The debut issue of Hearth & Coffin Literary Journal follows an extended gestation period caused in part by indecision about what to name the new publication. Houstonian Barrett White, who founded the new quarterly online journal, believes that his intriguing title was worth the wait.
“Regardless of who sees that title, it means something to them and grabs their attention,” White said during a telephone interview from the Montrose apartment he shares with his partner, Alfredo D’Uva, and their Husky/German Shepherd-mix, Wolfgang. “It may be corny, but that’s what I think.” He notes that Hearth & Coffin is meant to appeal to the core emotions that all humans feel about “home” and “death.”
White first began thinking about creating a literary journal during his days as a student at the University of Houston while studying creative writing. The idea finally crystalized last October as he sat at home with his partner, years after he left college and gained some real-world experience as a journalist and copywriter.
“It occurred to me that while I didn’t end up working in publishing, I could still uplift the voices of other writers looking to share their works with the world,” White stated in a press release.
To create the journal, White solicited the help of friend and colleague Rachael Matthews, an award-winning Houston writer who will serve as the journal’s poetry editor. The pair christened the theme of the first issue “Conception” and opened up submissions for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry on November 1. Entries were accepted without fees in order to ensure there would be something to publish.
White and Matthews, who both express enthusiasm about Houston’s “spectacular writing scene,” expected most of the submissions to come from local writers they already knew. “We thought it would mostly be family and friends, but we only knew two of the people,” White adds.
The rest of the entries came from across the United States, England, Ireland, Germany and Nigeria. With a total of 27 authors submitting multiple pieces, there will be 50 submitted works published. Some were rejected because they did not fit well with the theme of the first issue, and others just didn’t measure up. “What you are going to read, for the time being, is what was submitted,” White notes.
Eventually, with the help of advertising and other revenue, Hearth & Coffin Literary Journal may be able to hire paid staff and provide copy-editing and other assistance in developing manuscripts. But for now, White and Matthews are the only staff members, and they are both volunteers working from home.
White is planning a private Zoom symposium on April 2 to celebrate the launch of the publication, and all of the contributors to the first issue have been invited to participate. The symposium will be hosted by popular local drag queen Regina Thorne-DuBois, and will include short readings by the premiere issue’s contributing writers as well as a cocktail-making session where viewers can participate in creating White’s signature “Malt Whitman” cocktail. White’s tutorial will also include instructions for making a non-alcoholic Malt Whitman. “We’re trying to go all out, as much as we can,” he adds.
White is delighted by the journal’s progress so far, and hopes there will be more literary submissions from Houston and the rest of Texas in the coming months.
For information about the journal and its submission guidelines, go to hearthandcoffin.com.