Transect Magazine: Behind the Scenes (Part II: All Work and All Play)

Transect Logo

[Read Part I in which I detail the humble beginnings of Transect, a new international literary magazine that showcases fiction (short stories, poetry) written by multiculturals/cross-culturals/TCKs from all over the world, launched by me and Alex.]

When I asked Steph, founder of Denizen, for advice on how to start a lit mag, she mentioned that many others with the same idea had already asked her previously. From what I gathered, very few or none of them had ultimately materialised—as such, the opening was still there. Alex and I knew—to the best of our knowledge—that there wasn’t particularly a standout lit mag aimed specifically at showcasing fiction written by people like us: international, multicultural, cross-cultural, Third-Cultural, etc. (Whatever you want to call us, really.) So that was our initial goal: to get it going before someone else did.

We picked a mighty fine time to start this passion project in February… just a month before our 12,000 word English Literature dissertations were due. Being both practical and ambitious, we decided upon a launch date in the summer, either July or August. So while we were slaving away, pounding out words for our dissertations, we did what we could with initial planning.

A special shout-out to The Library (the pub, not the actual university library) with its bottomless coffee and copious amounts of tea, and Bills in Durham where Alex and I met every now and then to discuss and solidify plans. Don’t worry, if we ever make it big, we won’t forget our roots.


First: we needed editors. Alex and I were the general editors, but we couldn’t do it alone. This would require an editorial team of high calibre who would be free and committed. We both hand-picked a few of our editor-friends to form this special and highly proficient group hailing from around the world (we’re an international magazine, we had to uphold that to some extent) whom we were utterly delighted to work with (for full bios, click here):

Transect Editors

Jack Caithness, Katja Garson, Tom Morcom, Yasser Ali Nasser, Cheriel Neo

Next: we needed writers. We asked the editors to contribute a piece each since they were also solid writers. But we needed more… how were we going to get people to submit to a lit mag that didn’t exist yet? Simple: once again, we carefully hand-picked them.

Writers will always have writer-friends. In fact, writers must have writer-friends. Otherwise, we’ll all solitarily fade into nothingness with no one to spur each other on. And being both writers ourselves, Alex and I knew several quality writers who were very willing to contribute to Transect‘s first issue.

Finally: we needed a theme for our first issue. This wasn’t difficult. It was Issue #1, we were just starting out, so naturally ‘Birth’ seemed wholly appropriate. It’s also a theme thoroughly embedded in the life of a nomadic multicultural. To help the writers, we also picked 3 quotes to serve as prompts for inspiration in case the theme was too broad for people to grasp (see ‘Quote Prompts‘).

After submitting our dissertations mid-March, we sent out a message asking the writers to submit their short stories or poems by the end of May. As the deadline drew closer, we extended it to mid-June, till after exams had finished for all our sake. And before we knew it, we had 10 pieces to begin reading and editing! To our pleasant surprise, although it took up a lot of time, the editing process was thoroughly enjoyable. I won’t delve into too much detail so as not to bore you (do ask me directly if you want to find out more), but one thing I will say: Google Docs.


Last but not least, we needed a name for our lit mag. A title. Something snappy and smart, catchy and easy-to-remember.

This was probably the toughest part of the entire process.

We took a look at the most famous lit mags: Granta, Ambit, Popshot, Litro. We made several observations: all were two-syllabic and had a hard ‘t’ sound. Snappy and catchy.

We tried thinking of two-syllabic words that related to multiculturalism. We tried creating new words, for example (and these are bad): Anglobe (a hybrid of ‘Anglo’ since our lit mag was based in Englishes and ‘globe’), Cultune (a hybrid of ‘culture’ and ‘tune’ as in ‘to tune in with something’), Miscell (I don’t even remember… short for ‘miscellaneous’? Something to do with ‘cells’?).

After 2 months, we were still stuck. We didn’t want to compromise especially with something as important as the title. We knew we’d both immediately just know it was right when we heard it. But we kept digging and digging to no avail.

One day, I asked my good friend, also a writer-editor, Seymour, if he had any brilliant ideas. He said he’d have a think and later sent me 3 possible titles.

And there it was.

I sent it to Alex who immediately agreed wholeheartedly. It was perfect. Its definition—’to cut across or make a transverse section in’—tied in with our desire to cut across borders. Interestingly, opinions divided strongly when we asked others. Some liked it, some hated it. (‘It reminds me of “sects” and “insects” and I hate both,’ said one friend.) But one thing was clear: if it provoked such strong reactions, it was bound to stick in people’s heads.

Thus, the name Transect was born.


We set our launch date as 31 July. The month before our launch went by in a blur. In addition to the editing process, we needed to design and create our website. We bought our domain through Bluehost that brilliantly integrates with WordPress, which we knew we wanted to use for its simplicity and professionalism. We bought a WordPress theme called Blink from Codestag. And we got my good friend and absurdly-talented graphic designer/photographer, E. Devin Vander Meulen II, to design Transect‘s logo:


It’s flippin’ gorgeous, beautiful and perfect.

Finally, we asked a few photographer/illustrator friends to contribute accompanying pieces of artwork to the 10 written works.

And what do you know? After 6 months of planning and hard work (but so much fun, it honestly felt like all play), we were ready to officially launch Transect.

[Continued in Part III!]

Please do check out Transect Magazine. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. We launched our [Issue #1: Birth] featuring 10 quality pieces of fiction (7 short stories, 3 poems) + artwork (photographs, illustrations) by people representing 9 different nations! We’re also open for submissions for our [Issue #2: Sea] so if you’re a multicultural writer or artist, please submit!


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