What Happens Next?
What a year.
As November shifts into December, and the eyes of the world turn backward – reviewing the last eleven months, and turn forward – looking ahead to what many of us hope will be something better, it’s almost impossible not to fall into what are becoming 2020’s analytical clichés: about the possible final throes of populism, about the return of the expert, about women leaders, about how the year’s crises have revealed what oppressed populations have always known. We look forward to vaccines, new regimes, the end of border wars; we hope to meet and hug and eat and dance and take flights and trains to places we used to take for granted; we talk about Zoom fatigue and doomscrolling, we wonder what we’ll wear to work if and when we return.
The stock market peaks; unemployment spreads. And we (I/you/they?) experiment with puns on 2020, vision, foresight, hindsight, myopia, hope.
It’s been a weird year here at Wasafiri. Our 2019 ended with energy, on the high of our anniversary celebrations – we launched new subscriptions and our 100th issue – and this year almost took all of that away. But then it didn’t.
Like a lot of organisations in publishing, we struggled with worry when it became clear that the year would be very much other than what we thought. Would people still read? Would we come out the other side?
But we were then surprised by the incredible support shown for our work, including and especially our co-organised ‘anti-viral’ festival BookBound 2020, Wasafiri 102—our issue on Japan and the most popular we’ve put out in recent years, and our new series of global dispatches. That coupled with a huge outpouring of interest in the 2020 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize made the year, in many ways, exceed what we dreamed.
And now, we’ve rediscovered our energy. Near the start of the UK’s first lockdown, I wrote a short piece about the hope we had for after the virus, and our continued commitment to work with more writers from more places to track, map, and register the changing contours of our world. That promise is one we’ll carry forward into the New Year. But not without first (we must) looking back.
So here are a few things to look out for from us in the coming months:
- In December we return to the archive, to provide some reading recommendations to keep you warm over winter from 36 years of Wasafiri—including some of our more popular articles and some deep cuts. Watch @WasafiriMag (on Twitter and Instagram) and @wasafiri.magazine (Facebook) for our Winter Archive Pick ‘n’ Mix.
- In January, we’ll launch the new Wasafiri Essay Prize – open to Early Career Academics working in innovative ways on any aspect of international contemporary literature – with prizes of £250, publication in Wasafiri, and mentoring .
- January also sees the launch of our 100 Ambassadors scheme to recruit, over the next several years, Editors-at-Large based across the world to sharpen our global representation and help us to spot and support emerging talents.
- We have two workshop series, run by our Writer-in-Residence Jennifer Wong, and our Associate Editor Thomas Glave open to writers worldwide to create space to reflect on diaspora, translation, and life in the time of Covid-19.
- And in February, the 2021 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize will again open its doors to all unpublished writers of fiction, poetry, and life writing worldwide, offering the chance to win £1,000.
There’s even more in the year to come, including an online Festival of Human Rights Writing run in honour of Wasafiri 104: Human Rights Cultures. And, of course, our issues—Wasafiri 105: After Grenfell; 106: Water; 107: Crisis/Recovery; and 108: The House of Wisdom on literature and Islam.
Lastly, as a thank you to all of our readers – and as an invitation to new audiences – we’re running a site-wide sale, with discounts and free shipping on all our back issues.
It’s been a tricky year for all of us here, as I’m sure it has been for you, but we’ve weathered it with the support of your interest and your enthusiasm for what we do. We look ahead, always, with hope—and hope especially that you’ll continue with us as we forge forward.
Thank you. And here’s to the New Year.
— Malachi McIntosh (Editor and Publishing Director)