Siyaah Qalam Akhbar is a Pakistan based, dual language, print akhbar (magazine) focused on emerging writers and artists and includes a Pride section for LGBTQIA+ contributors. They are open year-round for prose, poetry, sketches, photography, and political views.
I wanted to know more, so I asked their staff some questions to see what they are all about. See the interview and a link to the submission guidelines below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about the Siyaah Qalam Akhbar.
STAFF: Siyaah Qalam Akhbar is a Pakistan based, dual language, print akhbar (magazine) which provides emerging writers and artists an environment to freely express their thoughts, ideas and creativity. We aim to bring forth the suppressed voices and opinions of our community. Siyaah Qalam is aware of the fact that stories about societal realities and collective silence need to be told; progressive, critical dialogues about reality need to become a norm. We are LGBTQIA+ friendly and realise the need to dismantle the stigma that revolves around mental health in our society.
HOPKINSON: How/why was Siyaah Qalam Akhbar originally started?
STAFF: We at Siyaah Qalam believe art has become secondary and because of that stories about reality have become secondary. In consequence, progressive debates about the actuality of human life and the several issues faced by that marred life on a daily basis have been reduced to “ye tou hota hai” (it is what it is).
Siyaah Qalam was created to provide an outlet to all writers and artists who are afraid to voice out their opinions, especially those whose opinions have been condemned and are trapped behind “log kya kahain gay” (what will people say). This is in an attempt to revive Urdu and English literature and all forms of art in Pakistan so that people can contribute and learn from each other.
Here, the aim for creativity is not bound by popularity, privilege or experience, but just by the basic human need to listen and tell stories that strive to bring forth progressive debates and eventually a positive change.
HOPKINSON: Who is your target reader audience?
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
STAFF: Through Siyaah Qalam, we aim to give writers and artists a platform to learn and express their artistic views. We urge contributors to break the silence that has engulfed this society, with words and art. Therefore we accept submissions in the form of prose, poetry, photography and sketches (gray scale), opinion pieces on current affairs. Our ‘Our Pride’ section is reserved for the LGBTQIA+ community and those who identify with aspects of mental health. We do not accept pieces that marginalise communities (religion, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity).
HOPKINSON: What do you wish you’d see submitted, but rarely comes in?
STAFF: Siyaah Qalam receives a lot of submissions for our Creative Workshop, however, we do not receive that many submissions for the Our Pride section. This is probably because of the stigma that is attached to the topics we are trying to bring light to. Our akhbar (magazine) has an interactive section which invites readers to send in translations of a piece we provide. Moreover, readers can also ‘create a story’ out of a list of words; we do not receive the responses we expected.
HOPKINSON: What are some of your favorite lit mags/journals?
- جآ (Aaj: Today)
- اریوس (Sawera: Morning)
- ارمحلا (Alhamra)
- Ayaskala Literary Magazine
- Ang(st) Zine
- Omelette Mag
HOPKINSON: What is your favorite part of being on staff with Siyaah Qalam Akhbar?
Abbas (Editor-in-Chief): The team members are very hardworking, dedicated, enthusiastic and encouraging.
Aamna Khan (Managing Editor): It’s the first magazine of its kind in Pakistan. Reading the submissions makes me proud to be a part of a venture that gives writers and artists the courage to voice their opinions and stand up for what is right, especially in a country which is known to suppress its people.
Zoya Raza (Sub-Editor): At Siyaah Qalam, I have probably learnt more creative skills in a few months’ time than I did anywhere else, which is true for practically every member here. The need
for a constantly developing creative process is what keeps us going and that stimulation is the thing that I likely look forward to the most every day.
Elishba Safdar (Editor – English Prose): The atmosphere and the people allow you to grow. We’re all friends, but at SQA we treat each other with this certain level of professionalism and also respect. Everyone works together. We build each other instead of tearing each other down.
Angel Safdar: (Editor – English Poetry): I absolutely love that everyone in the team has a room to grow (both on a personal and professional level), and the best part is that we all have creative freedom. None of us are bound to certain rules when it comes to creativity or expressing our views.
Akhtar Mirza (Editor – Urdu): Reading and writing cater each other but also they run counter to each other; this Akhbar has taken the initiative to give reading material to help writers and a platform for them to be published. That’s what I liked about it.
Areesha Sampson (Copy Editor): The diversity and inclusion of all sorts of issues and topics are perhaps the biggest reason why I love working for this Akhbar.
Omamah Arif Mir (Content Coordinator): You learn. You learn from incredible people about literature and art. We all get to work towards expanding this safe space for writers, we get to experience and write in it. What’s better than that?
Zarnab Tufail (Art Editor): It’s the first LGBTQIA+ friendly and unbiased literary magazine of Pakistan. I love that!
Ghufran Khalid (Editor – Current Affairs): The team is very understanding, patient and supporting.
HOPKINSON: Where can we send submissions?
STAFF: For the print magazine, you can send submissions at email@example.com. For social media submissions, you can DM us on Instagram (@siyaahqalam) or email us with the subject: Social Media Submission. Go to our website https://siyaahqalamakhbar.wordpress.com/submissions/ for submission guidelines.
HOPKINSON: If someone has a question, how can they contact you?
SUBMISSION FEE: None
FORMS: prose, poetry, sketches, photography, political views
FORMAT: print, social media
SUBMISSION METHOD: Email