In Outlook Springs, a fictional town created by the very real Andrew Mitchell of Dover, the local health department urges its residents to get their trombones vaccinated, the Film-O-Plex is screening the documentary “Sabretooth Nixon: The Untold Story,” and Langston Brumbletooth is busy cranking out pages on his interdimensional printing press.
Some of those pages take the form of Outlook Springs — a new literary magazine edited by Mitchell. Publishing works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by writers in this dimension, including a number of Seacoast writers, Outlook Springs makes its debut on Saturday, April 9, with a launch party at Baldface Books in Dover. The party includes readings from writers with pieces in the first issue, cake, and “interdimensional goodies.”
Interdimensional antics aside, Mitchell, who received his MFA from the University of New Hampshire and is an adjunct writing instructor there, said plans for Outlook Springs have been afoot for a while. “I’d been sort of toying with the idea for a while … for a magazine that experiments with form the same way the writing inside experiments with form.”
Outlook Springs features a lot of what you’d expect to find in a literary magazine: poems, short stories, essays, illustrations, and so on. But there are also ads for fake businesses, emails from Outlook Springs residents, receipts, movie posters, and everything else.
“It’s a parody of the more academic, scholarly literary magazines, which I really love,” Mitchell says.
Mitchell’s collaborator is Nathaniel Parker Raymond, who designs the magazine and creates the otherworldly ephemera that fill the pages. It’s a throwback to Mad Magazine, counter-culture publications of the 1970s, Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, and other media with an “inherent wise-assness” about them, Raymond says.
“Things are very serious, but also weird and hilarious at the same time,” Raymond says.
Mitchell and Raymond began work on the first issue of Outlook Springs last fall. They opened up submissions to writers all over the world and launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the first issue. The basic idea behind the magazine is that Outlook Springs is a place “where the surreal is commonplace and therefore very banal,” Mitchell says.
While there’s plenty of humor, Mitchell says he and the magazine’s other editors take the writing that’s submitted very seriously. “We think good writing is good writing” regardless of genre or form, Mitchell says. “The hardest part for us was that we wanted to be a place that takes the work very seriously, but doesn’t take the magazine itself seriously.”
Outlook Springs initially appeared in Mitchell’s MFA thesis. Fictional towns, like the ones created by Stephen King, have long been a fascination, he says, and it seemed like a compelling, mysterious hook on which to hang a magazine. Other writers seem to agree. By the time submissions closed in January, Mitchell says the magazine received close to 1,500 pieces of writing for consideration.
“The writing community around UNH and this area has been truly supportive,” he says. “That was pretty incredible — (writers) taking a chance on it was cool.”
Mitchell says the magazine will be published twice a year. It will be on sale at Baldface Books at this weekend’s launch party and online at outlooksprings.com. Mitchell hopes the magazine will soon appear at other local stores.
Though there will be plenty to celebrate at the launch party this weekend, Raymond and Mitchell are looking ahead. He recently opened submissions for the second issue, due out sometime in October, and plans are already in motion for the next journey to Outlook Springs.
“We want to be interactive with our readers and make reading the magazine an interactive experience,” Mitchell says. With so many literary magazines, the fun ends after you read the last story, he says. With Outlook Springs, the goal is to get readers to, say, cast a vote in town elections or send an actual letter to the official Outlook Springs mailbox (located at PO Box 53 in Rollinsford).
“The writing is crucial,” Raymond says. But even more crucial is the element of surprise. “Who knows what’s going to come from Outlook Springs next?”
The Outlook Springs launch party takes place Saturday, April 9 at 6 p.m. at Baldface Books, 505 Central Ave., Dover. Visit outlooksprings.com for information.