When I first heard about The City Fox literary e-zine, I felt my face work its way into that special Joker-esque grin I do when something excites me. ‘…specializing in the publication of dark, flora and fauna inspired poetry, prose and artwork….’ Oh yes, oh yes!
I thought it would be interesting to hear what founder and chief editor Kathy Halliday had to say about the publication, and the work that went into setting it up, so I emailed over some questions and here’s what she had to say.
What made you decide to set up The City Fox?
Setting up a literary magazine is something I feel I’ve always wanted to do since starting University, though never really knew how to go about it successfully. We talked about submissions and publications a lot in workshops, and I guess that’s where it started. An e-zine seemed the best way to begin, mainly because as students our time and money is pretty stretched, especially as when we launched back in April we were on the last leg of our third year. Having said that, it felt like the right time to launch a site, so as to have something new and exciting beginning as our time at University was coming to a reluctant close. So with the help of fellow writers Vicki and Evie, illustrations from the wonderful Nicola Spencer as well as sterling advice from our friend Ashley Fisher over at Turbulence Poetry, The City Fox began to slowly take shape. I think in the end though, it will always come back to a visit from a little fox, on a sunny day, in the middle of Hull. I already knew that I wanted the site to deal with the uncanny in flora and fauna, because some of the best fiction I’ve read this year has been conceptual, dark and unusual in some way. I wanted a place to celebrate this theme, and the foxes living in the garden provided me with a defining title and a premise to work from.
How long did it take to create the first issue, from idea to having it available for people to download and read?
It actually took a lot longer than initially anticipated, mainly due to other commitments. We were hectic with proof-reading and editing our dissertations around the time I estimated we would be ready to launch, so it was really just a case of bad timing. Having said that, our first issue was always going to be trial and error, partly because we’re trying to suss out what works best for us, our contributors and of course our readers. We were overwhelmed by the quality of the submissions we were receiving, so deciding which ones would work best for ‘Bones’ was a really gruelling process of elimination as well. And then of course was the illustration of each piece to consider, so as to make sure the issue not only looked stunning (thanks, Nicola!) but also appeared professional. We may only be young and new to the world of online publishing, and there may be times some things work better than others, but we pride ourselves on our literary knowledge and professionalism when it comes to The City Fox. We hope this is something our readers can see when visiting our site and reading the issues.
How has the reaction been to the first issue?
Fantastic! We couldn’t be happier to be honest. We’ve been lucky enough to have the help and support of other literary sites, as well as lecturers, editors and contributors, who all waited patiently for us to launch ‘Bones’. Our e-zine goes beyond local and regional, with readers from around the world downloading the issue and viewing our articles, which is something we didn’t expect. We received a lot of lovely comments on the works included, which we’re really pleased about because our contributors were outstanding. As aforementioned, the illustrations were a big hit with our readers, many of whom felt they complimented the poetry and prose beautifully, which is really great to hear!
How can people find out more?
By heading over to our main The City Fox site, where there are articles and other lovely things going on. We are currently OPEN to submissions for our second issue, provisionally titled ‘Ashes’, until MIDNIGHT August 25th! All info. on this can be found under the ‘Submit’ section.
We have some exciting things happening later in July, so WATCH THIS SPACE!
Immediate thoughts when The City Fox appeared on my screen after a few clicks were ‘wow, the layout is absolutely perfect, and this spine-chilling illustration on the front cover…hell…I bloody love it!’ I had a quick skim before settling down to read, and was bowled over with the professionalism of it all. Everything was laid out so that it had space to breathe, and the illustrations by Nicola Spencer, heck, beautifully macabre.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I love a good editor’s letter. It’s absolutely vital to pull the reader as close to you as you can as soon as you can. And The City Fox did exactly that. There’s one line that’s stuck in my head, even now, days after reading it. ‘I remember it being around 2am when the screaming started.’ You know that a magazine is going to have good content when the editor’s letter has a stunner like this.
The first piece was a stirring poem titled ‘Men Like Romeo’ by Rab Ferguson, and the inspiration behind the poem made my jaw smack the floor. But I won’t ruin it.
‘Scarecrow Bones,’ a poem by Stephen Watt was particularly atmospheric, and I especially loved the lines
A pole was planted where a dead crow
dangled precariously like a bad attitude.
Nicola’s illustrations throughout the magazine reach somewhere deep. They’re sinister, fascinating and completely suited to the running theme.
I’ve always had a deep admiration for Steve Toase’s work, so it was a delight to find him featured. His piece ‘As Children’ was especially affecting. Here is a stanza which wouldn’t let go of my head.
Fathers tell us as children
that the woods will consume you
Teeth barked and ash stained
Time all but stopped for me when I read Fran Slater’s disturbing tale ‘This Man Alone,’ and these few lines ought to be enough to make you want to hurry and find out exactly what’s going on.
‘I look at the photo behind him. Her blonde hair tied up in a ponytail, a fire white scar between her narrow blue eyes. He has no idea that I’ve seen parts of her he’ll never see.’
Anne Woodworth’s absorbing poem ‘The Colour Of Road Kill’ shuffled my spirit for sure and left me hungry for more of her words.
Flesh is not an easy colour. Our furs
have peeled and left us bare.
‘Deer, Oh Deer’ a poem by Anthony Ward kicked off with one hell of a first line, that cracked open all of my senses and had a nosy around.
The only time I ever saw a deer alive was when I killed it.
The final piece in the first issue of The City Fox is a story called ‘Hutched’ by a writer called David Hartley. It’s mind-bending to say the least, meaningful and utterly compelling. I don’t want to go into much depth about this story, because I really want to urge you to read it. It will blow your mind, guaranteed. There is a moment, however, which I’d like to share on the basis many that many of you will impulsively nod when you get to the final word.
‘The rabbit spends most of the time at the back of the hutch in the shadow. The daughter quickly gets bored, asks for a puppy instead. The man says ‘no, but thinks; maybe.’
I haven’t commented on every piece in this first issue because I, for one, love surprises, and it’s always exciting to come across something for the first time. The City Fox is a spectacular little publication and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you tend to steer clear of the dark, then I urge you to explore it. You might find something there that you like, hidden, in amongst the shadows.
Editors: Kathy Halliday, Vicki Bartram and Evie Johnson.
Illustrations: Nicola Spencer.