Member Spotlight: New Forum Strikes Balance Between Roots and Present

Date: 16th August 2021

By Sarah Moore

In non-pandemic times, Loft 112 is full of creative frenzy. The space in Calgary’s East Village hosts literary and creative events from workshops and readings to music nights, art shows and film nights.

“The beautiful thing about Loft 112 is the conversations that happen around a cup of coffee or a beer after an event,” says director Lisa Murphy-Lamb. “That’s how I came to know about the magazine Forum.”

It was a conversation with Vivian Hansen, one of the co-founders of the feminist magazine printed from 1988-2002. Hansen had a pile of old Forum issues collecting dust at her home and she was going to get rid of them.

That caught Murphy-Lamb’s attention.

“I said, we will figure out a plan to do with them because obviously they’re a part of our literary history and our feminist history here in Calgary,” she says. “It would be fun to explore these issues in some way. At that point in time, I didn’t know what I was talking about. I just knew this was exciting and it was something I didn’t know about.”

The idea of reviving the magazine was brought up, and in June 2019, New Forum was launched. The print magazine publishes one issue a year and is a platform for local, emerging and underrepresented voices.

For editor Leah Horlick, who joined New Forum in the fall of 2020, being accessible to a diverse contributor base is a key part of the magazine’s mandate.

“I’m very proud to be part of a collective effort to uplift the work of marginalized artists & writers who face barriers to publication in CanLit,” she says. “Something I have appreciated so much about the editorial collective is their commitment to ensuring we don’t replicate the many forms of gatekeeping that appear in publishing, and resist the dominant narratives of whiteness, ciscentrism, and other forms of oppression that pervade what we think of as Canadian literature.”

Though New Forum is still a feminist magazine, the context framing it is significantly different than that which surrounded its predecessor.

New Forum’s first issue acknowledged the change directly, responding to what had been written in Forum through a 2019 lens. For example, then-New Forum editor Silvia Pikal interviewed Catherine Ford for her perspective about being a woman in journalism in 2019, asking the same questions Ford was asked in 1991.

By recognizing its history, New Forum can avoid some of the pitfalls that Forum fell into. One of the reasons it folded, says Murphy-Lamb, was that its idea of feminism was narrow and defined only by a group of straight, white women.

“Privilege and a limited white narrative lens didn’t make room for emerging marginalized voices or for BIPOC writers,” she says. “We recognize that danger today if we were to put a definition on feminism.”

Instead, New Forum allows its contributors to define what feminist writing looks like.

“We welcome nostalgia, we welcome our mothers who paved the way with their hard work, we welcome voices from those who have walked a different path than ours and we welcome those who fight today with grit and with knowledge and experience,” says Murphy-Lamb.

What was the first magazine you fell in love with?

Lisa Murphy-Lamb: I truly fell in love with New York Magazine. I read that cover to cover. Magazines were such a luxury for me; growing up. I didn’t have a lot of access to them.

What is your favourite thing about working in magazines?

Lisa Murphy-Lamb: My favourite part is reading the submissions and providing a platform for writers.

Leah Horlick: I co-ran a reading series for almost five years in Vancouver, and while I loved co-hosting and curating literary events, there is something so beautiful about creating a magazine – as kind of a contemplative space or a transient event that the reader can carry with them. Each issue is its own series of moments, and I love seeing how different pieces of writing and artwork emerge from a call-for-submissions and enter into conversation with one another. Magazines are also such a critical part of the publishing process for emerging writers, and I always find it tremendously special to be part of someone’s first publication or work in print!

How would you describe Alberta’s magazine industry, in a couple of words?

Lisa Murphy-Lamb: Dynamic, energetic and supportive of each other. It’s fun to be part of.

Leah Horlick: I am so, so new to this community that rather than comment on the industry, I would just like to thank the folks who have been so welcoming to me as I get my bearings here in my new home! Working with Loft 112, New Forum, and AMPA has been a huge part of getting to know my new city, especially during the pandemic when my opportunities to connect with people are so limited!

Who is someone whose work you especially admire?

Lisa Murphy-Lamb: Katharina Doyle, co-Founder and publisher of Creative Scrapbooker Magazine. Though their content is quite different than ours, Katharina took us under her wing last year as a new magazine, giving us access to knowledge and resources she has learned and acquired along the way from a new magazine to a widely successful publication with a huge readership. She was paying it forward for the helping hand she got when she first began.

The second woman I admire is Sanja Lukac, executive director and founding member of Seities magazine, a forum to support and encourage traditional photography. Her dedication and knowledge of publishing a fantastic magazine is inspiring, along with her commitment to community, education and mentorship.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Lisa Murphy-Lamb: I’m looking forward to working more with our new editor, Leah Horlick. We have only met once in person and so I’m looking forward to doing our next issue and doing it in person. This was Leah’s year of learning the takeover of the magazine and next year I’m looking forward to seeing how the magazine grows and what new ideas she will bring to it because I think she has tremendous ideas and talent. I just think it’s going to be dynamic in the next year.

Leah Horlick: I can’t wait to see how our audiences receive and respond to our third issue – my first with the magazine – and I can’t wait to get to know our readers and our contributors better. I am also so looking forward to getting to spend more time with the creative work produced by our individual editorial collective members, who are all incredible artists and writers with their own very rich and active practices.

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