Building Your Own Table: Amy Baxter, editor of Bad Form
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oni Morrison once said that “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”. This is the quote that came to mind when we first spoke to Amy Baxter, the founder and editor of Bad Form, about the genesis of her literary review and magazine.

Bad Form – The Beginning

When we asked Amy how Bad Form came into being, she explained: “I was, quite literally, googling ways to find cool new BAME / POC writers, and I was shocked there wasn’t a literary review out there for us. Also, I love independent magazines, I always have. There’s something really special about holding something in your hands you know a small group of very dedicated people have put together, not for money or recognition, but because they wanted to create. I think that’s very beautiful. So, finally, I thought if I wanted to read it, I’m sure others would too. And Bad Form was born. It is a literary review magazine by People of Colour. So, in simple terms, we get not-white people to write book reviews, essays, short stories, and poetry, to publish in our quarterly physical magazine.”

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it” Toni Morrison

The Journey so far

Since its inception, Amy has published two issues of Bad Form. The first one, as she said, “[…] was unthemed, and quite frankly, a mish-mash of everything we could get! I was lucky to have a small but great network of POC writers from my time at Cambridge, and I built this out through my time off between graduating and starting my traineeship at Penguin.” 

The second issue, which featured Young Adult pieces, was, according to Amy, “[…] quite intimidating for many of our previous submitters who were not the target audience for the genre, but ultimately, we were oversubscribed with submissions! The reviews and essays we received, in particular, were fascinating, looking at and emphasising the great societal impact this genre has on shaping the next generation. It was, in all, a fascinating issue, and I’m really proud of the writers who pushed themselves to write for the theme.”

Following the successful release of its first two issues, Bad Form is scheduled to release its crime-themed third issue in June. Pre-order sales open for the new issue on the 28th of May 2020, after-which, we will be able to pre-order an exclusive and limited edition bundle for two weeks only. The bundle will consist of an issue of the magazine and an exclusive print by the artist Rachel Rodrigues, who designed the front cover for the issue. On the 11th of June 2020, the Crime Issue will launch officially and we’ll be able to order a copy of the magazine in print or online from the Bad Form website. 

According to Amy, the Crime Issue is: a 100-page A5 magazine that spans everything from the impact of colonialism on crime-writing in India, to sexual assault, to the fascination with gore in Hong Kong literature. I’ve read it more times than I can count, and I’m still finding more nuances in it. I think it holds its own against any of the established literary reviews, where I know our past issues weren’t quite there, and it took a great deal of work. I couldn’t be prouder!”

Having had an exclusive preview of the entire magazine, we can confidently say that we agree with Amy about the quality and variety of the contributions contained in the issue.

“I’m truly thrilled to have been able to put together a 100-page A5 magazine that spans everything from the impact of colonialism […] to sexual assault […]. I’ve read it more times than I can count, and I’m still finding more nuances in it. I think it holds its own against any of the established literary reviews, where I know our past issues weren’t quite there, and it took a great deal of work. I couldn’t be prouder!” Amy Baxter

Since Amy has been running the magazine and everything that comes with it on her own, while having a day-job at Penguin, we asked her what it has been like, running a small, purpose-driven business on her own. She said: I think like any small business, running the magazine has been a bit manic, but totally wonderful. It’s been a hard slog, working in evenings and at weekends, trying to find funding and venues and printers and writers and artists. But I think we’ve finally hit that point where people are recognising that the magazine is a cool great thing to read. It’s very exciting to have hit the point where we are so oversubscribed with submissions that we have to turn people away, but also rewarding to be able to offer some editorial guidance and for [the contributors] to return with even better pieces. I’ve actually had to change the format of the upcoming issue from A6 to A5, because there was so much excellent work I wanted to publish. It’s also been great to be able to commission artists such as Rachel, who is illustrating the Crime Issue cover. It’s great to know that we can support writers and artists, and create a beautiful, as well as readable, magazine. My favourite pieces are from those people who don’t write often, or publicly. It feels very special to be trusted with their work.” 

Plans for the Future, and Building a Table of one’s own

When we asked Amy what plans she has for the future of Bad Form, she explained that she is planning to launch four issues this year and that her biggest goal, however, is to be stocked in some of her favourite independent bookstores. She said: “I think when I walk into my favourite book shop (which I won’t name, as not to jinx it!), and see Bad Form with the other literary reviews, I’ll finally be content. At least for a moment.” 

Considering how much she has achieved with Bad Form in such a short amount of time, we have no doubt that we will be able to pick up copies of the magazine in lots of bookshops around London and the UK sooner rather than later.

“I think when I walk into my favourite book shop […] and see Bad Form with the other literary reviews, I’ll finally be content. At least for a moment.” Amy Baxter

The success and especially the oversubscription of submissions to Bad Form not only show the great idea behind the magazine and the excellent work of its editor, but they also show how much need there is for spaces in the literary world that are not fiercely and jealously guarded. Bad Form is not asking for a seat at a table that was never meant to accommodate it, instead, it has created its own table and, judging by the number of people already seated at it, it will continue to grow and continue to provide a space and a platform for the immense literary and artistic talent by Black people and People of Colour, whose work has largely been overlooked or ignored by those in charge of longer-established publications.

Bad Form is not asking for a seat at a table that was never meant to accommodate it, instead, it has created its own table. Literandra

So if you want to support Bad Form, then spread the word about it, pre-order the magazine as it provides vital financial support for the upcoming print-run, or order the magazine after its launch. The time for rhetoric and empty talk has passed, it’s time to act.

Asking for a seat at the table, even if it is a well-deserved one, is sometimes not the way to change the world. Sometimes, you just have to take matters into your own hand, and build a table yourself.

Amy Baxter has shown that it can be done, and we’re here for it. Literandra