There is no doubt that art, literature and music are everywhere in Flagstaff; from the sides of buildings to museums to art galleries and cafes, art paints this city in bright, vibrant colors. Sonder Magazine hopes to share this with the world.
Sonder describes itself as “a collective of young artists based in Flagstaff, Arizona, focused on the true stories that make our fiction.”
Writers, editors and recent Northern Arizona University graduates Micaela Merryman and Cam Cave are among the staff who created this zine.
Zines – short for magazines – are do-it-yourself style magazines often distributed independently of major presses and cover topics and materials that are historically underrepresented or unconventional in mainstream magazines. These magazines have a long history of providing others with access to information, art, and writing that may not have been accepted by commercial magazines.
Prior to the onset of the 2020 pandemic, Merryman and other members of NAU’s English Honor Society began work on a digital undergraduate magazine after the former undergraduate magazine, The Tunnels, closed. As the pandemic posed challenges for many, Merryman drew inspiration from the people around her to continue creating art. She also encountered zines for the first time.
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Although she feels her own undergraduate magazine has been put on hold due to the pandemic, Merryman felt there was work to be done. She started Sonder using material she had received through the undergraduate magazine.
“I had all this really cool material just sitting on this website for school and they didn’t really care. So I kind of stole it and had some of my friends re-edit the submissions we had for the first issue,” Merryman said. “Then I solicited a bunch of visual submissions for the first issue, and since then we kind of went through that kind of process.”
With a rotating team of 10-15 people, Merryman and Cave continue both the print and digital magazine. Sonder features an array of local artists and writers and from across the country. Their inbox is open to all types of work, both visual and written. With a volunteer team of students, artists, and writers, the first issue of the magazine took about a year to create due to time fluctuating between part-time jobs, school work, and personal life.
“Our personal lives inform a lot of our creative work, but it can also keep us from wanting to do anything,” Merryman said. “So we tried to find a balance between creating and working.”
During the first year, Merryman, Cave and the team spent time learning how to review, distribute, order and deliver their work. Sonder’s second issue was released in April with a production time of just under a year. The issue includes extensive visuals and artwork from Flagstaff and Sonder staff.
Merryman called it a big hit for the zine, and Cave agreed.
“We take the mundane and make it shine,” Cave said. “Self-publishing is the future. There is a reader for every writer. You don’t have to fit into the narrow box of big publishers. It’s really cool to exist outside of that and to have people who want to contribute.
“Sonder gives exposure to art forms or styles that may not be covered in a mainstream magazine,” echoed Merryman. “No one but us has the right to say what’s in it. Independent publishing is empowering the people and I hope we can be a part of that.”
Sonder began as a place of collaboration, expanding beyond the talented team of writers and artists working to produce it to serve the community where it began. The zine relies on submissions from writers and artists across the country and turned to Flagstaff for most of the work for its most recent issue, which was celebrated with a new poetry series , Off the Rails Poetry Series at Late for the Train in conjunction with the Northern Arizona Book Festival in April.
“We’re just trying to create a platform for artists and Flagstaff and other artists and small towns to have a platform to get published and collaborate with each other,” Merryman said. “Flagstaff is small and interconnected with such unique people and I feel like there’s a bit of that need here for collaboration.”
“We’re trying to connect the community and put some good art out there,” Cave added. “I’m just hoping for a wider network, developing more connections and collaborating more with local spaces, like Liminal. There are such cool people and artwork being produced.
Sonder Magazine can be found locally at Bright Side Bookshop and Liminal, as well as online at SonderMagazine.com where you can find digital exclusives such as interviews with San Francisco’s Poet Laureate, local bands, filmmakers, artists visuals and more. They are currently looking for submissions for their next issue.