Dear Journal and the importance of representation in media

Co-founders Dunja Kovacevic and Laina Hughes

Co-founders Dunja Kovacevic and Laina Hughes

Printed twice a year, Dear Journal is a feminist anthology created in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Co-founders Laina Hughes and Dunja Kovacevic have just released Issue 2 which features “a collection of writing and artwork from women and non-binary individuals the world over.”

Before creating Dear Journal, Hughes and Kovacevic were constantly encouraging each other to write and submit to publications but were finding limited outlets that showcased the kind of work they wanted to read.

“We always felt like we needed more experience,” said Hughes, but that lead them to wonder, “how many other young women are out there feeling this way?” Soon they found a common narrative with other young writers, and out of these feelings arose the idea for them to create their own publication to fill that space.

By creating an anthology of confessional, first-person writing, they chose to subvert the idea of what a traditional anthology has to be. This isn’t the kind of book that would be sitting on the shelves of “curmudgeonly, old, white men.”

“We wanted to create a space that we would want to submit to,” explained Kovacevic, and they strive to be as open and encouraging as possible. Hughes continued that nothing should stop anyone who wants to submit from talking to them, even if the writer has a “fear of not being good enough, because we’re here to tell you, you are good enough.”

At it’s core, Dear Journal wants to legitimize the idea that “your confessional, first-person writing, or your lived experiences, or your photos, are worthy of being in a print publication” assured Kovacevic. “Your thoughts and feelings and experiences are worth recording and printing and being read by others,” continued Hughes.

Your thoughts and feelings and experiences are worth recording and printing and being read by others

The DIY movement has been a huge inspiration to them, “it’s vastly important to see yourself represented in media,” Kovacevic said. “If we want to see more representation, we have to help each other,” and that’s exactly what Dear Journal is doing.

By offering a platform Dear Journal hopes to “showcase the people already creating terrific work.” In their second issue they strove to create an even more diverse book than issue one which was an open call submission.

“There is a responsibility in calling ourselves an intersectional, feminist journal,” explained Kovacevic, “it’s not good enough to just say we’re open to everybody.” They’re learning from their community and contributors and hoping to be “representational without being self-congratulatory.”

“One of the ultimate hopes, is that [Dear Journal] spawns other new projects. That people find a community within [it] and it can help inspire others,” Kovacevic said. Their publication has already reached much further than the two ever expected. They get tagged in instagram posts from readers in Australia, and hear stories of contributors in New York running into each other on the subway. Now they have begun to receive submissions from all over the globe.

When asked what advice they would give to any aspiring creators Hughes said, “no matter what, you’re never going to feel one hundred percent ready. You’re never going to feel ready until you actually go out and do it and make those mistakes. But you’ll figure it out as you go, get experience and ask questions.”

Kovacevic continued, “you’re never going to know everything but that’s so limiting to feel like you have to know everything before you start. The great thing is you can meet other people who know the areas that you don’t, and that’s part of what makes a collaborative project so beautiful, is that you don’t need to know everything. Let go of the idea that it’s going to be perfect and learn along the way.” She laughed, “like shipping costs on etsy  - we learned that the hard way.” 

Their final piece of advice? “Drink lots of water and be nice to each other,” Hughes said with a smile.

Support Issue 2 by getting your own copy of Dear Journal off of their etsy account, as well as follow them on instagram and twitter for updates on future issues.