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New Yinzer invites readers, writers online for local views

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

By Adrian McCoy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

There's a lot of talk about giving young people a reason to stay here. But some of them are making their own reasons.

A good example is an online magazine called The New Yinzer, which is giving new voices an outlet and stirring things up on the local scene.

Its founders thought outside the box about what publishing is, which is one reason the monthly magazine is published online only, staffer Jennifer Meccariello says. "We flipped it. We're an online magazine with a print component, instead of a print magazine with an online component."

Behind New Yinzer is an editorial staff of three 24-year-olds: Meccariello, Margaret Emery and David Madden. Although none was born and raised in Pittsburgh, they all now call it home. All three went to the University of Pittsburgh and wrote for alternative publications such as City Paper and the former In Pittsburgh.

The magazine is funded in part by the Sprout Fund, which gives grants to realize innovative ideas from young people.

The Web site (www.newyinzer.com) has current and past issues, submission guidelines, letters, contact information and news about upcoming New Yinzer events.

New Yinzer has published two collections of stories in print -- "Bedtime Stories for People in Trouble," and the just-published "For a Time We Wanted Something New," a collection of travel-themed stories, which sells for $5.

The magazine publishes fiction and nonfiction stories and essays but no poetry or previously published works. It runs photo essays and comics, but no single photos or drawings, unless they're used as story illustrations. The pieces are generally short -- in part because readers tend to get impatient reading long works on a computer screen.

Contributors are paid with New Yinzer T-shirts: Editors hope to be able to pay their writers when they get more funding.

A sampling of published pieces reflects New Yinzer's slightly off-center approach: There's a photo essay on well-known Pittsburgh landmarks in which the photographer has his back to them, and a record review in which the reviewer gives his two cats a bath while listening to the record, documenting both processes at once.

"We want to publish good stories, grounded in good characters," Madden says. "We like stories and pieces that surprise us, because then we pass that surprise on to the reader."

Another thing they look for is a sense of place, Meccariello says. "A location can sort of become a character in the story. Because we started being Pittsburgh-based, we wanted stories about Pittsburgh."

New Yinzer recently passed its first anniversary -- a milestone for an independent literary magazine.

Although it's a relative newcomer to the local cultural scene, it has made itself very visible: "Pros Only" is a monthly reading by magazine contributors. The next one is tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Modern Formations, 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield, with readings by Cara Gillotti and Robert Isenberg.

New Yinzer recently took to the airwaves with a monthly radio show featuring recorded "Pros Only" readings. It's on Carnegie Mellon University station WRCT-FM (88.3) on the fourth Tuesday of the month between 6 and 8 p.m.: The next one airs March 25.

The staff also hosts a monthly "Sociable Behavior" happy hour at Zythos, South Side. The next one is from 6 to 8 p.m. March 26.

New Yinzer also takes part in the ongoing "Unblurred" arts events: It recently set up a stand in Whole Foods, where staffers pounded out impromptu pieces on manual typewriters about grocery items.

The next project they hope to launch is a public reading room, where people can stop and read from a library of donated books they're collecting.

In addition to helping new writers with new ideas, they want to spark interest in reading. "We didn't do this for us or to publish our own stuff," Madden says. "We really like to publish people and get them reading."

Adrian McCoy can be reached atamccoy@post-gazette.com .

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