pieces are published on Cascadia Magazine. And if you like what we’re doing, by all means please go to the website and make a donation. If we want nice things, it’s up to us to financially support the people who create them.