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Litro: Small In Size But With A Big Worldview

28 May 2013 Tom Butler

We caught up with Litro Editor Eric Akoto to talk about the magazine; from inception to current day guise.

London Calling: For the uninitiated, what is Litro?

Eric Akoto: Litro Magazine is London’s leading short stories magazine, small in size but with a big worldview. With each issue we aim to find new ways of looking at the world through short fiction, seeking out the compelling and the controversial, the funny and the fantastic, the sad and the strange. Our overall mission is to discover new and emerging international writers, and give them a platform to be read alongside stalwarts of the literary scene.

LC: How did the idea for the magazine come about?

EA: I’ve always enjoyed books the process of reading, and then going on to share new discoveries or reliving some of your old treasures with friends at the pub. And so I had the idea of putting together a small mini magazine that was easy to carry around with you during busy days living in London and was artistically designed that after reading you’d want to keep it as a collection or pass it on to a friend to enjoy.

So in 2007 (from my bedroom in Notting Hill) I started putting together the first issue – again with the thought of just sharing it around with friends, then this grew to a small print run of around 20,000 mainly me and friends distributing the magazine around tube stations and local stores. And now the magazine has a modest circulation of 100,000 and a fast growing online international presence.

LC: What are your Litro Live events about?

EA: The Litro Live! events are spoken word events, and are an opportunity for us to gather with our friends as well as our readers to watch, listen and meet authors, poets, musicians that we find interesting and hope they will too.  It is also a chance for our readers to meet friends and make new friends whom all share similar interests.

Litro Live! was launched in 2010 with a collaboration with Foyles Books and saw us holding monthly live events at the Foyles flagship store on Charing Cross Road to around 200 people a month.

It was a great deal of fun and we had authors such as Sebastian Horsley (who sadly passed away not so long ago) entertain our audiences with his usual controversial dialogue. The monthly events grew in popularity and size and we decided to take our unique blend of readings, debates and musical performances to bigger stages around the capital.  In 2012 we launched the first of our country themed Litro Live! festivals with the country of focus being the Netherlands and took over a small section of Hyde Park, we had over 800 people attend a day and evening festival. We have a large female audience and with each event I’m slowly seeing more guys turning up, so watch this space there maybe a Litro Dating site launched in the near future.

LC: Tell us about the event at St Pancras in June. What do you have lined up?

EA: The Litro Live! St Pancras Take Over, will be the second annual country themed Litro Live! get together taking place on the 20th at the upper concourse of the station. The 2013 country of focus is Poland, a country I knew very little about  (although Polish is the second largest spoken language in the UK). We will be inviting along celebrated Polish writers such as Grażyna Plebanek, Jacek Dehnelto come and read from their works, hold discussions, we will have live music from the award winning London based Harpist Lucinda Belle and a live DJ set, all taking place in one of London’s most historic buildings. What’s there not to like?!

 

LC: Tell us about the Litro Book Club.

EA: The Litro Book Club is a new adventure with our readers which we launched two months ago. Four times a year members of the Book Club will receive exclusive copies of the featured book in their mailbox, and then they will proceed to read together in real time and virtually with other members of the book club, along with opportunities to engage with the author of specially selected cutting edge titles. The titles are chosen by members of the Litro team and our many publishing partners before anyone else can get their hands on them.

The club literally brings the writer to the reader. Not only will members receive copies of the book, there will also be a live quarterly Q&A session with the author at an exclusive Mayfair venue, which I’m afraid is by invitation only. Currently we are reading a great and gritty title called Swear Down, by the author Russ Litten (screen writer for the film Sherlock Holmes & also does some great work in UK prisons). The book is set in a Hackney estate and covers all the subjects a good book needs, crime & punishment, friendship, loyalty, race, identity. If you don’t join the club just yet, I’d encourage your readers to go out and grab a title and let us know your thoughts!

LC: Have there been any success stories in terms of Litro writers going on to fame and fortune?

EA: Over the past 6 years since the launch of Litro we’ve averaged around 2 to 3 writers a year who have gone onto to sign publishing deals. Amongst these are our very own former editor, Katy Darby who published with Penguin Books in 2012. Stuart Evers launched his writing career after having his first short story published in Litro Magazine, his first book Ten Stories About Smoking was published by Picador in 2011 and won The London Book Award.

The performance artist and play writer, Sabrina Mahfouz also cut her teeth with short stories after having her first story published by Litro Magazine. Her recent solo show about a young stripper, Dry Ice, won widespread critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and was nominated for The Stage Award for Best Solo Performance.

This year she won a £30,000 fund from the Sky Arts Futures Fund, to go and be creative with her works for a year, so I’d definitely recommend to look out for her work in the future. A definite rising star!

We’ve also published works from well known figures such as Kele Okereke, the lead singer from Bloc Party, who is now currently working on a collection of short stories.

LC: Do you have a thriving community of writers that contribute to the magazine on a regular basis?

EA: Definitely, and a huge thank you to all those writers across the world who submit works into us to enjoy month in and month out. Our most popular theme for submissions was this year’s sex issue. Published in February, we had a whole kaleidoscope of stories published for discussion and debate ranging from the expected S & M and bondage to poignant pieces about disabled sex, through essays around sex and religion. We where truly inundated with submissions. I guess it continues to be our favourite subject if not pastime!

LC: There’s a great interviews section on your site. Do you have a wish list of who to have on the site next?

EA: Tough question: There are so many that my list would be endless, but if I had a wish list of people to interview well…I have recently just finished reading The Fight by the American Norman Mailer, the book is about probably the greatest fight of all time, the Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fight in Africa in the 70’s. Mailer had some very controversial opinions about race, yet his writing about two of the greatest athletes (both African American), is poetic in parts that it is hard to ignore the quality of his writing which can not be denied. This and the fact that I am a big fan of boxing would be my reason for adding him to my wish list.

Chinua Achebe, his extraordinary book Things Fall Apart has been one of few books I can go back to time after time and find something new. The book played a major part in my love of literature as I first read it at school and have gone on to enjoy as an adult.

Charles Bukowski’s On The Road is just one of those life changing books. He’s quoted as saying on the topic of the meaning of life: “ We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system.” This quote alone would be the subject of my interview with him.

LC: What can we expect from the next issue?

EA: With our next issue we bring to our readers a theme on Victoriana. You’ll have to visit the website [url=http://www.litro.co.uk]http://www.litro.co.uk[/url] or pick up a copy of the magazine to find out more, but I promise it will be as thought provoking and challenging as ever!

 

Sign up for a book club for £20 and get a pendant worth £345 for free! Check out the website for more details

 

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