You’ve got the power

The ‘revival issue’ of december. 

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

If you’re still in need of a last-minute Hanukkah gift, here’s a terrific one called “power2give.org.” Think Kickstarter, but for local arts groups.

Last week, I went to a kickoff party for this new website, which is being championed by the Arts and Education Council (A&E). The Council raises money that it distributes to more than 70 arts and arts education organizations throughout the St. Louis region. Full disclosure: I do some freelance writing for A&E.

Power2give.org allows anyone who wants to fund an arts project the chance to do so by contributing as little as $1.  Just log onto the site and scroll through the list of 25 current projects (projects change over time), then decide the one, or ones, you want to fund. Each has a video describing the project along with the amount it needs funded, ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. For example, St. Louis-based Circus Harmony would like $10,000 so it can send students to Israel to perform with their counterparts at the Galilee Circus, a troupe that brings together young Jews and Israeli Arabs. 

Gifts to chosen projects can be made using credit cards, or you can purchase gift cards on the site. If you opt for the latter, multi-generations of families can shop together for a program they would like to fund, which sounds like a fun thing to do one Hanukkah night. Announced at the launch as an extra bonus: Emerson is providing 50 cents in matching funds for every dollar donated, up to $10,000.

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Check it out and see what you think at power2give.org.

Remember december

Gianna Jacobson jokes that if she knew what she was getting into she probably wouldn’t have taken on this literary venture. And that, she adds, would have been a big mistake. 

“This has been the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” says Jacobson, former president of the board of the Light and member of Central Reform Congregation. “It’s been an enormous learning curve. If I had known how many things I would have to learn that I didn’t know I probably wouldn’t have done this because I would have been too intimidated.”

Jacobson is talking about december, a literary journal she is reviving after more than three decades of dormancy. The journal, founded in 1958, introduced Raymond Carver to the literary world in 1963 and helped launch the careers of many writers, poets and artists, including Donald Hall, Joyce Carol Oates, Rita Mae Brown and Philip Levine.

After earning a master’s degree in fine arts from University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2010, Jacobson wanted to get involved with a literary magazine because she had loved working on Natural Bridge, UMSL’s literary journal.  Eventually, she came across a notice on a website announcing the sale of december magazine and its book-publishing arm, December Press. The magazine had been founded in Iowa City in 1958 by a group of poets, writers, and artists who published cutting-edge fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and art. By 1962, the founding editors had left Iowa City; one of them, Jeff Marks, took december to Chicago and turned it over to writer Curt Johnson, who edited and published december for the next 46 years until his death in 2008.

A friend of Johnson’s and executor of his estate was selling the magazine and press. Jacobson made an offer and “a month later I was driving to Chicago to sign a contract.” That was last November. When we spoke earlier this week, she was figuring out how to package and ship Vol. 24, the “revival” issue (pictured at right), and the first under her tutelage as editor and publisher. Its 224 pages feature new work by Jack Anderson, Marvin Bell, Stephen Berg, Grace Cavalieri, Kelly Cherry, Gary Gildner, Albert Goldbarth, Marge Piercy, Sally Van Doren and many more.

“I started by reading all the back copies,” says Jacobson, explaining her process of selecting which writers and artists to include in the revival issue. “I was blown away to find so many people who published their first, or among their earliest works, in december and then went on to launch amazing careers (the list includes six U.S. poet laureates, six Pulitzer Prize winners, eight National Book Award winners, and on and on). 

“Then I made an inventory of every artist and writer whose work appeared and began tracking them down,” she continues. “I ended up with a list of 160 who were still alive and writing. I found their addresses and sent them a letter last January, asking them to submit new work for the revival. Eighty-six of the 160 responded.”

She then advertised for more work from up-and-coming writers and artists and got another 300 submissions. In the end, the works of 54 writers and three artists are featured in this latest december, the first since 1981.

To usher in this new venture, Jacobson is holding a (re)launch party open to the public from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard. She plans to publish december twice a year, and reinvigorate December Press. Subscriptions to the literary journal, at $20 a year or $38 for two years, are available at www.decembermag.org.

In addition, december is sponsoring the First Annual Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize and Curt Johnson Prose Awards in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, with $1,500 going to the winner and a $500 honorable mention in each category, plus publication in the Spring 2014 issue of december. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 1 and the cost is $20 per story/essay/three poems. For more details and how to submit, consult the website.

Jacobson is quick to note that several St. Louisans have played key roles in this project. They include Buzz Spector, Dean of the College and Graduate School of Art at Washington University, who is serving as the art editor, and Robert Nazarene and poet Sally Van Doren, who are both on the advisory board.

“My hope is that in each issue there are some pieces that qualify as a little more accessible,” says Jacobson, whose goal is to champion the works of unheralded, authentic writers from around the world. “That way maybe people who are not in the habit of reading poetry and short fiction will be drawn in and wind up reading works they might not have been exposed to otherwise.”