Twenty years. Eighty-one issues.
There was a time when I had an actual page count as we were starting to look into transitioning our archives on to DVD technology (more on that later.) I haven’t been around since the inception of this publication, but I have been around for about 15 or 16 of the twenty year history and I can tell you that there are times when it feels like it was just yesterday, and there are other times when I am aware of every word count on every page of every issue, and it feels like we’ve been carrying it around a lot longer than two decades.
The cover is a shot taken of the Brooklyn Ferry Landing, underneath the venerable Brooklyn Bridge. A nod to one of our “inspiritors,” Walt Whitman. It is a good image for this issue. As White Crane enters a new decade, I personally leave Brooklyn and New York City where I have lived, loved, walked, eaten, cooked, written, edited, laughed and cried for 25 years. My partner and I have – incredibly – bought a house in upstate New York. It is hard for me to imagine that we actually will be there by the time you are reading this. It is a major transition and one which I am embracing with excitement, a little wistfulness for my urban life, and a great deal of anticipation of life in the country, on the Vermont border.
The major transitions don’t stop there. As some readers may be aware, this is and has been for a long time, a two-person operation. It always amuses Dan and me to receive mail addressed to “the White Crane staff.” If only. Bob Barzan did it by himself, until I took on the poetry editor's position, and then he passed it along to Toby Johnson with whom I continued to work as poetry editor. Soon I began to produce two of the four issues Toby published each year. And as Toby handed it off to me it’s remained a two-person (with the occasional life partner’s conscripted assistance) ever since. It’s also gone from a single page newsletter to a glossy magazine, albeit one that is difficult to find in bookstores…not from lack of trying at our end, I assure you.
When Toby took over publishing the magazine, he upgraded the look of the publication and increased the page count. As I took it on there was an implicit challenge—or so I felt—that it was a stewardship that I was taking on, and my job was to “take it to the next level”, whatever that level might be. I had spent summers under a walnut tree in Oregon with Harry Hay and John Burnside…and Dan Vera, among several others, and I knew Dan was just the man to help with the job. As luck would have it, he had just given up his job with the Reconciling Office of the Methodist Church and moved to the East coast. So with Dan in Brookland in the District of Columbia, and me in Brooklyn, in the City of New York, we set about to grow this project.
Our first step was to apply for tax exempt 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit educational corporation. This was granted by the Internal Revenue Service and then we set about fundraising so we could upgrade the look of the magazine, as well as do the myriad other tasks that would be necessary: public relations, traveling to gatherings, meetings and conventions, etc. to “spread the word” as it were. Soon we were publishing books. At first, that was meant to be simply a reinstatement of out-of-print classics, made possible by the new print-on-demand technology. But with the help of Steve Berman at Lethe Press, and former White Crane publisher, Toby Johnson, White Crane Books grew to include original works, among them the Lammy finalist Charmed Lives, All: A James Broughton Reader, and A Prophet in His Own Land, five decades of the collected writings of Malcolm Boyd.
Soon we were able to expand our educational mission by offering the umbrella of our non-profit status to other projects…a documentary film about gay elders…another about poet and filmmaker, James Broughton, a Gay Men's Leadership Academy, started with Eric Rofes and continued by Chris Bartlett when Eric died so suddenly. We toured Mark Thompson’s beautiful and moving photo tribute to Fellow Travelers and gay elders to New York, Salt Lake City, Philadelphia, Portland Oregon and Northern California. And we continue to publish the magazine without benefit of the income we might derive from advertising because of the simple belief that somewhere Gay people ought to be treated as something other than a marketing niche.
Which means, of course, that when the economy dips like this we need to watch what we do even more carefully. You may notice we’re looking a little thinner (we've been working out), going from a high count of 46 pages down to 36. Not much we can do about postage, which just seems to continue to go stratospheric. We do an on-going appeal for support on line, and, in fact, that has enabled us to continue. You may wonder why, now, White Crane requires contributions over and above the subscriptions. There are several reasons, not the least of which is the magazine needs to pay for itself and never really has. The first two publishers absorbed the cost of computers, electricity, telephones and additional postage, to say nothing of their time. Now, as we attempt to be a presence at meetings, conferences and book fairs around the country, these minimal operating expenses are further aggrandized by travel, UPS charges and advertising. And if White Crane is to continue for a third decade, at some point we will need to hand it off to another Dauntless Duo…and it would be useful if someone could make a living doing this.
But now that I am moving from the high energy life of New York City, to the bucolic countryside of upstate New York, and, frankly, won’t know what my internet connectivity will be (which is a critical component to this project) I simply have to declare a hiatus. A brief one…two issues…six months… but it is necessary. I can’t move and do the work involved with putting an issue together. And just as I can’t do it alone, neither can Dan. We are "the staff." And is more than either one of us, alone, can do.
We’ve also decided to make this challenge an opportunity. The GayWisdom.org website is our largest and most effective face to the world. The world, mind you. Our actual circulation has always been, shall we say, less than impressive, but White Crane has grown from a newsletter among a circle of friends in San Francisco, to a circle that includes 22 countries, at last count, five continents (no one in Africa or Antarctica, as yet.) At the moment our website offers an overview of what we do, selections from the current issue, and an unfortunately abbreviated archive. There is also the GayWisdom blog and a place to join the Daily GayWisdom Yahoo! Group, which now has as many on-line subscribers as we do for the magazine itself. If you currently subscribe, you will, like everyone else, receive the next two full issues (Freethinkers and Fathers) on-line, and in PDF format. We will extend everyone’s subscription by two issues to make up for this interval. The website will now, like most media websites, require you to register and sign in. There is no charge for this.
We hope we have the trust of our readership and you know that when we say we will do something we will. If there was some way that we could continue to publish for these next two issues, we would. But with the various difficulties of the last year…losing our distributor, losing the fulfillment house, finding a new printer…there were times when we were struggling to get across this 20th anniversary line and not think of it as a “finish line”…and the delays these snags brought about, it’s time for us to step back for a minute and reconnoiter.
For one thing, we (“the staff”) are seriously examining the possibility of transitioning the magazine to print-on-demand technology. While this might prove to be slightly more expensive to the reader, we think the commensurate upgrade in every aspect of the publication might make that a little less of a sting. Better color, better paper, full color inside the magazine, better graphics all around. Print-on-demand also means no issue would ever be out-of-print, ever. This alone makes this option very attractive. We are still planning the DVD archive and to make it available for sale. We have always felt that part of our commitment was to create an actual, tangible document and that while on-line publishing may well be “the future,” the GLBT past required, in our minds, that we create physical history, physical documents. Something you can hold in your hands. But for the next two months, we need to become Cyber White Crane…and phoenix-like, we will rise again. This is a temporary solution to a momentary obstacle.
We work very hard to bring you this magazine. And for now we need to take care of some personal business.
For now, please watch for further developments at www.gaywisdom.org As always, we rely on you and your support.
Bo Young is White Crane’s publisher. As of this writing he is moving from the city to the country.
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