I've often been asked why I started a magazine in Richmond, Virginia, especially one with a larger regional focus and growing geographic presence. Why didn't I start it in Arlington, Virginia or Grinnell, Iowa where I had previously lived. Why Richmond? The simplest answer is that I was living in Richmond when I finally felt confident enough to pursue the idea. A coincidence then. Had I been living in Hong Kong or Kansas, I probably would've started a magazine there, too. Of course, it wouldn't have been Quail Bell. Quail Bell had to start in Richmond.
I was studying creative writing, film, and product innovation at the well-known art school there. VCU was a hotbed of inspiration. It was just the place and I was just the age to try new ideas. But it wasn't just VCU; Richmond as a whole is a magnet for the imaginary, the nostalgic, and the otherworldly. Richmond thrives on ghost stories, urban legends, historic pride, social paradoxes, and a bizarre glamor hard to explain. Within a mile radius, you'll find a university parking lot over a slave cemetery, the church where Patrick Henry gave his "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Speech," and a strip club on top of Edgar Allan Poe's first office. Richmond may be the former capital of the Confederacy, but it's also home to a thriving punk scene.
The more I learned about Richmond, the more I wanted to learn about Virginia and consequently Washington, D.C. and Maryland. I began to recognize all the similarities instead of honing in on the differences and, before I knew it, I had the "DMV" tattooed on my heart. We're the Mid-Atlantic and yet we're the beginning of the South. We're urbane and global-minded and yet we're provincial. I wanted to celebrate, investigate, and, if possible, improve the region by opening a forum for intelligent dialogue where humor's allowed and all voices may be heard. That sort of space didn't seem to exist for the DMV's female Internet generation. And every day The Quail Bell Crew works to ensure it's here to stay.
Thank you for planting the seed, RVA.
-Christine Stoddard, Quail Bell Magazine founder and editor
An essay Christine wrote about Quail Bell's founding for sister site Luna Luna Mag on March 24, 2013:
Once upon a time, I was a little film and creative writing student living in a Southern city full of ghosts. The semester was ending and I found myself staring at my computer screen—cold, speechless, and sleep-deprived on another late night. I had been toying with the idea of creating an online magazine for several months and, probably in an effort to procrastinate on my final projects, I chose that night to begin the journey. It seemed like a natural progression from the lit mag, 'zine, blogging, and digital media work I'd experimented with since high school. The story really began with my writing for AssociatedContent.com, where I became one of their top contributors at age 18. Before the website became Yahoo! Voices, my AC blog had garnered more than a million page views. And it was just me writing, churning out collages, packaging slideshows. No staff. No fancy design. I wrote about everything and anything because this is what I did instead of waiting tables. A lot of it was banal how-to crap, especially thrifty fashion and ideas for scholarship applications. I knew what would drive traffic to the site and I had to pay for my textbooks somehow. But I was sick of it. I wanted to produce more quality content and form a community. I also knew the magazine, whatever it was, had to be about what I loved and had to be something that nobody else was quite doing.
I registered the URL for Quail Bell Magazine in December 2009 and then I sat on it for a while. There was a lot of tinkering and a lot of indecision. I remember sitting with author m. craig at Roberta's in Bushwick just muttering the words "imaginary," "nostalgic," and "otherworldly" to myself in a stupor one evening in March 2011. Ultimately, I wanted to start a multimedia publication that gave readers a magical, time-traveling experience minus the wormholes. Craig, also being a fan of steampunk and social engineering, said I might be on to something. Yet realizing an idea is much harder than simply dreaming it. That being said, the summer was rolling around and kids my age would be looking for something to do.
In May 2011, I finally pulled together a staff. The blog had gotten too big for me to handle by myself, especially with other pet projects competing for my attention. That was the summer I began working with Josie Stone, Julie DiNisio, Jade Miller, Ashby Nickerson, and a few other folks who gave me the confidence to believe in my Quail Bell dream. Josie quickly became my managing editor and partner in crime. We shared many of the same philosophies, strange habits, and a similar odd sense of humor. But our collaboration was cut short by her untimely death in October 2011. Days after Style Weekly—Richmond, Virginia's alternative weekly newspaper—had named me one of their "Top 40 Under 40" for Quail Bell Magazine and other creative efforts, Josie was hit and killed by a valet driver. She was 23. Only a week earlier, Quail Bell Magazine had released its first 'zine at the Richmond 'Zine Festival and put on a fairy tale fashion show. I wish I could say that Quail Bell didn't lose momentum then, but I had just lost another loved one two months earlier. The Quail Bell Crew dragged through the winter and the spring until we gathered a new crop of interns with the resolution to start fresh in May 2012.
That's when I met Kristen Rebelo. Then a sophomore in college, Kristen, a talented illustrator and designer, left the other interns crying in the dust. She was good. She penned beautiful illustrations, designed our second print issue, and handled the layout for the Quail Bell Magazine anthology that Jade, Julie, and I had edited. That December, not long after graduating and moving back to my native Northern Virginia, I pitched the anthology to Brandylane Publishers in Richmond. The publisher accepted the manuscript that same day, later dividing the tome into two books. At the beginning of this year, the Quail Bell Crew released its first titles: The Nest: An Anthology of The Unreal and Airborne: An Anthology of The Real.
While I was up in the D.C. area, I paid my dues by writing for newspapers and magazines, translating scripts for a bilingual theatre, producing for the PBS affiliate, and teaching creative writing workshops to gifted kids. While I was glad to be working for myself, what I truly wanted to do was run Quail Bell Press & Productions. This was the parent company for Quail Bell Magazine and related projects like The Persistence of Poe and Guadalajara in 35mm. As my 23-year-old self slowly confessed her real aspirations, Kristen and I cranked out the third print issue of Quail Bell, modified the publication's concept, and totally redid the website. We tabled at the Brooklyn 'Zine Fest, where Vol. 1 Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Community Access Channel noticed our work. Not a month after that, I moved back to Richmond to rise from the ashes. I knew Kristen could help me realize the Quail Bell vision. So in June 2013, I asked her to be my business partner. Jade and Julie had moved on to pursue their teaching careers and Kristen was the natural choice—my new partner in crime. All I recall about that meeting is eating something greasy at a Waffle House and Kristen saying yes. We've been soaring ever since—producing Quail Bell Magazine, working on other original projects for the parent company, and finding new clients. Kristen is about to graduate and I'm about to move up to D.C. again to live with my fiancé. We're going to keep on Quail Bellin'.
What exactly does that mean? Quail Bell Magazine's mission statement defines what Kristen and I aim to do achieve in the publication and all other Quail Bell endeavors. Visit www.quailbellmagazine.com and tell us how you think we're doing. Consider submitting your writings, drawings, videos, and other creative works, too. We can't wait to see what's on your mind.