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Alumnus takes literature “viral” with new online literary journal
January 9, 2013
"I always talk to my students about the power of stories and how stories were all we had at one point – when we were in caves, circled around the fire, huddled together with our backs to the lion’s roar," said Austin Eichelberger BFA ’07, M.A. ’09. "Stories were how we kept each other going, how we taught each other to be brave, how we interpreted the world around us."
Since graduating from Longwood, Eichelberger, who earned his bachelor’s degree in theatre performance and master’s degree in English and creative writing, has stayed on campus, teaching undergraduate creative writing courses and also branching out to teach at other colleges and universities. He teaches his students that artists must find ways to open doors for others to experience their work.
Eichelberger’s own writing is mostly fiction. Describing his style as "lyrical and flowery," he focuses on the contemporary experience of gay males in the American South. Eichelberger’s work has been published in several outlets, including Flash Fiction Magazine of the University of Chester. The magazine has also featured best-selling authors Dave Eggers and David Sedaris.
One day this past summer, Eichelberger’s lesson to his students and his own desire to continue putting his own work out into the world intersected. On Facebook.
"As I was browsing, I started thinking about how people today will watch just about any five-minute video you put in front of them," he said. "Ask them to read something online, however, and you can forget it. It’s not a negative judgment, just an observation of how technology is shaping our experiences with reading and engagement with the arts."
His observation lit a spark, and Eichelberger started brainstorming ways he could introduce people, especially young people, to literature by tapping in to how they’re already engaged online. What if he could make literature "go viral?"
He took his idea to Mary Carroll-Hackett, associate professor of English, and together they launched a new literary journal, SPACES. The new online platform for artists, and the arts in general, showcases videos of authors reading their work.
"This type of journal has never been done before – we’re bringing something completely new to the table," Eichelberger said. "We hope to show our readers/viewers how art is all around us all the time – it is literally a part of the world we live in. I’m hoping that SPACES can be the first step in bringing people closer to the arts."
SPACES is published every two months and features videos, poetry, photo essays, fashion, graphic novels/comics and pastiche/amalgams/genre-hybrids. There are also sections that explore being an artist in today’s world and the intersection of the arts and "everything else."
Approximately 15 people work on the journal, with Eichelberger and Carroll-Hackett serving as co-editors. In the first 24 hours after the journal launched, it received approximately 1,500 hits from 10 different countries. The only advertising was through Facebook on launch day.
"The best part about my role in the journal is getting my hands dirty, so to speak, in the arts again," Eichelberger said. "I have a concrete, hands-on role in bringing fresh art to the world, and that’s an amazing feeling."