{ In which I profess my love for Belt Magazine }

March 6, 2015 § 2 Comments

If I could point to a publication that’s doing—conceptually—what I’d like to do, I’d throw my whole stance, Lewis-and-Clark-style, toward Belt Magazine. Belt doesn’t just “lead the pack” in Midwest publishing. It is the pack. A lone wolf, if you will. And as the print-anthology and online-journalism publication heads toward its third year, I’m still as excited about it as when it first came out. Born of a Cleveland writing anthology, Belt Publishing is creating a platform for Midwest writers to congregate and do just damn good work.

Belt Magazine publishes independent journalism about the Rust Belt. Online only, it launched in September 2013, and focuses on longform journalism, op-eds and first person essays of interest to the Rust Belt and beyond.

Belt Magazine publishes independent journalism about the Rust Belt. Online only, it launched in September 2013, and focuses on longform journalism, op-eds and first person essays of interest to the Rust Belt and beyond.

Tomorrow I’ll post a quick interview with Belt’s editor, Anne Trubek. But first, here’s why I think the magazine is so important:

Belt bolsters Midwest regional writing.

“There are a number of high-quality regional publications,” founder and publisher Anne Trubek told The American Prospect. “The New Yorker is the most obvious one—you don’t think of it as regional but it is. Texas Monthly and Pacific Standard are other good examples. There’s not a single example in the Midwest. People read those publications who aren’t in those regions because they’re interested in them, or because the writing is very good. That’s what I would like Belt to be seen as, and become.”

{ See also, “Midwest Lit: the new nostalgia.” }

It’s identified a regional audience for Belt not so much by geography as history.

Which is a little academic, a little heady. And I love it for that.

Trubek again: “There are a lot of similar issues in these cities that had their peaks around the same time, are facing similar problems now with housing and manufacturing loss. They have incredible cultural institutions that are about the same age, similar immigration patterns—there are so many commonalities.”

{ See also, “Where is the Rust Belt?” }

It curates sophisticated, serious, longform journalism and first-person essays.

Some of my favorites include this piece on Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen, a fascinating investigation of a county probate judge’s weird attempts to take down the local parks district, and “A Middle-Aged Student’s Guide to Social Work.” There’s an underlying, unapologetic certainty that social justice, culture and the environment deserve deep journalistic dissection.

“We’re trying to avoid the trap of page views, which snares you into a cycle of putting out more and more things. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that strategy, but if everything’s like that then you’re going to lose certain kinds of writing.”

I also love this closing quote from a Nieman Labs interview, in which Trubek takes a firm stance that people in Rust Belt cities should care about what’s going on in other Rust Belt cities. That there should be a way to get “Clevelanders to read about Buffalo,” for example. This is bold. Most publishers would approach this the other way, right? See what ideas are viable among communities, and then choose a philosophic approach? I’m interested to see if/how Belt might influence the regional identity.

Trubek has pretty much insisted that women be published equally.

At one point, I went to social media and said if we don’t get more women pitching I’m just going to shut down Belt for a week.” – Trubek, to the American Prospect.

Annnnnd its first print magazine is all about wildlife.

I’m in love.

{ Read more about Redhorse: The Rust Belt Bestiary. }

{ Also }

Listening
“Eat Pray Thug” by Heems, on NPR First Listen

Reading
Meghan Daum’s Unspeakable (Putting off the last few pages because I don’t want it to end!)
Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (The secret to finishing it is to read during winter, so you don’t run out the door to explore.)

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