Some say they first saw the owl spread out on a table in a Mid City antique store next to a pile of vintage nonfiction. Others say they have seen it peeking out of a magazine rack in a cafe in Perkins Road, catching scone crumbs in its beak. And still others say it wasn’t an owl they saw at all, but a jackalope, and all the way to Los Angeles.
Of course, it depends on what time of year they spotted the cover of fine print, the literary and visual arts publication slated for its second release of the year in October. Each semiannual issue features an illustration by a different artist on the cover, an image chosen to help reflect the literature within.
And those problems seem to be starting at a rapid pace for the passion project created by graphic designer and editor Christopher Payne, who originally fostered the idea while living in Los Angeles in 2011. After a few early editions on photocopied pages , Payne relaunched the publication in 2015, this time in its current newsprint format.
When Payne moved to Baton Rouge in 2021, he brought his role as editor with him, working from home and communicating with his team of volunteer editors to compile each issue and print them at Baton Rouge Press.
“I was inspired by a similar publication, now defunct, mother news, which I discovered in Rhode Island,” says Payne. “I liked the idea of creating something at the intersection of scholarly literary journals and do-it-yourself zines, especially something with a ‘found object’ vibe that people could stumble upon in the wild and s ‘inspire it.’
The mission has so far been successful, with copies available wherever members of the fine print the masthead can roam, networking with independent bookstores and other cultural hubs in places like North Carolina, New Mexico and California. Baton Rouge, however, remains the hub of submission-based publishing.
Inside each issue, readers will find a selection of poetry, prose, artwork, interviews and the enigmatic zodiac-based “Letters to the Elements” written by the local poet and editor Dylan Krieger, Notre Dame graduate who earned her MFA in creative writing from LSU.
“Chris knew a friend of mine from college, Omar, who is still on our masthead, so I first got involved by submitting to fine print and get published with them,” says Krieger, who now helps edit submissions for each issue. “Before I got involved, they had even published a Chilean poet, Raúl Zurita, whom I had seen during a reading at Notre-Dame. I just thought it was amazing; it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to include the voices of talented people who might not otherwise be so common in traditional literary magazines.
For Payne, this emphasis on accessibility and diversity is part of what sustains her desire to continue publishing after all these years, even if the money to do so has sometimes come out of her own pockets. Still, he welcomes donations, submissions and publicity placements from supporters, and rejoices in moving the press in broader directions, from hosting events to distributing more art objects like poetry readings recorded on Krieger vinyl.
“It’s cool that we were able to create this cross-pollination between the arts communities in Baton Rouge and across the country,” he says. “I like reaching out to people who aren’t necessarily deeply rooted in the art or literary scene. Being able to create something that might impact them in a positive way is part of why we do it.” fineprintpaper.com
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of 225 magazine.