The Loft’s literary magazine moves from print to online

Despite national and local awards, Speakeasy magazine will plan its last issue.

by Elena Rozwadowski

The Loft Literary Center in downtown Minneapolis has supported the reading and writing community since its opening in 1974.

With its workshops, book discussions and writing competitions, the Loft has even become an important resource for the University’s creative writing program.

While the Loft continues to provide a gathering place for readers and writers from all over the country, its national publication, Speakeasy magazine, soon will be out of print.

Despite the magazine’s many national and local awards, Speakeasy’s circulation has not been large enough to keep up with production costs.

“The problem with trying to sustain a national magazine was too formidable,” said Bart Schneider, editor of Speakeasy. “Unless something is very well endowed or has some kind of angel, it’s kind of impossible.”

Schneider said he sometimes thought the magazine had more contributors than readers.

“I think it’s hard to get people’s attention,” he said. “Literary magazines are on the bottom. It reflects a movement, maybe away from more traditional literary reading.”

The magazine’s last print edition will be available on newsstands across the country this June. In the fall the Loft will launch an online version.

Although the Speakeasy Web site still is in the planning stages, the creators have a feel for the direction they want it to take.

“The goal of the print version was to embody the Loft’s mission to foster a writing community, the artistic development of individual writers and an audience for literature,” said Kasi Williamson, managing editor of Speakeasy. “That’s what we want to see move forward.”

Those working on the project also want to encourage an interactive online community, as well as continue to provide print publishing resources for writers.

While many are disappointed to see the magazine go, others see potential in an online publication.

“We’re limited in the number of pages we can put out quarterly,” Williamson said. “(Online) there is a possibility of reaching a lot more people in a much broader way.”

Schneider said he helped create a Web site for another literary publication, Hungry Mind Review, about 10 years ago that won the Cool Site of the Day award and had so many viewers that the site crashed.

“I was excited that you could do something to get that much attention,” he said. “I’d like to do something like that again.”

Linda Myers, Speakeasy’s executive director, sees this same potential, but also acknowledges the sense of loss many are feeling.

“The people who love Speakeasy really love it,” she said.

Myers noted that even large literary magazines are struggling.

“I think a lot of people are disappointed that yet another beautiful magazine is disappearing,” she said.

Among those people is Julie Schumacher, an associate professor in the English department’s creative writing program who has submitted work to Speakeasy in the past.

“It’s a real shame, but it’s inevitable,” Schumacher said. “It’s very difficult to keep any sort of literary magazine afloat these days. People are getting all of their information online and from large vendors.”

Schumacher said she fears that even an online publication will struggle, and thought the Loft, being the largest literary center in the nation, should have been able to sustain its magazine.

“If anyone could keep that kind of magazine afloat, it would be the Loft,” she said. “Bart Schneider gave it a run for its money.”