Introducing POINT BLOC

Sam Burt

As someone who’s submitted literary fiction to many journals, I’ve often found the process strangely anticlimactic. Long waits for a generic rejection note are par for the course (with notable exceptions such as Bandit), but even if your story is accepted, there is no guarantee that anyone, beyond friends and associates, will ever read it. Since most lit fic journals are themeless, your story may be one of the unlucky ones that gets overlooked in the competition for readers’ attention. Then, a month or so later, the next issue arrives. All too often, then, getting published can feel as lonely an experience as the writing itself.

Of course, we do it for other reasons: the sense of achievement that comes with seeing one’s name in print; the confidence that comes from knowing that one’s words are out there in the world – and that someone, somewhere will (probably, hopefully) appreciate them. But it might be nice if – especially for new and emerging writers – the process was somewhat less atomised.

POINT BLOC is a step in that direction: a new biannual (eventually quarterly) literary fiction journal that seeks to foster a sense of community among its writers and readers – and even its characters.

Uniquely, every story and poem we publish will feature characters living in the same fictional London tower block. Every piece will therefore be in dialogue with its neighbours, both within and across issues. As the journal evolves, readers will follow the tower’s 40-odd inhabitants, continuously re-imagined and re-invented by new writers.

Journals often suggest on their submissions page that prospective writers familiarise themselves with the publication first. I have never really understood what that means, and it strikes me as a bit of an exercise in bad faith: I’m sure others reading this will have exaggerated said familiarity from time to time. At the same time, the underlying motive makes sense. To square this circle, POINT BLOC will only publish authors who have seriously engaged with the publication and its unique format – because every piece we publish will be someone’s creative response to what has gone before. At the same time, we guarantee our authors a legacy. The journal will be a live, sometimes chaotic, collective writing experiment.

Why a tower block? I have always loved ‘small town’ novels like Winesburg, Ohio and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter or the books of Elizabeth Strout; narratives that drift from door to door, revealing the hidden ties that bond a community together, and where no characters in particular ‘own’ the story. It seems to me that the logical next step would be to eliminate the single author, and that a literary journal would be a perfect format for such an experiment.

In addition, writers often appreciate being given a place to start. We all know the power of an assigned theme – the paradoxically liberating effect of constraints. So, in an Oulipean spirit, our constraint is double: writers must conform to both a specific, shared setting, and characters that have been established in previous stories. (Georges Perec once attempted to exhaust a place in Paris; in some sense, this will be an attempt at exhausting these characters.)

It’s still early days for POINT BLOC. Before we launch the journal proper, we are creating an anthology of stories to introduce the residents of POINT BLOC, as conceived by 15 brilliant and inspirational writers, which will be freely available to download from our website. We are finalising the first set of stories, designing the layout and building the website. But things are moving fast: we hope to launch this summer and put out a call for submissions to the first issue of the journal shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, we are on the lookout for people keen to be involved in this project. We need volunteers who (i) are enthused by the journal’s premise and (ii) have some experience of, and a keen interest in, typesetting, editing, proofreading, photography, graphic design, web design (WordPress) and/or social media promotion. If this applies, then I’d love to hear from you – contact details are available here.

If you’d like to contribute on the writing side, then please subscribe to our newsletter and stay posted for updates on the anthology: once it’s published, we’ll be opening our doors (literally and figuratively) for creative responses to the characters and stories featured therein.

POINT BLOC encourages submissions from writers underrepresented in publishing and is inclusive of all styles and genres – we are by no means exclusively interested in ‘kitchen sink’ realism or Ballardian ‘High Rise’-style dystopias (not that there isn’t a place for these). If you want to borrow elements from sci-fi, fantasy, Western or cosy crime, you are free to do so – and if you’d like to respond to an anthology piece through a script or multimedia text, we would be more than happy to see that.

About the Contributor

Sam Burt (he/him) is a bookseller and tutor in sunny east London. In 2021 he finished an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester and founded the East London Indie Book Club. His writing has appeared in Popshot Quarterly, the Guardian and 3:AM Magazine among others. He considers badminton a contact sport.

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