Thomas Parker and Luke Frostick are the founders and editors of the Bosphorus Review of Books, the first English language online literary journal in Istanbul. Thomas Parker is a student at Boğaziçi University pursuing a Master’s Degree in Critical and Cultural Studies, while Luke Frostick is an aspiring short story writer. Parker writes poetry and also speaks fluent Arabic and Turkish and often translates poetry in these languages. Frostick writes short stories in a variety of genres, including fantasy and horror. The two met through the Spoken Word Istanbul community, and both have a passion for literary arts. After many frustrations with publishing submissions, they launched the journal in January of this year in order to create a forum for their own writings as well as the work of other writers. Parker handles and edits poetry submissions, while Frostick handles and edits short story, nonfiction, and prose submissions.
Why did you start the Bosphorus Review of Books and how did the process happen?
LUKE: It came out of my own frustrations and difficulties with trying to get publication. I also saw a gap in that there was no English language literary magazine in Istanbul. Personally, I wanted to do something new after such a depressing year, so doing something positive seemed necessary.
THOMAS: [The journal] was [Luke’s] brainchild. He asked me to be a part of it, but I had some of the same motivations. I’ve had the same problems with getting published. It’s not exactly easy. I also enjoy doing collaborative things in general. And it seemed like a great idea. Istanbul does need an English language literary magazine. So I jumped on it.
Why did you decide on an online journal rather than a print journal?
LUKE: It’s cheaper. And print journals require special skills.
THOMAS: With an online version, we can reach anyone anywhere, whereas with print you have to tell people where to go to buy it.
LUKE: In my heart, I would like to see it in print at some point. I’m a big fan of physical paper in the future. We would like to print an anthology of our best submissions someday. It would be an interesting experiment.
Do you accept non-English pieces?
LUKE: For the prose, fiction, and nonfiction we can only accept English, because translating prose into English takes too much time.
THOMAS: With poetry, we’re accepting Turkish and Arabic submissions. With some of the Arabic submissions, I might be translating it myself. We’re in Istanbul, and Turkish language and literature is an important part of this city. But with prose, it would be a bit harder. If they have a translation ready, we can accept it.
Can you describe your target audience?
LUKE: We didn’t have one in mind, but the target audience is anyone who would like to read it.
THOMAS: I haven’t thought about it in terms of a target audience, but I have thought about it in terms of us being part of the cultural and intellectual scene in the city, so if that could be our audience, that would be fantastic.
Do you have any plans to bring the journal to other audiences, such as universities?
LUKE: This is an area we plan to put more time into, in terms of where we can circulate our journal. But I’m more interested in creating quality editions for now. I figure, if the magazine is good, it will find its reading base.
THOMAS: If the pieces are good quality, eventually the audience will develop itself. But for now we have a decent audience, and at some point we will probably grow.
LUKE: Since we’re not looking to make money from this, it doesn’t matter if nobody reads it. Of course, we want people to read it, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. But since we’re not looking to make a profit, we just want to advance our circulation in any way possible.
Are you looking for any kind of help with the journal?
LUKE: I’m always looking for someone to do a cover for us. I think we’re okay for the next edition. But mainly we’re looking for submissions, so if anyone has poetry or short stories or nonfiction they want to publish, you can go to our webpage, check out our submissions page, and email us. The more submissions we have, the better we can make the magazine.
Can anyone from anywhere contribute or is it just residents of Istanbul?
LUKE: Anyone can contribute. Naturally, people who are from Istanbul and from Turkey will be more interested in it and more likely to have heard of it. But anyone can contribute if they want.
What plans do you have going forward with the magazine?
LUKE: We want to keep going with the short stories. We’ve had some good submissions so far. I would really like to expand our nonfiction section. I have some plans coming up for that. If you want to know about them, you have to read the magazine. I’ve got some creative nonfiction that’s coming up.
THOMAS: We were also thinking, since it’s called the Bosphorus Review of Books, we were thinking of doing a “What to Read” section and asking people to write pieces advising people, basically, what to read: You should read the works of this author or this specific book for this reason.
Would you write those reviews?
LUKE: I’ve already written one. That’s the thing. Anyone can submit. If you have a book that you love and you think other people should be reading it, write to us and tell us why.
THOMAS: For me, with the poetry section, one of my goals is I would like to have a fair balance in terms of the poetry and not having one theme or one type of poetry dominate too much. And if I could have a good balance of, let’s say, one Arabic poem and one Turkish poem in each issue, that would be great. Of course, I will work with what I have. But if I can achieve that balance, I would like to.
LUKE: Also, more women. I felt that we didn’t have enough female writers in the last edition. Again, we’re tied to our submissions. It wasn’t a deliberate choice. But we had more submissions from men.
THOMAS: I would like to see a balance between Westerners and Turks and Middle Easterners in the future. But for the second edition, we will definitely have more Middle Eastern writers. I see this as a general problem in cultural and intellectual institutions here. A lot of them are too yabangee-centered.
As in Western yabangees?
THOMAS: Yes, so if we can have that balance there, that would be fantastic. A lot of the cultural institutions here are focused on foreigners. Turks do come there, but a lot of the time, it’s only Turks who speak English. So I think more balance needs to be in there cultural institutions and how they interact with the larger society in general. Of course, it’s a bit harder for an online space. But if we can have a balance between Middle Eastern submitters and Westerners that would be great. Obviously, we don’t control the submissions.
LUKE: I quite like the idea of not having a clue about whether a submitter is male or female or what ethnicity they are, but unfortunately the world doesn’t quite work like that.
Is there anything else you want to say about the magazine?
LUKE: We live and die on our submissions basically. So if any of your readers are interested, go to https://bosphorusreview.com/, check out our submissions page, and submit.
THOMAS: It’s still a relatively small effort. It might grow in the future. I’m happy just creating a new space and creating art. It doesn’t have to reach thousands of people. If we can create a little beautiful space within the city, I’m happy.
LUKE: Personally, it’s a good challenge. It’s something I’ve never done before. And I’m enjoying it.
The Bosphorus Review of Books can be reached at https://bosphorusreview.com/. To submit your poem, short story, memoir, or book review email firstname.lastname@example.org. While most prose submissions are in English, occasionally Arabic and Turkish prose submissions will be accepted. Poetry in Arabic, Turkish, and English is also welcome.
All images sourced via Bosphorus Review of Books.