Interview: Sara Jafari

Sara Jafari has recently set up a magazine called TOKEN. The launch party is in a few weeks time and I was lucky enough to have an interview with Sara about her magazine and the party.

Hello Sara! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

I am good, thank you!

I absolutely adore your new magazine. What inspired you to create your magazine?

I felt particularly inspired in 2016, in which I was working on Flight Journal (flightjournal.org) as part of Spread The Word's Flight 1000 Scheme with two other great editors. I loved redesigning the website, and working with authors in publishing their work. That said, I was really keen to work on publishing in print, and going beyond online publishing. Also a friend of mine started a feminist zine Syrup Magazine, and seeing someone I know be able to publish a really beautiful magazine in print really inspired me.

Why is this magazine important?

This magazine is important because in my call for submissions I was particularly looking for diverse voices. Writers, artists and illustrators that are BAME and/or from the LGBTQ community, and also people who's stories are not widely told. I know growing up I loved reading but found I couldn't truly relate to the characters in the books I was reading. We need more diverse pieces of writing and art out there.

What is included in this magazine?

Included in the magazine is 3 short stories, 5 pieces of life writing, 2 poems, 1 interview and 4 art collections. As well as this we have illustrations to go with the pieces from really talented illustrators.

What will each issue include?

Each issue will vary, but the magazine will typically include short stories and life writing pieces, as well as art work. For Issue 1 I kept the call for submission open as I wanted to get as many people involved as possible, and I received a lot more submissions than I expected so making a decision was hard. For Issue 2 I think there will be a theme to really narrow in on a topic.

How much is the magazine and where can you buy this?

The magazine is £5.50 online (see here: tokenmagazine.bigcartel.com). You can also buy it at the launch party open to the public 13 May at Out of The Brew. We will also be at DIY Cultures' event at Rich Mix on 14 May selling copies.

Why did you choose TOKEN as the name for your magazine?

It kind of came to me when I was thinking about what kind of writers and artists I would like in the magazine. It comes from the experience many POC, people in the LGBTQ society, those with disabilities, and women face. At events, writing prizes, or even in the workplace, I noticed there would be a few of us, invited or hired as an afterthought to somehow fix their lack of diversity (though it doesn't really). I wanted to turn this on it's head, and create a magazine for those often tokenised, in which diversity is key to the magazine, and not an afterthought.

How has Facebook helped with TOKEN?

I'll be honest, starting the magazine completely on my own I've not focused on Facebook as much as I probably should. TOKEN Magazine has a Twitter account (@tokenmagazine) as I find call for submissions can be shared really easily on Twitter, and it reaches a lot more people.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your launch party?

Certainly. The launch party is on 13 May at Out of the Brew, New Cross, 7:30-10pm. It will be a casual night, with drinks, at a really lovely venue. Downstairs at the venue's exhibition space some of the contributors' other works will be showcased. There will be the opportunity to see the magazine and buy it. It's going to be a fun night, with classic RnB tracks played, so come and invite your friends along!

What does creativity mean to you?

Creativity for me is drawing out your own life experiences, truths and feelings and putting them into your art. But also we have in the issue people who see other people's experiences and have used that as inspiration for their art.

Do you have any career plans?

I have always wanted to be a book editor - that's my ultimate goal. I also write myself, and I'd love to also be a novelist. At the moment I feel I'm juggling a lot of things - working full-time as an Editorial Assistant, managing a magazine on my own, and also trying to write as well. I hope in the future I will manage all these more efficiently to allow me the time to write more seriously.

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your magazine?

Issue 1 being published! I'm so excited to show it to you all. I will be showing teasers in the next few weeks for those who are unsure about what the magazine will contain. You can also expect call for submissions for Issue 2 around summer time. Watch this space.

How would you describe your magazine?

It's an arts and literature zine approaching serious topics from a really diverse set of contributors - they're all so different and that's what makes the magazine so interesting.

Who inspires TOKEN?

There are so many magazines, zines and books out there that have inspired me - to name a few Flight Journal, gal-dem, Granta, 'Nasty Women', and 'The Good Immigrant''. A real mix!

What inspired you on the illustration for your first magazine cover?

The illustration on the cover is from Ceylan Aran. It's part of a collection of hers that will be inside the magazine called 'States of Mind'. She was inspired by a vision she had of the mixed emotions of women in Turkey, due to the increasing violence and pressure on them. They are angry, devastated but still have hope. It was hard to choose one illustration for the cover, and I'm so excited for you all to see her other images.

Do you have any advice for designers who would like to set up their own magazine?

Probably if possible build up a team and don't do it alone, unless you're very passionate about your magazine idea. It is a lot of work, especially if you work full-time already. Also monitor other magazines out there, and see how they're doing things. I'm just learning all this, and so I imagine mistakes will be made along the way, but that's also fine!

You can find more information about this wonderful magazine on her website ‘http:tokenmagazine.bigcartel.com’. Submissions for issue 2 will be open soon. Don’t forget to join TOKEN at their launch party in May.