Interview with the Creators of PaperBound Magazine

PaperBound Magazine was set up in Autumn 2020 by three inspirational people – Emily, Lucy and Rayan. Since then, they have released four issues (soon to be five with their forthcoming ‘spooky’ issue out 1st September 2021) bursting with literary delights. PaperBound is a free, quarterly, online magazine to inspire young people (and those young at heart!) along their writing journey and instil a passion for literature. It focuses on Middle Grade (MG), Teen and Young Adult (YA) fiction and writing. The content includes book recommendations, illustrations, interviews, top tips, short stories and poems for children and YA. They invite aspiring writers and illustrators, aged 18+, to showcase their work with them. As well as welcoming MG, teen and YA book reviews from ALL ages.

As PaperBound Magazine turns one, I was honoured to have the opportunity to interview Emily, Lucy and Rayan about their magazine and their passion for literature. Join them in their anniversary celebrations on Twitter Chat (#PBMagChat), on Friday 10th September at 7pm, where they will be joined by six MG and YA authors. I’d like to thank the PaperBound team for their time and I wish them continued success with their magazine. I look forward to seeing what you do next.

– For the Young, and the Young at Heart –

1. How did you come up with the name PaperBound?

Lucy: A lot of mind-maps and lists – I’m not sure how we settled on PaperBound in the end. Do you guys remember? I think I liked the dual meaning.

Emily: We found a cafe in Bath (we sat in lots of cafes that day in Bath when officially creating PaperBound!) and made lists of potential names. I think a lot of them had ‘paper’ in them until we finally settled on PaperBound. It’s definitely my favourite out of all the ones we had!

Rayan: I still have the first doodles of the logo in my notebook from that day! I think we had a few different ‘paper’ names and when I drew out ‘PaperBound’, I thought that it would be good to have the P and the d as bookends. Then Carys (Tomos) turned those ideas into the logo we have now and we love it!

Follow PaperBound

Website: paperboundmag.com

Twitter: @PaperboundMag

Instagram: paperboundmagazine

Facebook: @Paperboundmag

2. Tell me about the three founders of PaperBound Magazine and your individual roles?

Lucy: We all met while studying an MA at Bath Spa University. We were all in the same workshop group. Everyone in our group got along so well. Actually quite a few others from the MA have also contributed to PaperBound over the last year, which is really lovely. We all came from slightly different backgrounds. Emily and Rayan came to the MA straight from studying a BA in Creative Writing, and I came from teaching in a secondary school. We are also now based in various locations: I live in South Wales; Emily is in Cornwall and Rayan is in Bath.

Emily: We try to share duties as much as we can. We alternate weeks on social media and sometimes one of us can be handling admin, other times we are proofreading pages we’ve designed for publication, or looking over new submissions and illustrations. It takes a lot of time and effort but seeing the finished issue each quarter and hearing readers’ reactions is all worth it!

Rayan: We got on so well from the MA but we also bring our own spin to the magazine. Lucy loves horror and thrillers, Emily loves historical fiction and romance, and I like fantasy and LGBTQ YA. I feel like we balance each other out well, which has helped with gathering ideas for PaperBound. Technically I do the least because of other commitments, but I’m often reading books to review and take part in the social media, and reading submissions. Lucy and Emily do such a great job with gathering all our lovely reviews and art and subs and making a very pretty magazine.

3. What inspired you to create the magazine?

Emily: For me, it was mostly out of frustration that for a long time, there weren’t a lot of places to submit children’s and YA fiction to magazines. It was mostly literary or adult. That has changed a lot now, but back then it motivated me so much. I also spent much of my undergraduate degree interviewing authors so I knew we could do it, but I also wanted us to showcase illustrators’ work too.

Lucy: I was also reading a lot of messages from parents and teachers on social media asking for book recommendations and wishing there was a place where they could discover new books, and more information about them (outside of the slim pickings at the supermarket), so I hope we have included some ideas in PaperBound to help with that too.

Rayan: I remember chatting with Lucy and Emily and it was brought up that there aren’t a lot of places to submit children’s and YA short stories, at the time all of us were still in the querying trenches and sad that there didn’t seem to be many outlets for our work. We quickly realised that with our powers combined, we could definitely start a magazine ourselves.

4. Why did you choose to focus on children and YA literature in your magazine?

Emily: As mentioned, we all met studying an MA in Writing for Young People in Bath, where we specialised in children’s and YA writing. All three of us write for this age range, so it’s something we’re hugely passionate about.

Rayan: By having the magazine focus on children’s and YA, it means it’s inclusive to both the adult writers of children’s books and the intended audience. That’s why our tagline is: ‘for the young, and the young at heart.’

Lucy: Also, because books for young people are the BEST kind of books.

5. When you set up the magazine, how did you decide on what content to include?

Lucy: When we started out, we really wanted to include new writing and illustrations, and hopefully author interviews and writing tips too. We were actually really surprised at how generous and supportive everyone was. The kidlit community really is something special. Then, we started to think about what else young people might like, so book reviews, quizzes, and writing prompts were added. If anyone has any other ideas, we’re always open to hearing about them.

Emily: The writing and illustrations were a top priority since it’s what PaperBound is all about; the author interviews were a bright eyed goal which we had no idea if we could achieve easily, and the rest came along organically as we thought of them. The quizzes are down to Lucy! She’s brilliant at those!

Rayan: In those first few meetings, we were all contributing things that we thought would be fun, so ideas like the quizzes and the bookshelf came from that. Now that it’s all out there, all of the segments have a place in our heart and on the page.

6. Which section of the magazine do you each individually connect with?

Emily: I will never tire of hearing authors talk about their work, what inspires them, and how they navigate the process of writing books. It’s magic!

Lucy: I love them all for different reasons. I love reading the stories and poems and editing the illustrations onto the pages. One of my favourite moments in the whole process is – once we’ve finalised all the brilliant content – creating the front cover. It always amazes me how everything comes together.

Rayan: I have a soft spot for the bookshelf as I suggested it haha. But also because I like showing a range of books with a connecting theme (i.e. spooky) that still have variety and diversity. That’s why we also have the badges to let readers know what, in a few words, is expected from each book.

7. How has the magazine evolved?

Emily: When we started out, we didn’t know how it would take off, so there was a lot of combined nervousness and excitement. Every new issue seems to bring back those feelings. Will people like it?! Have we missed anything out?! But watching it grow is really special and we appreciate the support everyone’s put behind us so far. The recent competition we held for young writers was definitely a highlight  – there was so much talent it was hard to choose a favourite! – and getting support from publishers for what we do is also incredibly rewarding. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next for PaperBound in the future too.

Rayan: I love how, with each new issue, we are having to consider what we can fit in and what might be a better fit for the next issue. We were worried after the first issue that we would flop and not get any submissions or other content. I also feel blessed that we have gained some good friends within the publishing world which meant we could add new features to the magazine, like the competition for young writers in the summer issue.

Lucy: PaperBound just keeps evolving as we create it. Every new issue seems to be my new favourite. We are also able to review a lot more books now too, and have lots of lovely kind people who volunteer to review books for us. At the moment, PaperBound is completely run on a voluntary basis, so any help is greatly appreciated. Our next issue (September 2021) marks our one year anniversary (it has gone SO fast) and it’s a spooky special. Anyone who knows me, knows I love absolutely anything horror, so obviously this new issue is going to be AWESOME!

8. Do you know who reads your magazine and how far it has reached?

Lucy: Although we started it for young people, it’s definitely read by a wider audience. And even though we are based here in the UK, and most of our website visitors are from here, we have also been visited by countries all over the world – at last count I think we’d been visited by over 60 countries since we started. We’ve also received submissions from all over the world, from as far as Taiwan, the USA and Australia.

Emily: The fact that people can read it from across the world is so exciting and I love that people consider us to have global appeal. Receiving new writing and illustrations from outside the UK is always exciting when it drops into our inbox, and we also have a very firm (and broad) readership across the UK too, including children, writers, teachers, librarians and others too. It’s a wonderful happy feeling.

Rayan: The benefit to it being online is that anyone could click on it. I’ve got friends and loved ones in different continents and I would hope that they’ve read it lol! It’s still very shocking (in a good way) seeing the map on our website stats, highlighting all the countries that have discovered us.

9. What are your aspirations for the magazine?

Lucy: We have a lot of plans for things we’d like to do, but it all depends on a number of factors. We’d like to keep building our audience and provide more for our readers. But we’re taking things one step at a time, and we’ll see what the future brings. Watch this space…

Emily: I’m not sure what we can and can’t say at this point. There’s a lot we want to bring to the table when it comes to PaperBound and the ways we want it to move forward to both entertain our readers and support the writers’ and illustrators’ community. One of my dreams is to circulate PaperBound in print, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet…

Rayan: I think we aspire to be entertaining all the way through; with each issue we might bring a new element but we want to stick to the same loved segments too. I would love to grow our audience even more. Something we think would be cool one day is to have PaperBound accessible in as many schools/libraries as we can.

10. What are your top three book recommendations at the moment (August 2021)?

Lucy: Ooh that’s tough. Literally anything written by Maggie Stiefvater :). I’ve also recently enjoyed Pony by R J Palacio (Middle Grade) – it nearly made me cry, and I never cry! Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury and Hexed by Julia Tuffs (both YA) are both excellent! Oh, and the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson (YA) is addictive. I’m reading The Box in the Woods as we speak.

Emily: That is SUCH a hard question! I’d definitely recommend The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr. It made me cry buckets. For YA, The Places I’ve Cried in Public because it touches my heart very deeply. I’d also recommend Allies: Real Talk about Showing Up, Screwing Up and Trying Again to anyone and everyone too because this book moved me so much.

Rayan: Everyone needs to read Cemetery Boys, my new favourite book of all time that I will now read every halloween; Felix Ever After, also the best book of all time; and The Passing Playbook. I am always biased towards Trans YA.

11. What were your favourite childhood books, authors or illustrators?

Emily: I grew up reading books that were handed down to me and my sisters from my mum (my grandparents still have these books, complete with our drawings inside), like classic Ladybird books, animal stories, and Topsy and Tim, with authors like Enid Blyton and Shirley Hughes taking the forefront. The illustrators I remember most growing up are Jan Pieńkowski and Nick Sharratt who worked on the Meg & Mog stories and Jacqueline Wilson books.

Rayan: Quentin Blake’s covers for Roald Dahl books drew me to them, I thought they were so quirky and fun. I love series books, like A Series of Unfortunate Events and Mortal Instruments, anything with a gritty feel to it and a grand adventure. I also loved The Spiderwick Chronicles both for the writing and the illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi.

Lucy: I grew up on a diet of Nancy Drew and Point Horror, and those are still the types of stories I enjoy reading. Anything dark with a bit of mystery! I’m not sure about when I was younger, but today I am absolutely in love with the illustrations by Keith Robinson, especially on the covers of The Haunting of Aveline Jones and Snow Foal by Susanna Bailey.

12. Is there a message you are trying to promote within your work?

Emily: Be inspired by anything and everything. Write about it. Illustrate it. Shout about it!

Lucy: to inspire a love of reading, and creativity. (And also to emphasise that books for young people really are the best kind – did I mention that already?)

Rayan: You never have to leave your love of children’s books behind when you become an adult. Books are universal.

Lucy: That’s so true, Rayan. There’s a quote I love by Alice Hoffman: ‘What you read at the age of 12, 13, and 14 stays with you in a very intense, deep way. It’s the literature that makes you the person and writer you are.’

13. If you could give aspiring writers a piece of advice, what would it be?

Lucy: I think that the key is just to keep going – not to give up. It’s really hard to not give up when you get knock backs. But I also know that the more I write, the better I’m getting at it – so that keeps me going too.

Emily: Write as much and as often as you can. Setting yourself realistic goals (and not being too hard on yourself if you don’t hit them) is also a good lesson to learn, something I always struggle with.

Rayan: Each step of the process takes its own amount of time, especially if you are considering submitting to agents or magazines. Expect to wait a while for responses. This can be daunting when you’re first putting things out there, but keep going and keep creating. Do what you enjoy and your stories will find an audience somewhere. It’s ok if you are still trying to query a novel while everyone else seems to be published. You can’t control publishing trends or if your dream agent has space to take you on.

14. How do you think the publishing industry could improve?

All: We’re not experts but here are some thoughts based on things we’ve noticed/been impacted by:

  • Keep pushing towards a more inclusive industry, with opportunities for a wider range of people with varying experiences (also publishing is very London based – but some publishers are now opening branches in other areas – e.g. Hachette – which is very exciting).
  • Make the dream of working in publishing and becoming a writer feel more achievable and accessible. Barriers like time and/or money can really impact things such as: not being able to pay to enter competitions, having to work and so not having the time to write or query, or not being able to afford to live in London to gain work experience etc. We see more and more schemes to support writers with this appearing – which is great, and hope it continues. 
  • Work to spot harmful and mis-representations. It’s an issue in all forms of media, including books, so tackling this is very important right now. It’s an area that has definitely made a lot of improvement in recent years, but there’s still some way to go.

15. What’s your favourite reading spot?

Lucy: Bed!

Emily: By the sea

Rayan: In the garden

16. Do you have any tips to encourage young people to read?

Lucy: There are some people who will tell you that you shouldn’t read certain types of books (for example a specific genre, or type of book that they perhaps don’t consider ‘worthy’). Don’t listen to that (unless it’s not age appropriate, of course.). If you enjoy reading something, read it! If you read what you love, you will always love reading. I think it was Neil Gaiman who said: ‘I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children.’

Emily: Definitely read whatever you like. If fiction isn’t your thing, try poetry. If poetry doesn’t do it, maybe graphic novels are for you, or historical books, or even encyclopedias. Or, if you don’t like staring at pages for too long, audiobooks can count as reading too! Writing is rich and most likely comes in all forms. Treasure it and find your passion.

Rayan: Even as a lifelong writer and reader, I hated reading things I *had* to in school because I didn’t connect with them. I was lucky that I had book loving parents who I saw reading for pleasure outside of school. There may be occasions where young people don’t have that example, and are recommended books that are years old and unrelatable. Some classics hold up, but all young people should have the opportunity to also pick contemporary books and see themselves in the pages.

Quick-fire questions:

17. Graphic novels, fiction or non-fiction?

Lucy: Fiction. But I am currently very much enjoying some GNs too.

Emily: Fiction

Rayan: Fiction and Graphic novels and Non-fiction, I know that’s not helpful but I love all of them equally.

18. Daytime or night-time reading?

Lucy: Night-time

Emily: Night-time

Rayan: Daytime

19. Paperback, hardback, e-book or audiobook?

Lucy: Paperback

Emily: Paperback! I want to smell the pages!

Rayan: Paperback

20. Bookmarks or dog-eared pages?

Lucy: Definitely bookmarks (insert horrified face)

Emily: Bookmarks all the way please

Rayan: Bookmarks

Thank you for reading.

Mia

❤️️ 📚

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