Disclosure: An edition of Matchbook Stories was provided by the publisher in the hopes that I would mention it on my blog.
I love discovering new bookish artists, so I was thrilled when I received an email from Ioanna Mavrou, the co-founder of Book Ex Machina, a small indie press based in Cyprus, about a tiny (literally) literary magazine called Matchbook Stories. Apart from the novel idea of printing bite-sized stories in matchbooks, what really makes Matchbook Stories unique is the incredible design work that goes into every issue. I sat down and asked Ioanna a few questions about how Matchbox Stories came to be, the artistic process, and other projects that Book Ex Machina is currently working on.
First of all, tell us a little bit about the genesis of Matchbook Stories. How was the idea first conceived? How did that evolve into the magazine as it is today?
We had just finished putting together our first Book Ex Machina title (photography book Nicosia in Dark and White) and we were playing around, developing different projects… Matchbook Stories at first was just the matchbooks, I wrote two stories for them, a friend wrote two poems, and that was the first issue; later we came up with the box and we handmade about a hundred of them. People loved them so much we decided to expand the edition and found a place to print them for us; then we shared them with some of our favorite writers who also loved them and wrote us stories for them!
Because the literary selections are so short, the artwork is a major part of the magazine. What is the process behind the cover and matchbook designs? Do you choose a specific theme for each issue?
The theme usually emerges after the fact, for example in the last issue (#4) all the stories happened to be about matches: match-making, trying to making a connection… After we choose the stories we spend lots and lots of time with them to get the artwork just right. For every issue we actually have to do five book covers: one for each story and one for the box, and they all kind of have to fit together. It’s a long happy process.
It’s unusual to find a literary magazine with selections of such microscopic length. How do you go about choosing which four stories to include in each issue? What kinds of guidelines do you have for writers?
So far it’s been all about the writers. We showed previous issues to some writers we love and they responded by writing us stories! We opened up submissions for the first time for Issue 4; we don’t really give any guidelines (other than word count—we really can only fit up to 150 words in each of those tiny matchbooks,) but I think reading previous issues helps the most at understanding what we like.
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What other publishing projects is Book Ex Machina working on now besides Matchbox Stories?
We are currently working on a new bookish project that has a really cool handcrafted aspect—we will be announcing that pretty soon—it’s kind of a big project for us; also working on a project with stories and things from Cyprus that’s been in the works for years and is slowly falling into place, and at least one more photo book is in development.
Aside from your website, where can readers find Matchbook Stories?
We are adding new shops to our stocklist all the time, (listed here), we love that we are in some of the most beautiful independent bookshops around the world, from London and Paris to NY and L.A. and even Hong Kong. We are happy to ship books anywhere (and have some nice offers too) but if you’d rather buy Matchbook Stories from your neighborhood shop, just ask them to stock it!
Thanks for stopping by, Ioanna! And everyone else–be sure to pick up a copy of the next issue of Matchbox Stories!