“Borders, Boundaries, and Belonging” is the theme of the inaugural issue of Multiplicity, the literary magazine of the Master in Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University.
Each of the 22 writers featured in this issue — 18 essayists and four poets — has written a brief statement about life during the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting on their own work in light of the new reality. These statements accompany the writer’s work.
“Millions of people are sheltering in place at home, turning to art and literature and music online for inspiration and community, myself included,” said Leanna James Blackwell, director of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University and editorial director of Multiplicity magazine. “My co-editors and I felt that Multiplicity — online, free and filled with real-life stories and poems from great writers of all backgrounds — could make a genuine contribution to readers looking for connection in this deeply uncertain time.”
The response has been positive. “Readers are glad to find a new source of good writing and to find within its digital pages a multifaceted portrait of the human experience,” Blackwell said.
The MFA program concentrates on creative nonfiction, but the magazine includes nonfiction and poetry and will include photography. “This issue bursts with personal essays, literary journalism and narrative poetry,” said Suzanne Strempek Shea, writer-in-residence at Bay Path University who created its MFA program in creative nonfiction, which will graduate its sixth class this year.
Magazine topics include grandmothers, disaster work, music, Kobe Bryant, long-distance love and peri-menopause. “All fit so well within the issue’s theme of borders, boundaries and belonging,” she said.
“We have some very highly acclaimed writers and poets in the publication,” she continued, noting Jane Yolen, Dinty W. Moore, Mel Allen and María Luisa Arroyo.
New writers include Jodie Baker and Wren (Karen) Bellavance-Grace.
“The literary veterans’ varied contributions illustrate how well this work can be done, the results of decades and decades of experience in living every day and filling the blank page,” Strempek Shea said. “In our crop of newer writers, so exciting to include, are vivid examples of the energy and enthusiasm of relaying some experiences of younger years.”
The “Borders, Boundaries, and Belonging” topic of the first issue is relevant today as people grapple with boundaries between nations, cultures, religions, political parties, genders, ages, abilities — and look for where, how and to whom they belong.
“We chose “Borders, Boundaries, and Belonging” as a response to our increasingly fractured world,” Blackwell said. “Competing sources of news, social media and world events are splintering us into smaller and smaller groups based on nationality, race, religion, language, political affiliation and a hundred other labels. We were interested in how people decide who belongs and who doesn’t and why; and how some of us find a sense of belonging.”
The editorial committee plans to publish twice a year, in the fall and spring.
The theme for the next issue is “Work.”
“As avid readers, we notice a curious shortage of personal essays, memoirs and poems on the subject of our working lives. And yet work defines our days and often has a powerful role in shaping our identities and our sense of self in the world,” Blackwell said. “We’re interested in stories about the vast variety of experiences within the working world, and by that we mean every kind of work: paid and unpaid, outside the home and inside it, volunteer work, caregiving, creative work, summer jobs, working with our hands or with our minds — the list is long and the story possibilities are rich.”
The magazine also features a blog that will publish shorter pieces every week on Tuesday and Thursday, and submissions for that are open now. Multiplicity Blog publishes flash essays, craft pieces, reviews, poetry, opinion pieces, humor writing and short reflections.
Multiplicity Blog accepts submissions throughout the year.
Like most online literary magazines, Multiplicity magazine has specific reading periods during which it accepts submissions and chooses the works to include in its next issue. The reading period for the next issue of the magazine will begin May 1 and continue through July 31.
Submission guidelines can be found at multiplicitymagazine.com/submit and the overview of the mission and the summary of topics at multiplicitymagazine.com/about. “Prospective submitters are also encouraged to read the articles and posts in our inaugural issue to get a feel for the type of writing we publish,” said Kara L. Noble, a member of the Multiplicity Editorial Committee and an alumna of the Bay Path University MFA Program in Creative Nonfiction Writing.
Multiplicity has the same mission as the university’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction: to provide an inclusive place for writers, both established and aspiring, to tell the stories that live deeply inside, the stories that haven’t been told.
People can submit to the Multiplicity Blog using the online Blog Submission Form at multiplicitymagazine.com/submissionform. The online submission form for the next issue of Multiplicity will be available on the website beginning on May 1.
“People have long turned to the arts — to writing, music, painting, dance and theater — to help them face and get through challenging times,” Noble said. “Creating things (or experiencing things others have created) reminds us that even when times are tough, beauty and hope remain in the world. The arts provide solace, offering comfort and reassurance in the midst of uncertainty. They nurture resilience in the human spirit, helping us all find the strength to overcome adversity.”
She hopes this first issue of Multiplicity allows people to explore diverse perspectives, to feel empathy for one another, to ponder new ideas and to understand that, although they may appear different, they are all in this world together.
Multiplicity board members live in South Carolina, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and most of their meetings took place via Zoom and email for 2 1/2 years, long before social distancing required that. “We’ll celebrate the publication together in person at some point,” Strempek Shea said.
“The stories in Multiplicity deliver a dose of energetic inspiration, encouraging everybody to hang in there, to remember that this difficult time won’t last forever and to have faith that together we can make things better,” Noble said.
For more information, go to multiplicitymagazine.com.