Pages from a dream Multicultural magazine is published on a shoestring

October 14, 1991|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Evening Sun Staff

THERE'S NO telephone in his cramped office in the Parks Circle Business Park, and the bills are coming in faster than the money. But small handicaps like those haven't stopped Paul Fairfax Evans from pursuing his dream to publish a magazine; he's got determination and faith.

As he ventures into the perilous waters of magazine publishing, Evans insists that there's no way that Fairfax, a publication of short stories, can fail.

The former managing editor of the Afro-American newspaper says he is printing 5,000 copies of the first issue of his magazine, a slick, 128-page publication of fiction by authors he believes have something to add to American literature but otherwise would never be published. It sells for $6 an issue, $22 a year.

"The formula is to have, if at all possible, a nice-looking magazine that is well-written and edited that people can read and enjoy at their leisure," says Evans, 42, a slender man who speaks with confidence as he swirls about in his chair amid piles of boxes and paper.

He says his magazine is unique because of its multicultural approach to literature. He says at least 60 percent of the content of each issue will be written by black authors.

"That's because we're so far behind in having exposure like this," says Evans, who lives in Columbia. "Black people have all those stories in their attics and at their Aunt Bessies' houses. I want to get those.

"I want to be a publisher that black Americans or anyone else who hasn't had the benefit of having their works looked at by major publishing companies can come to."

The 15 stories in the first edition range from fairy tales to suspense to historical fiction. There's even a western. The writing styles vary from those that can be read and understood by children to stories with more complex themes.

"There's something for everybody in it," assures Monica Lynn Cruz, Evans' niece and assistant publisher, a middle school teacher in Philadelphia who helps select the manuscripts that appear in the magazine.

The first issue includes an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript, "The Man Who Claimed Kin to Stonewall Jackson," by David Sawyer, which gets attention as it explores a black boy who is believed to be a descendant of the heralded Confederate general and has parents who are influenced by black nationalist Marcus Garvey.

There's also a charming fairy tale, "The Prince and the Golden Door" by Elmira Washington, which is aimed at younger children.

Most of the stories are readable, but there also are a few minor typographical flaws.

Evans says he has not yet paid the authors for their work but has promised each of them that they will receive money when the magazine starts to sell. Like Evans, all the writers included in the first issue live in the Baltimore area.

"He's an excellent editor and he's really bright, but he's poor," says Washington, 62, a former school librarian who describes herself as "a closet writer" stepping out of the darkness. She says she is confident that she eventually will be paid for her three stories in the magazine. "He really wants to give those of us he thinks have a chance [that chance] to be seen."

Her writing career began six years ago when she co-wrote a cookbook that is one of 19 books that Evans' C.H. Fairfax Co. has published. She says she compiled story ideas and parts of stories when she was in her 40s but that she put them away years ago.

Only in recent years, she says, has she dusted them off and developed them. "I had never had any idea of ever publishing anything," Washington says.

Sawyer describes himself in his book as a young boy who was told that he was the great-grandson of Stonewall Jackson. He is researching that possibility, and for now, he tells his story from childhood experiences and conversations among family members. His manuscript was rejected by two major publishers, so he turned to Evans, whom he met earlier this year.

"I think Fairfax will give me a bit more leverage with other publishing companies," Sawyer says. "Paul, he's kind of eccentric, but I'm impressed by what he knows about the publishing business."

Evans says he has invested "thousands and thousands and thousands" of dollars so far to bring Fairfax to life. He borrowed $5,000 from Wilbur Simms, who operates an insurance and marketing firm from the same building where he rents space.

He estimates that he'll need 7,000 to 8,000 subscribers and 10 full pages of advertising to keep the publication afloat. In the first issue, he has only two ads -- one from the American Red Cross and the other from Simms' firm.

There's no lack of aggressiveness in trying to reach his goals. The publisher sent 160 prototypes to Fortune 500 companies to seek advertising. Thirty of them responded, he reports, including 10 that gave him some encouragement, he said.

"I'm going to get ads," he insists. "I've got to work on it."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.