The Intangible Quarterly

ConU Based Online Lit Journal The Incongruous Quarterly Prepares for Second Issue

  • Photo Frank Manley & Graphic Alex Manley

Two weeks ago at Writers Read, a question was posed to the Concordia creative writing alumni on the discussion panel about the death of the book. Mike Spry, who runs the Summer Literary Seminars based out of Concordia, was quick to respond, saying that he didn’t think the book would die out, but that the literary journal definitely would.

The physical literary journal may be on its way out, but the online literary journal is just getting started. This past summer, Emma Healey and Michael Chaulk, both Concordia students—Healey, 19, is in Creative Writing; Chaulk, 21, is in Honours in English and Creative Writing—debuted The Incongruous Quarterly, a celebration of “unpublishable” literature.

Around the date of its launch, the IQ’s strange mandate made it an appealing topic for the mainstream literary media, creating a nice little paradox: hype about supposedly unhypable creative work.
“Before the first issue, I think most people were really interested in what we were about, publishing unpublishable writing,” said Cha-ulk.

The National Post, Quill & Quire, and even CBC Radio were among those who took note, and the buzz surrounding the launch generated a much higher-than-expected submission volume, including pieces by some established writers.

Though they aren’t getting quite as many submissions this time, Healey remains upbeat, as she noted that they’ve been receiving “pretty consistently fascinating, amazing stuff since the day we put out our first call for submissions.”


“The Quarterly started to be a real project in about January of last year,” said Healey, but it had been gestating in her mind “for a while before that—maybe a year or so.” Eventually she “hunkered down in that Starbucks by the FG for about six months” and didn’t emerge until the IQ’s website was up and running.

Chaulk remembers it a little differently. “We got a beer after a workshop one night,” he said. “She told me about the idea and asked me if I wanted to edit poetry. I was immediately into it.”
As far as the “unpublishable” aspect to it, that was Healey’s brainchild.

“I was working with a couple of print magazines when the idea for the Quarterly started to drift around in my mind,” she said, “and I was friends with all of these people who were incredibly talented and very strange, and I was seeing, from both sides [of the writer/editor divide] people getting rejected not because their stuff wasn’t good enough, but because it didn’t fit. Writers who submitted pieces that were “too long or too weird or [whose] subject matter made them not ‘right’ for the magazine” were “getting formal rejection letters and not really understanding why their piece had been rejected.”

This, she felt, had to change.

“I just wanted to make something that would have room for that rejected stuff, that would be able to publish those things that were worth reading but that had fallen through the cracks.”


Right from the get-go, the project had to be online-only. The primary reason, Chaulk said, was money.

“Of course we would love to be able to print the magazine and of course we don’t have any money ourselves. I’d be really excited about printing it. We would need colour and half-nice paper, but it would be so pretty.”
Though he hoped that the Quarterly would get “the funding to [print it] at some point,” he admitted that “there are things that are impossible to do in print; for example, mp3s and .gifs and whatever people end up sending us. Having it online really opens it up.”

Healey agreed with the potential of this openness, describing herself as “a ridiculously naïve, wide-eyed idealist who is amazed by the limitless possibilities of publishing on the Internet.” She admitted, however, that finances did play into the Quarterly’s online-only status.

“Having a print magazine seemed not only like it would be ridiculously expensive, but limiting in a way that didn’t really fit with what we were trying to do,” she explained.

“I thought we should be able to mess around, to publish anything we thought was worth publishing.” This freedom has obvious advantages for a publication purporting to publish the unpublishable.

“If there was an audio file or a film or a thirty-page story we thought was worth including we could just include it,” she explained. “No second thoughts, no worries.”


That combination of exuberant optimism with a carefree, come-what-may attitude is something that has allowed The Incongruous Quarterly to flourish in other ways as well. One thing Healey and Chaulk wanted for the IQ was guest editors to help them sort through the masses of poetry and prose they’d receive.

Healey recalled that she spent “basically […] all of last winter e-mailing writers I liked and asking them if they’d be interested” in collaborating. Though she “didn’t expect much to come of it”—at the time the Quarterly was still without a name, let alone a first issue, and there was no prospect of
financial compensation involved—“most of the writers I asked actually responded, and a bunch of them said yes!”

Both the first and second issues so far have had separate guest editors for poetry and prose, as well as separate submission themes—the first issue’s themes were “the Graphic” for poetry and “Money” for prose; the second issue’s are “Collage” and “Music.”

The second issue finds Saleema Nawaz and Karen Correia da Silva replacing Daniel Scott Tysdal and Pasha Malla as the poetry and prose editors, respectively.

Chaulk admitted that they let the guest editors pick the themes. “It gives us a better chance to work with very respected writers, and [gives] them a chance to explore and build something that’s important to them.”
On top of that, Healey said that giving the guest editors “free rein over their sections” worked in the Quarterly’s favour since they wanted “every issue to be unique.”

Given the project’s mandate and the results it produced with the first issue, uniqueness is probably not something they’ll have trouble achieving.

You can check out The Incongruous Quarterly’s entire first issue at
The second issue, whose submission deadline was Nov. 1, should go online at some point in early- or mid-December.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 12, published November 2, 2010.

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