Posted on April 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

‘Travel shapes character.’
                                      Polish proverb   
                                                           ‘If the OFF_Concept did not already exist,
                                                            it would be necessary to invent it immediately.’                                                                                                                                   OFF_Editors


Why OFF_ ?


For most artists, the experience of migration can both liberate and inspire. For writers, the reverse may be true. Moving to a place where a different tongue is spoken is disruptive for those working with words. Visual artists, performers, film-makers and the like find it easier to share their creative output ‘elsewhere’, as it is based on sensory data and less likely to be limited by gaps in linguistic fluency. Plus, they tend to be better at networking and being forced to operate in a new language every day does not interfere with the tools of their trade. For a journalist, poet or prose writer, being asked to speak, listen, read and write every day in a new format is clearly going to be distracting at best, disabling at worst, and likely to drive them further into inner-exile.
 Yet if writing is not about perfect grammar or other forms of superficial correctness (that’s what editors and proofreaders are for), but about the telling of powerful stories, surely the experience of migration should somehow offset the difficulties involved and fuel the writer’s craft in ways not possible ‘back home’?  OFF_Magazine and Press started out with the aim of helping migrant writers out of a perceived rut, but eventually found such creatures did not want to be limited by labels or lexicons. Those who really want to write do so anywhere, in any way possible, regardless of lengths gone to or distances yet to come. Therefore, OFF_ has evolved into a publishing initiative which, while emerging out of migrant experience, is not limited to or by it. Harnessing the energy and opportunities offered by a globalised reality, including easy access to multimedia, communication and printing technologies, OFF_ means to set up an independent international press unlimited by language or geography.


Who is OFF_?


OFF_Magazine, supported by Apart Arts (a migrant artists’ association, based in London), was launched in February of this year by a small group of journalists, publishers and writers, initially as a non-profit making enterprise. All have some sort of connection with Poland, all are currently based in London, all wanted to link literature written in English and Polish. But OFF_ is more than just a bi-lingual bridge between two ends of Europe. The OFF_Team speaks not just their native tongues, not just words, but also express themselves through graphic art, photographs, films, music and the like. Linking all these languages together in a way which creates a multimedia buzz around the OFF_ concept and promotes OFF_ publications is our ultimate aim.


Where is  OFF_ going?


OFF_Magazine started out as a voluntary enterprise, and will remain so indefinitely, but by the end of 2009, OFF_Press will be registered as an independent publishing house, with a two-fold portfolio of print titles;

1. OFF_Originals, published in English/Polish/both, by writers submitting original manuscripts to OFF_
2. OFF_Translations, already published in Poland, translated and published in English by OFF_

The first list depends on our ability to create an image which attracts talent and thus discover one or two star writers of tomorrow. These would sustain a small, but diverse catalogue of OFF_Originals titles to be available on-demand, much like the model used by Czarne Press, who publish a wide range of titles each year, sustained by the wider success of several key authors. The second list, OFF_Translations, would come through a contracted relationship with an existing press in Poland, whereby OFF_ would handle English translations of titles already successfully published in Polish and manage distribution worldwide. Again, Czarne Press would be the ideal partner here, as they have a very strong track record of discovering new talent (not just in Poland, but across Central Europe) and publishing a diverse portfolio of titles, many in innovative formats and with financial support from both the private and the public sector (e.g. cultural grants from the EU, donations from cultural institutes, etc.). Such a partnership would be beneficial to both parties – OFF_ would have an established ‘parent’ to help through the initial years of development and growth, while the Polish partner would have a new, dynamic press to help extend their reach into new linguistic and geographic territories.


Who needs OFF_?


 The range of potential customers for OFF_ on-line and print titles is immense:

  • Most educated Poles enjoy reading in English and are keen book buyers (in spite of comparatively high prices of books in Poland).
  • Many of the writers we meet are ever more keen not just on sharing their work in translation, but in writing in different languages themselves. They would both write and read OFF_ titles.
  • As more and more Poles travel abroad, creating social, cultural and business networks, many around the world are becoming keen to learn Polish, hungry for books which can help them do so. Anthologies published in twin translation, containing short stories and poems, would be perfect for such a market.
  • With a strong on-line and media presence, OFF_ titles should be synonymous with quality writing and innovative presentation, which (especially in the case of titles published in English) should attract readers from anywhere in the world.
  • The OFF_ logo could support storytelling projects in other formats – film production, live events, workshops, etc. OFF_ is already working on a joint creative writing venture between Warsaw University and a London-based college, as well as a series of small documentary films, all designed to widen the range of our activities and strengthen our public profile.


When is OFF_?


 The power of the Internet allows literary organisations to connect with both writers and readers without the need for big budgets or unwieldy publicity machineries. The evolution of on-demand printing, again thanks mostly to computers and the Internet, makes the idea of setting up a truly successful indie publishing house, without massive investment or risk, a novel possibility. From the word go, OFF_ knew we would blog, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube intensively, harnessing on-line networking and multimedia tools to help bring people’s attention to OFF_ projects – aiding the discovery of new literary talent, helping writers get into print and encouraging the wholesale buying of books. Perhaps ‘encouraging’ is the wrong word to use. OFF_, by crating a whirl of publicity around its projects, has to convince buyers around the world that they simply must have books with the OFF_ logo on them.
 Others have led the way and succeeded – McSweeney’s in the States, Czarne Publishers in Poland. OFF_ is, in many ways, right in the middle of this action. Following various waves of migration, Poles are this year celebrating a year of cultural exchange with Britain ( At the start of April, with support from the Polish Cultural Institute, OFF_ has launched an international, bi-lingual creative writing competition, aiming to attract further talent to our virtual pages and help spread the OFF_word far and wide. Once the winners are announced and an anthology of the ten best pieces published (in dual translation), we will take the book on the road around Poland, filming as we go, creating a feature length documentary (covering the book, OFF_people and the country itself) which we hope will help ‘shift units’ and raise awareness of what OFF_ is about. 
 Although it has only been in existence for a couple of months, many have already taken the OFF_Concept to their hearts – those who have joined our editorial ranks, writers who have submitted work, readers around the world and official organisations which have given us their support and money. We know where we’re going next, have the means and the map… the rest really is an adventure in the world of modern publishing.

Click here to read OFF_ Magazine.