Paper Darts is a not-for-profit online magazine devoted to new art and literature. It is also a publishing agency and, in the website’s own words, a community. Thus far, four print issues – the latest comprising a glorious 96 pages – have been released (and they’re really pretty, check it out at paperdarts.bigcartel.com). Online content is published sporadically but often; a quick skim through the website will reveal new poetry, short stories, drawings, non-fiction pieces and a wonderful plethora of other bits of art. In fact, a quick skim through the website usually turns out to be no such thing. Here is The Oxford Student in conversation with the executive director and co-founder, Jamie Millard.
OxStu: So Paper Dartsbegan as a grassroots project, handmade in your living rooms with a sewing machine. Now it’s got a lively, aesthetic website, its own hiring agency, and a publishing press. What happened?
Jamie: It began handmade and small, because I guess, that’s how things begin – especially when you have no resources and not a lot of experience. We always knew that we wanted to have a beautiful website and a robust online community, so as we found more time to learn new things and discover our voice and aesthetic, we were able to build out the organisation to better match our original vision. We still feel scrappy sometimes – we’re still called scrappy, actually – but it’s that dedication to self-taught expertise and ability to elbow our way into closed circles that means Paper Darts perseveres.
As for the agency, it wasn’t really part of the original plan. We’ve always loved what we do at Paper Darts and have poured all our energy into making everything we touched have a certain je ne sais quoi. Others started to take notice and began approaching us to see if we’d be interested in lending the “Paper Darts mojo” to their projects. Now it’s another vital piece of Paper Darts.
OxStu: ‘With a beer in one tentacle and a book in another, Paper Darts is taking back the lit scene’ – from whom?
Jamie: From the Noid. Okay, not the actual Noid per se, because he has to do with pizza, and as much as we wish everything had to do with pizza, this has to do with literature. PD is taking back the lit scene from the Boredoms (to be renamed as something catchier later). From some lame notion of what kinds of writing are “fit for publication.” We want excitement. We want fun. We want something fun to read on the internet during stolen breaks at work. But seriously, PD takes back the lit scene from the stigma that literature is boring, rigid, and not relatable to the masses.
OxStu: So should avant-garde or alternative literature be accessible to everyone?
Jamie: I have no idea why anyone would think it shouldn’t be. Everything that is artistic should be accessible to everyone, which is why we publish so much online for free and don’t turn a profit on our print publications (that’s not to say that we don’t hope to someday make a little scratch doing this). It’s up to the consumer to decide what kinds of art they want to consume, which is why not everyone in the world reads Paper Darts. But it’s there for when they come around and realize how cool alternative literature is.
OxStu: As a not-for-profit venture, Paper Darts is run on a voluntary basis by staff members with outside jobs. How do you achieve this kind of time-management? Any tips?
Jamie: Our group of volunteers are all friends. We enjoy each other’s company. We trust each other. We don’t mind spending hours each day emailing each other and then hours on the weekend meeting to discuss submissions and projects, etc. So enjoying each other’s company is a big part to making all of it seem manageable and energising. Also, when you’re in control of something – responsible for setting the vision – it makes it much easier to execute tasks and keep everything going. We’re doing this because we love the opportunity and we love the actual physical work we get to do on a day to day basis.
OxStu: And where next for the magazine?
Jamie: We’ve been doing more partnerships lately and we foresee more of that in our future. What goes into a “living” magazine? What makes a magazine worth holding in your hands instead of reading online? There are so many projects and angles to tackle, we just need to pick one first.
OxStu: And, finally, the octopus: why?
Jamie: We’ve got so many tentacles—more than eight, usually—helping us make Paper Darts a reality. That’s a combination of dedicated unpaid staff, interns, volunteers coming on for one project or one night, and mentors and community leaders that are willing to share their insights with us. Paper Darts is a flexible, ever-adapting creature, and the octolady represents that very well. (Besides, other multi-legged creatures are gross. Spiders, centipedes? No thank you.)