Interview with Shaun Levin, editor of The A3 Review
For those of you who missed my Facebook/Twitter outburst a couple of weeks ago, I’m thrilled to say I’ve had another short story published. Called A Crimson Elegy, it features in the inaugural edition of The A3 Review. Looks pretty, huh?
Published by Shaun Levin – founder of Writing Maps – The A3 Review features thirteen short stories from writers all over the world who, over the past six months, have responded to writing prompts sent out by Shaun via email. Participants get a week to write 150 words on the theme and each month winners are selected to feature in the biannual magazine. My theme was red.
Creating any magazine involves a huge amount of work, so I was curious what prompted (pun intended) Shaun to set one up. Here, he talks about his work, his love of publishing and how there’s writing inspiration to be found everywhere.
Why did you set up Writing Maps?
Shaun: The idea for Writing Maps came out of a combination of things. They started out as a way for me to take stock of twenty years of teaching and running workshops in all sorts of settings: colleges, universities, schools, as well as more public spaces, such as art galleries, parks, cafés, department stores, a zoo, a cemetery, on a boat. You name it, I've probably either written there or done a workshop there. I'd say that most of my work has been written outdoors, or at least started when I was away from my desk, out of the house, in cafes and on park benches. Added to that is my fascination with combining text and image, my interest in psychogeography and creative mapping. I don't remember exactly how it all became aligned, to be honest, but at some point there they were! I must have thought: let's put creative writing prompts onto maps! It was exciting - no one had done it before, so it was a bit like going into unchartered territory and creating something new.
How did The A3 Review come about?
Shaun: That also happened pretty much organically. After two years of creating the Writing Maps and people using them, and selling a few thousand, I thought it would be great to share some of the writing inspired by the maps. I've always loved publishing other people's work and discovering new stories, so The A3 Review felt like the natural next step. I wanted to keep it fairly simple, though; I know from previous experience that publishing a journal can become all-consuming. The format of the Writing Maps dictated what the "magazine" would be. One sheet of A3 paper!
Have any of the submissions surprised you?
Shaun: I'd say more excited than surprised. The submissions come out of a monthly contest and every month there have been at least two pieces that have been like "Wow, this is good! I'm excited about sharing this with people." The word limit is 150 and it's not easy to write something with impact and that feels complete, so when it works, it's great.
What reaction have you had to the Review so far?
Shaun: The contributors are happy, and that's the best compliment. There's nothing worse than being unhappy with the publication you appear in. Well, there are worse things, but it's not fun if you're slightly embarrassed by the publication! People have said they like the democratic nature of The A3 Review, that you can read it in any way you want, that there's no real order to the pieces. All thirteen pieces are basically on just the two pages of the Review.
Each of the stories in the first edition of The A3 Review is a morsel of literary heaven so please do buy a copy if you can, or you can sign up to Shaun’s monthly writing prompt emails and try your hand.
And if you've not checked out the maps before, they're definitely worth a look. Each one features a series of writing prompts around a theme such as character, voice and point of view, writing in cafés, writing in art galleries and writing about the things we carry. They make lovely gifts for other writers - trust me, most of my writing friends have received at least one and if they haven't, then they know what to expect for Christmas!