Bleeding Ink – grassroots literature – part 1

Bleeding Ink, issues 1-4
Bleeding Ink, issues 1-4

Apologies for the ego post – I’m going to post occasionally about things I’m doing. Hopefully it won’t become too much of a habit.

This is where I get my ego trip! Edited by yours truly, Bleeding Ink is currently on its fifth issue. Another west Edinburgh based contributor is Nick Baikie, who appears in every issue. It’s the magazine/pamphlet/booklet of New Edinburgh Writers who are based at Fountainbridge Library.

It’s 24 pages long, costs a mere quid, and usually comes out annually in time for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. We sell quite a few there, although we have to hawk them outside the enclosure. One of the writers got escorted out when he tried to sell some inside the venue – ironically the theme of the festival that year was oppressed writers. On another occasion, we sold them using slogans like “support writers who won’t charge you twenty pounds for an autograph” and “read writing by writers” (there being a lot of books out there by celebrities and the like).

The good news though is that every issue has “washed its face”. We have got some copies into bookshops – not Waterstones and Blackwells – but most of our sales are face to face. We sell them on the street, as well as to friends& family. (I was recently lucky enough to meet some of the members of London-based Push who sell a lot of their magazines outside football games. Which is not the kind of place arts quangoes go anywhere near. Their magazine is thriving!)

Bleeding Ink contains short stories >1500 words, shorter poetry, and even in one case a play script. It has published material in Broad Scots and Scottish Gaelic, as well as English. It’s only available in hard copy. We did do a version of #1 in large print for a disabled friend of one of the writers, but otherwise we’ve stuck to the A5 format. I try and pack as much into them as I can so readers feel they’ve got good value, but poetry is problematic to format. It usually gets put into double columns and a slightly smaller font size. The graphic design could probably be a lot better, but I don’t have much expertise in that area.

Copies of the magazine have found their way into the hands of various writers and publishers who are a bit better known than us. Denise Mina, the crime writer has bought a copy (thank you!). Novelist David Fiddimore (RIP) bought the first four issues, and was kind enough to contribute a foreword to the first edition. Others include Joy Hendry of Chapman magazine, James Robertson, Ken Macleod, John Herdman etc. I just hope that they’ve read and enjoyed them! Needless to say, in my experience, some professional writers seem to remember their amateur days better than others.

So last but not least, what’s the point in it? Michael Conway, who did some of the cover artwork, has complained it could be seen as “vanity publishing”. Well, kind of, but not quite. We’re not losing money hand over foot. We don’t print it, but we do publish it. While I try to get at least one piece from each group member, it doesn’t always work out that way. Not everything submitted gets printed though. If it’s vanity, it’s vanity for me perhaps, because editing and selecting your own material is very different from dealing with other people’s. What else?

  • It gets the material out there. It may vary in quality and style, but it gets it seen. It has had positive feedback from some quarters, and there is a good chance that something in it may catch someone’s eye.
  • It helps the members of the writing group focus on producing material and working to a deadline, which is something that they’d have to do in a “real” situation.
  • It proves there’s life beyond the literary establishment. We don’t receive a penny off the state, our writers are currently unknown and the material’s different to some of the things mainstream publishers put out. Every issue is in the NLS for posterity.
  • I’d like to think that it’s good for the self-esteem of group members. If it boosts anyone’s confidence and makes them happier, that is never a bad thing.

In the past of the group (before my time), there were occasional volumes like Voices from the Bridge which included Nick Houghton (one time resident of Forrester Park). One member of the group went on to win the MacAllan short story competition, and others have ended up getting published “for real”.

External Links

Review of Bleeding Ink No. 4 on Scottish Books (This website is well worth browsing in general by the way)


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