When Patricia Smuga decided to start a magazine made by women from across the Kootenays, she wasn’t preoccupied with finding experienced writers.
Passion, she thought, would be the most important qualification.
“It was more like, do you care about this? Do you want to be part of something that’s from scratch and build it into a community?” says Smuga.
“Because I wanted the magazine itself to be part of a bigger project.”
Her call for contributors was answered with a flood of emails, which Smuga took as validation — there was, in fact, a need for her magazine in the region.
The first issue of Freya, featuring writing by Smuga, Kris Dylee, Josee Gulayets, Lexy Armstrong, Sarah Blaire and Darcee O’Hearn, was published last month in Nelson, Revelstoke, Cranbrook, Creston, Crawford Bay, Rossland, Salmo, Kimberley, Golden and the Slocan Valley.
The stories include an interview with rock climbers Daniele Montandon and Tula Sherkat, the resilience of women who own businesses during the pandemic, the effect social media has on teens, and a look at the concept and practice of psychedelic feminism.
“I really wanted the magazine to be for everyone as much for as possible,” says Smuga. “I wanted anyone from different backgrounds, different ages, different lifestyles to be able to pick up the magazine and find at least one thing in there that they can resonate with, or that they can be inspired by.”
The idea for a magazine came to Smuga after returning to Nelson last year from finishing a medical degree in Europe. She wanted to work on something unrelated to medicine, and looked to her own interest in writing and journalism.
But she also wanted to create a space for self-identified women to feature their work.
“I was always fascinated by the diversity, so many talented, creative people that I’ve never met in other places,” she says. “And then when I started thinking about women in general and the women that I knew or know or have heard about, their incredible stories, it just slowly fell into place.”
The cover story by Smuga is a profile of Sinixt elder Marilyn James. Smuga says she didn’t know the story of the Sinixt until someone suggested she write about James. What followed was an unexpected, emotional five-hour interview with James.
“I think she’s very resilient and intelligent and passionate, just an incredible human being. …,” says Smuga. “I wanted people to see that part, I wanted people to see her, not just the political things.”
The interview made such an impression that Smuga is donating proceeds from sales of Freya to the Sinixt as well as toward a mental health fund for resources to support women in the Kootenays.
With the first issue on stands, Smuga is hoping to put the magazine out twice per year. She’s also back on the hunt for more voices.
“It’s not about me, it’s about us as a collective … having as many people’s voices, opinions and ideas that can come out as possible.”
For a list of businesses where Freya can be purchased, visit https://www.facebook.com/freyamagazinekootenays.
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