Before last winter, Alex Howe ’08 was a struggling freelance writer hoping to make more connections in the literary world. Now, a year later, Howe is still struggling to pay the rent on his New York City apartment with a day job at the law offirm Weitz and Luxenberg, but by night, he has become an access point for other young writers looking to break into the literary magazine industry.
Last October, Howe, along with Travis Mushett ’08 and Kevin Tang ’08 began working to launch Blunderbuss Magazine, an online journal for young intellectuals. Tang, a recent graduate of the creative writing master’s program at Columbia University, works for Buzzfeed, while Mushett is pursuing a PhD at Columbia’s journalism school.
The magazine tentatively plans to launch in late March, and the editors are planning an April 14 launch at KGB bar, a literary bar in the East Village. The event will feature multiple readings from the first edition of Blunderbuss.
The magazine’s editorial board also includes three other members of the Class of 2008 as contributing editors: Meredith Fraser ’08, Niral Shah ’08 and Lauren Wool ’08.
“For now, the magazine is our passion project,” Howe said. “We want it to take up as much of our free time as possible, until eventually we find a way to pay our rent.”
The founding trio hatched the idea for the magazine as they pondered the current state of intellectual magazines over drinks, Mushett said. Many up-and-coming magazines such as n+1 cater to a select audience and often require an understanding of complex literary theories.
“We wanted to add a voice that wasn’t so esoteric,” Mushett said. “We wanted to be a part of the conversation and contribute a lively, acceptable, visual, even passionate tone.”
Howe, Mushett and Tang became friends while taking creative writing seminars at Dartmouth. The three quickly bonded over their work and efforts to find a niche for their interests at the College.
The three took part in many writing-related endeavors on campus, including writing for The Dartmouth and The Dartmouth Free Press. Howe’s own interest in creative writing began when he had to try writing poetry for his first creative writing class, he said.
Howe wrote a column called “Alex Got in Trouble” for The Dartmouth Mirror, in which he chronicled his adventures while suspended from the College for a year.
“It was one of the most satisfying creative writing projects I have ever taken on,” he said.
Tang is also a former member of The Dartmouth staff and was a design artist for The Mirror, he said. One of his main responsibilities for Blunderbuss Magazine is the design and management of the website, he said.
Mushett is the former editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth Free Press. He also enjoyed taking on large-scale writing projects, including completing a novel in his time at school, he said.
Howe, Mushett and Tang reconnected last year, when they discovered that they were all living and working in New York City.
Shortly afterward, they found a number of young New York-based alumni who shared their interest in the literary scene for young intellectuals.
“At Dartmouth, we were each doing our own thing,” Tang said. “We never knew that there were like-minded people who were so interested in creating a literary magazine.”
A number of contributing writers for the first edition of the magazine are Dartmouth alumni, as well as friends of editors and professors from Dartmouth, New York University and Columbia, Howe said.
The editors will also contribute essays and reviews of up-and-coming writers and artists. Tang is currently working on a review of internet comic artist Sam Alden, who plans to contribute to the magazine.
Tang said it was “really exciting” to hear back from Dartmouth professors and fellow alumni that wanted to be involved with the magazine.
He said he was especially looking forward to including a piece from English professor Catherine Tudish, from whom Tang took a creative writing class while he was an undergraduate.
“These are professors who advised our theses,” Tang said. “Now they are submitting their work for us to edit. We were honored to get so much attention.”
Tudish is proud to see her students pursue their passion.
“The alums involved in the magazine are former students of mine, all of them students I particularly admired,” she said in an email.
Unlike more traditional magazine models, Blunderbuss will not run as a monthly publication, but will be updated frequently with new contributions, Tang said.
The editors do not expect the magazine to yield significant revenue in the near future, Mushett said. The editors will put any grassroots donations that they receive back into the project.
“The donor model is in steady decline,” Tang said. “Even the editors-in-chief of well-known online magazines don’t draw salaries anymore,” Tang said.
Still, the editors are hopeful for the future. They hope to expand the online publication into an assortment of projects that may include comic book collections and print book projects.