Nanaimo artist Amber Morrison flips through copies of her art magazine, ‘Sad Girl Review.’ Issue 5 comes out on Sept. 12. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo artist’s ‘Sad Girl Review’ magazine celebrates ‘girly’ art

VIU grad Amber Morrison publishing lesser-heard voices

A Nanaimo artist’s homemade art publication has been “officially recognized as a real magazine” and she’s hoping that designation will help her contributors reach their largest audience yet.

Two years ago, after graduating from VIU as a student of visual art and creative writing, Amber Morrison unveiled the first edition of her art magazine Sad Girl Review. She created the magazine as a way of finding like-minded creative people and publicizing their work.

“The magazine itself is a celebration of all things girly. As the title suggests – Sad Girl Review – melancholy, hyper-feminine kind of things…” Morrison said. “I was curious to see how this language of girliness might reach other people and see how they responded to it and it took off a lot more than I really expected.”

Since then the magazine has grown with every issue. Morrison said she receives hundreds of replies each time she makes a call for submissions and the magazine has now tripled in size from its 34-page debut to 90 pages in the upcoming fifth issue, which comes out on Sept. 12.

Morrison said she realized that a lot of people were entrusting her with their work and she decided the best way to honour that trust and take it seriously was to make their work even more widely available. To accomplish that, Morrison applied for and received from Library and Archives Canada an International Standard Serial Number, a numerical code used to identify serial publications.

“Through getting the ISSN number and sending [issues] to Library and Archives Canada people are going to be able to use these for research, they’re going to be able to look back on people’s careers, see what they did, where they participated, so it’ll basically make all of my contributors easier to find,” she said.

Morrison’s contributors range from teenage girls to grandmothers, and some men as well, of varying experience from Canada, the United States and Europe. The upcoming issue features work by poet Penn Kemp, who Morrison notes edited Canada’s first women’s literary poetry anthology in the ’70s, as well as Tess Majors, an 18-year-old American college student who was killed in a mugging shortly after submitting a series of photographs to SGR.

“I feel like a lot of more girly work or work by women and girls and other marginalized identities like non-binary people, trans people, racialized identities, aren’t very valued because they might not speak in a way that represents the more ‘mature’ literary community,” Morrison said.

She said she welcomes content that isn’t “highly polished” or that may not be accepted by publications with “a high bar of professionalism.” Morrison said she wants to give creators an outlet where they can be themselves.

“You can just be an 18-year-old girl in my publication,” she said. “You don’t have to pretend you have a masters degree, you don’t have to be a professional who’s only talking about certain things. I’ll meet you where you’re at and wherever that is, that’s OK.”

The fifth issue of Sad Girl Review will be released online on Sept. 12 at noon.

RELATED: Nanaimo artist Amber Morrison turns a set of stairs into a work of art



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