Projects Are More Fun When They Involve Others - 10 Questions with Writer Jared Rypkema, Founder and Publisher of Bridge Eight Literary Magazine
Writer Jared Rypkema is the founder and publisher of Bridge Eight Literary Magazine. Published twice a year, Bridge Eight includes short stories and poems loosely tied to a central theme. Contributions to the literary magazine come from writers across the country. Each issue also showcases one visual artist whose work is featured on the cover and within the pages of the magazine.
Bridge Eight represents and evolution of an idea. Rypkema saw a need to bring together Jacksonville's writing community. With this need identified, he formed Left on Mallory, a small group of writers who met each week at Rypkema's home in Riverside. Rypkema's ambitions and vision didn't end with Left on Mallory; he sensed the need for something more substantial, something that showcased the great writers of our region. With no previous experience in publishing, but with the blessing from Jacksonville's established writers, Rypkema began the work to create a printed literary magazine.
Bridge Eight debuted at One Spark in 2014. With an open submission policy, Rypkema empowers a group of local specialized editors to craft the tone of every issue by choosing what pieces are published. With each issue published, Bridge Eight continues to refine themselves while also producing a product that is authentic to the team involved.
Bright Eight released their seventh issue in March 2018. While marketing Issue 7 and preparing for Issue 8, Rypkema and his team have also been hard at work to produce "15 Views of Jacksonville: Short Stories From the Bold City," an anthology of 15 fictional stories set in Duval County. The anthology offers a diverse yet connected literary portrait of twenty-first-century life in the Bold City. It features 15 previously unpublished stories and one essay by current and former Jacksonville-based authors. Contributors include Sohrab Homi Fracis, Laura Lee Smith, Mark Ari, Teri Youmans Grimm, Tim Gilmore, and more.
"15 Views of Jacksonville" is set to release in early October 2018. To raise capital to cover production costs for the project, Bridge Eight have launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter. The campaign, which kicks off on Friday, June 29 and runs through Saturday, July 28, will focus on pre-sales of the book. Campaign supporters will be rewarded with exclusive "15 Views of Jacksonville" items created exclusively for the campaign including t-shirts, posters, and tote-bags, along with tickets to the official book release party in October.
10 Questions with Jared Rypkema
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic and cultural endeavors?
The biggest lesson has to be that to put something into the world that feels true and adds value takes much more time, dedication and introspection than any of us would like—but is also more rewarding than almost any other pursuit.
How do you define success in what you do?
Of course there are numbers—attendance, issues sold, etc.—but I’d say for me, success is creating what I described earlier: something that feels true and adds value to the world. I also believe that if I’m able to help others push their work and share it, that’s its own success.
What patterns, routines, or habits do you think advance the likelihood that any given project will be successful and how do you integrate those behaviors into your workflow?
Projects are strange things, especially artistic ones. They’re usually sparked by an idea, then fueled by a satisfying rush of adrenaline and enthusiasm. That’s a crucial stage, no doubt, but I find the shaping of a project to be the exciting and most important part. The revisions I make that brings a fragile idea along until it’s something genuine is what I’m into.
I also find that projects are more fun when they involve others, so I gather people I respect to help me shape the idea and bring it to life. Bridge Eight is very much a product of this. From the very first day, it has been the result of many people helping shape the vision. Bridge Eight Literary Magazine and our first anthology, 15 Views of Jacksonville: Stories From a Bold City, were very much created this way.
In terms of workflow. I make a realistic timeline then take it one step at a time.
What is the origin of the name Bridge Eight and what went into the logo design?
Jacksonville has seven bridges (somewhat famously). We see the eighth bridge as a metaphorical one that joins culture and development. “Eighth Bridge” didn’t sound all that good—so, Bridge Eight. Chadwick Greene created our logo with a lot of “eights.” There are eight corners, eight waves and the numeral VIII in the bridge.
On Friday, June 29, Bridge Eight will launch a crowdsourcing campaign to raise funds to produce 15 Views of Jacksonville: Stories From the Bold City. What do you hope this anthology reveals to readers and what was the process for selecting contributing writers?
Our hope is to connect the city in a new way. Jacksonville is so big that its different pockets have their own quirks, ideas and perspectives. Orange Park, Atlantic Beach, Arlington, Springfield—these are vastly different places, but all Jacksonville. We couldn’t capture them all, but 15 different perspectives of the city are far more than many of us experience in the time that we visit or live here.
As for the selection process, the editor, Caleb Michael Sarvis, and I really wanted to represent as much of Jacksonville’s diversity as possible. The writers are either current or past residents, and each have strong ties to the district/area of the city they set their story in.
Seven issues of Bridge Eight have been published since November 2014. How did you determine the look, feel, and tone for the biannual literary magazine during the inception phase? Additionally, what metrics and channels do you explore to gather feedback and measure effectiveness?
The magazine took time to really find itself, which we knew would be the case from the start. When we began in 2014, with Coe Douglas as the managing editor, we had a solid idea of the quality we were going for, which was enough to put some fantastic work in the first several issues.
Issue 4 was when Jessica Hatch (Managing editor), Caleb Michael Sarvis (Fiction), Jennifer Bundy (Poetry) and I started shaping each issue around a specific concept. “Breathing life into colorless spaces” was Issue 4’s, which was thoughtfully guest-edited by Tiffany Melanson and Agatha French.
The concept came out of a pretty dark place, actually. The bombing at the Bataclan theatre was still raw and the community was feeling its weight. The issue addressed pain, loss, suffering, heartache. In my opening note, I wrote about the gravity of artistic expression: “How artists cut themselves open and bleed on behalf of all of us who search for a context for pain, and sometimes a release and hope for the future.”
That issue feels so real to me. I said in the beginning that I strive to create something that feels true. That one did. From that point, we created issues based on what we felt was an underlying sentiment that our community shared. “Out of Orbit” asked “what happens when your center of gravity disappears?” “Archetypes” was about the stories that bring us together and sometimes tear us apart. And “Organic” goes back to the basic forms of living in search of possible growth. That’s a pretty long answer, but I also have to mention Sean Tucker. The visual aesthetic that Bridge Eight has is something he shaped. He’s the man.
As far as measurement, our existence relies on the number of magazines we can sell, but effectiveness, I’d say, is measured in much more subtle and profound ways—for ourselves, our contributors and our readers.
You founded Bridge Eight after identifying that something was missing in Jacksonville's literary arts scene that served and connected the writers of our region. What do you think is the next pressing need that requires being addressed to progress the state of literary arts in Northeast Florida?
Jacksonville has many talented writers and authors, as well as a history of literary excellence. What the literary arts needs is to become a core pillar of Jacksonville’s cultural growth. I’ve always said that a city’s cultural development has four pillars: the visual arts, performance arts, musical arts, and literary arts. We have the other three, but the fourth is still coming along. In order to really turn a corner, an establishment that champions the literary arts in the city is needed. Of course, establishments take time, dedication and resources to build.
What would you say to encourage someone to check out and attend a Flash Reading or Abridged event?
They’re a great entry point into storytelling. You get to witness a writer perform their work, which is different than all the other forms of performance art. The events are also a great way for writers to meet other writers. And for artists to catch inspiration. Our Abridged Reading Series is a bit more formal. We usually bring in writers who are touring a new book through the state. Flash Readings are for the community. 10 writers, 3 minutes a piece—the best literary event
under 30 minutes. They’re a lot of fun.
What are the greatest challenges you face as an artist and arts professional living and working in Northeast Florida?
Being an artist is difficult anywhere, but what’s challenging about Jacksonville is that its community often appreciates and celebrates the art, but doesn’t support its creation. I hope that doesn’t come across as overly critical, but most of Jacksonville’s population will express the importance of art, but won’t take the step to become a patron or support the arts in real practical ways. Encouragement goes a long way, but buying art and showing up at events is what keeps
it all going.
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow Jacksonville's arts and cultural sector and creative industries?
The best thing about Jacksonville’s community of doers is that they don’t need permission or a lot of resources to get started. They just need support in their early stages and through the first several years. The Cultural Council is an amazing supporter of the small organizations that are making the city a place worth living in and visiting. Continuing the work is all I can ask.
We'd like to thank Jared for his participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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