In 2001, five young friends decided to spin a 'zine from the cloth of their writing group. Sitting in front of a fireplace on a Monday night, picking through their own work to determine which would compose issue number one, none of the five could have foreseen that, in 2011, they'd be celebrating a decade of publishing with a double issue of their sophisticated, often-daring little annual.
"At the time we started Monday Night, I'm pretty sure that the five of us who were originally involved hadn't yet had our work published in any journal or magazine, other than maybe in a college campus publication," recalled Jessica Wickens, a founding editor whose name still appears on the journal's masthead. "Soon after that original idea, we switched to purely publishing other writers, essentially transitioning from self-publishers to editors. Part of our mission since that time has been to publish many writers who don't have many publication creds yet."
Since 2001, the mag has featured work by Rebecca Stonehill, Steffi Drewes, Ishle Yi Park, Suicide Kings cofounder Rupert Estanislao, poet and disability advocate Amber DiPietra, Wendy O-Matik (author of the seminal polyamory tome Redefining Our Relationships), and dozens of other up-and-coming poets, fiction writers, and essayists.
To celebrate issue ten, on Sunday, October 30, Diesel (5433 College Ave., Oakland) hosts a reading with two of the issue's contributors — poet Christine Choi and fiction writer Annam Manthiram — plus issue-seven contributor, poet Patrick Duggan. "This particular reading event was actually Annam's idea," said Wickens. "She has a novel coming out right now, After the Tsunami. Annam is not someone that any of us knew before issue ten; her work came up through the pile of submissions. This is the first time that our release of an issue has coincided with a contributor's book release." Diesel was a natural choice for the release party, since Monday Night has a good relationship with the store, and with indie bookstores in general.
A lot has changed since the first Monday Night came out in 2001, including adding interns to the mix, promoting via social media, and posting an online edition of each issue at MondayNightLit.com. Yet some things have hardly changed at all. The binding is still saddle-stitched and the content is still black-and-white. Original designer and illustrator Sharon McGill is still on board, even contributing an evocative slice of magical realist fiction to issue ten. And Allison Landa, also sitting in front of the fire on that weeknight in 2001, has the wistfully witty short story "Bearded Lady" in the latest edition, too.
Between building the journal and working their day jobs, the five founders continue to grow in creative stature: For nearly four years, Wickens has been collaborating on a poetry correspondence project with Della Watson, and Mission Cleaners Books will publish the pair's work in early 2012 (follow the collaboration on Twitter @BnjmnR and @alma_crow); and another issue-one architect, Rob Pierce, has recently moved on to edit Swill magazine.
"I'm certain that none of us imagined that Monday Night would be around ten years later," said Wickens, "or that it would help each of the founders advance in our writing lives and careers, or that we would eventually publish work from over one hundred writers in that time." 3 p.m., free. 510-653-9965 or DieselBookstore.com