Five Questions for... Vanessa Berry

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Interview by Sara Bellini:

We love zines, maps, psychogeography and archives, which is why we really wanted to speak to Vanessa Berry. She started making zines in the 1990s and is the creator of the long-running Disposable Camera, the last issue of which was published a few days ago. Besides making zines Vanessa writes a psychogeography blog Mirror Sydney, exploring “the marginal places and details of the city of Sydney” and in 2017 she also published a collection of essays and hand-drawn maps with the omonimous title.

Vanessa’s work is equally autobiographical and historical, exploring her personal relationship with place and memory as well as the stories that belong to a specific place. In the case of Australia where the pre-colonial memory of the island has been highly disregarded, Vanessa always writes “with acknowledgement of the Aboriginal lands”, reminding us that we should always be respectful of spaces that we share with others and that many others before us have respectfully preserved.

Vanessa’s newest project is a book of essays on place, memory and relationships with animals and the 20th anniversary issue of her other zine I am a Camera.

What does home mean to you?

My connection to the physical environment is strong and deeply-felt and always has been. I attribute this to being a quiet and introspective person, an observer who has always felt a kinship with the environment around me - its objects, creatures, details, changes, daily rhythms - as much as with other people. I do a lot of work at home, in a small and cluttered room amid piles of books and papers, and this is probably where I feel most at home. Although writing is also a kind of home for me, if you see me with a notebook open and I'm writing in it, know that this is when I feel most connected with the world. Perhaps that's what home means to me: feeling connected to where I am, wherever that be.

Which place do you have a special connection to?

My mental map of Sydney is made up of many such places I feel a special connection to. Generally they fall under the categories of anomalies, places of respite and places of solace. In the latter category there's a particular headland overlooking the Pacific Ocean that I go to at times of significance or difficulty. The city's eastern edge is a long stretch of coastline, scalloped into bays and beaches between sandstone cliffs. The approach to this particular headland is a stretch of parkland which rises up to a rocky outcrop. I sit on the grass and watch the magpies which patrol it. A group of them live here, and whenever I am there I see them moving across the lawn, heads cocked, listening for insects under the soil. One time, when I was sitting on the rocks, they assembled in front of me and all started singing, which felt like a gift from them and from this place, which never fails to make my spirit feel lighter.

What is beyond your front door?

Having lived in the same house for almost a decade, this scene is now permanently established in my mind's eye and I could describe it to the utmost detail, however I will keep it brief: a low brick fence with a crooked front gate made of wrought iron shaped into hearts and curls. Beyond this, lining the street, is a row of native fig trees. Directly across from the house is an olive-green metal box a few metres long which I like to imagine holds the street's secrets, but is actually an electricity substation. At the corner of the yard is a hibiscus tree which is often in flower. People like to pick them as they walk past and I don't have the heart to tell them that once you do, the flowers close up very quickly.

What are you reading / watching / listening to / looking at right now?

I am writing this answer on a plane which is flying over a scene below where the land meets the sea in an outline of bays and rivers, and the sun has dispersed to an orange glow on the horizon. I'm listening to the new Gwenno album, Le Kov. Tucked into the seat pocket in front of me is How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee and an issue of Elementum. My watching, for now, is all out the oval frame of the plane window, thinking about the ocean below, the atmosphere above, and how it feels to be suspended in between.

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And we're back... with a call for submissions!

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Did you miss us? It has taken a little longer than we would have liked but the good ship Elsewhere is sailing once more. Starting this week, we will be bringing more writing, visual arts, music, events, interviews and other place-related literature and art to the Elsewhere: A Journal of Place website as well as a revamped newsletter detailing everything we are up to that we plan to send out twice a month. You can sign up for the newsletter here. To get us started though, the big news is that we have finalised our plans for the next print issue of the journal, and we want your submissions.

ELSEWHERE NO.06: TO THE MOUNTAINS!

The sixth issue of our print journal will be published in Autumn 2019 in a limited edition print run and we have opened a submissions window that will run until the 30 June.

We are doing something different with this sixth edition of our print journal and invite submissions of prose, poetry, illustration, photography or other visual arts that are related to our theme of place and that have the name of an individual mountain as the title.

GUIDELINES FOR PRINT SUBMISSIONS

Beyond the limitations set by the title, for prose (fiction or nonfiction) there is an upper word limit of 5000 words and we would like to read completed pieces. For visual arts we are happy to consider a proposal but it would be great to see some examples of your work. Please send all submissions for Elsewhere No.06 to paul@elsewhere-journal.com.

Please note that, unfortunately, we do not pay contributors to Elsewhere. We have long had this as our aim, but the project as it is right now cannot sustain it. As a literary journal with a small print-run and sales, with no advertising or any external support, we have very little room for manoeuvre. In the four years since we have launched, neither Paul, Julia or any of the team have been paid for their work on the journal.

Remember: The deadline for all submissions is 30 June 2019

WRITING FOR THE BLOG

We are always open to submissions for the blog where there is no theme other than place. We are especially interested in work that would benefit from being published online, such as film and music, and when it comes to prose we rarely accept work for online publication that is more than 1000 words. To submit your writing, photography, artwork, music, illustration or film on the subject of place for the blog the address is paul@elsewhere-journal.com.

EVENTS & EXHIBITIONS

We would also like to use the blog to showcase any place-related events, readings and exhibitions, anywhere in the world. If you have something that you think would be of interest to our readers, please let us know.

PRE-ORDERS FOR ELSEWHERE NO.06

The financial situation at a literary journal such as ours is always precarious, and so we will be hoping to sell as many copies of Elsewhere No.06 in advance as possible. Unlike with previous issues, No.06 will be only available through our website. We will be making the issue available for pre-order in the summer so please sign up for our newsletter to keep track of where we are up to. In the meantime, if you would like to support the journal, please consider buying one of our back issues or a double set via our online shop.

We are really pleased to be moving with Elsewhere once more, and we can’t wait to see what we get, both for the print issue and also for here on the blog. Thanks to everything who has supported the project up to now, and for your patience since Christmas.

Paul & Julia


Printed Matters: The Line Between Two Towns

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We are really excited about this place-related project from our friend and Elsewhere contributor Laura HarkerThe Line Between Two Towns is a new zine that explored the Esk Valley line between Middlesborough and Whitby in northern England, bringing together writers, poets, artists and photographers who have all been inspired by the different destinations on the line between the two towns. Here is Laura's introduction to the zine, and you can order your copy online here.

The idea behind this zine came from wanting to explore the differences between Whitby and Middlesbrough, and all the unique nuances and cultures that set them apart from one another. Though there are such stark differences between the two towns, there is still one thing that brings them together: the Esk Valley Railway.

It clocks in at only 36 miles long, but the Middlesbrough and Whitby line was once part of a larger network of railways that covered the area until many lines were closed after Dr. Beeching’s cuts. Thankfully, the line remained open due to its popularity. Originally intended to serve the mines and quarries across the region, the Esk Valley line quickly became a hit with Teessiders who realised that it placed the North Yorkshire seaside just over an hour away.

Over the past few decades, the area’s industry has disappeared, Brits have set their sights on sunny European beaches, and the line is now rarely busy except for Bank Holiday weekends. But it continues to be an important lifeline for many in the villages it passes through, connecting them to Middlesbrough and Whitby.

I was born in Middlesbrough but we moved to Glaisdale, just outside Whitby, when I was 11. Carefully picked up from my urban childhood, I was transplanted to the countryside where most other kids were members of the Young Farmers and thought my Boro accent came from Ireland. Even though my childhood so far had been spent less than 30 miles from Whitby, I realised there was a large gulf between these two locations – industrially, culturally and aesthetically.

This isn’t something that bothered me that much until I moved to Berlin and I was constantly asked the same question: Where are you from? When Germans and other non-Brits asked, the answer was easy – I went with North Yorkshire. But when Brits asked, expecting a more specific pinpoint for their mental map, I couldn’t bring myself to give just one answer.

I couldn’t just say Whitby and ignore Middlesbrough or that would be turning my back on my first decade, family ties, and roots as a Teessider. But I couldn’t simply say Middlesbrough, as I’d spent 15 years on the moors by this point. My Boro accent is long gone and my Middlesbrough geography gets hazy whenever I step off Linthorpe Road in the centre of town – I can’t quite stomach saying I’m a true Teessider. And so I thought about writing a personal essay on this identity crisis and the towns that sparked it, using the Esk Valley Railway to bind it all together. When I realised there was just too much for me to say, I decided to make this zine and open it up to submissions to try and create something of a printed tapestry of the area.

The zine includes works from local writers, poets, artists and photographers, all of which have been inspired by stops along the line. Threading together their work along the context of the Esk Valley Line, I wanted the zine to explore the cultural and landscape shifts that can be found taking this particular train journey, from starting in Middlesbrough surrounded by tired factories and ending in Whitby just steps from the beach. And it might actually help me figure out what to say whenever someone asks me where I’m from.