Our Origins: Why is Niche here?

By Katya Cummins

If someone had told at the onset of my college career that in four years I would opt out of attending a prestigious MFA program in creative writing and instead graduate into a depressed job market, I would have laughed. I had wanted to attend an MFA program in creative writing since I was eleven years old, but had not prepared to be rejected by almost every MFA I applied to. Wounded pride prevented me from seeking alternative career options, leaving me with a job that was set to expire at the end of the summer and five months until I entered repayment on loans. In other words, I was in the same boat as the thousands of students who had graduated with me. I moved back in with my parents and began the demoralizing search for a job.

During one sleepless night, I asked myself what I really wanted from my life, besides becoming a published and well respected author, and the thought of starting a literary magazine surfaced. I could be a publisher. The idea thrilled me but fear followed immediately. I feared people would find me pretentious once they learned I had less than six publications to my name and few connections to the publishing world. I was not arrogant enough to believe I knew anything about running a literary magazine. A fifteen-year love affair with writing, four years of writing workshops, and inexhaustible support from my family and mentor, had given me confidence in my ability to recognize quality work, but I realized being passionate was only half of it. Founding a literary magazine also required knowledge of business management, a team of artists and designers, an outgoing personality, and the courage to become an entrepreneur. I tried to push it from my mind, but the idea was still there come morning, and I found myself confessing it to my family that afternoon. My parents were enthusiastic. They’ve always believed that if someone followed their life passion, it would lead to good things.

“That’s a great idea! What would it be called?”

Niche,” I said. “The idea is to create a place where many literary philosophies, and several artistic forms can coexist. No exclusions.”

I explained that several of the literary magazines that I’d been submitting to seemed to have their own aesthetic biases and I wanted to build a place where genre didn’t matter. I was sure Niche would eventually find its unique voice but I wanted it to start an inclusive magazine, as a place where art could simply belong, be discovered and appreciated. I had no doubt that I could assemble a team of talented artists who were dedicated, and possessed just enough crazy to give a literary magazine a shot. Yet, despite my parents and friends’ enthusiasm and instant support, I was still struggling against personal fears and kept casting the idea aside. But dozens of applications and several interviews later, I was still jobless and now an emotional wreck. In the past, I had held a retail job for less than three months and something told me that taking a conventional seven-to-five job was not for me, but I was unsure what other choices were left to me. Earning degrees in English Literature had taught me excellent communication skills, while earning a degree in creative writing had taught me the true meaning behind Oscar Wilde’s infamous phrase that “all art is useless.”

I sought a reality check.

“I think you should be putting all your time and energy behind Niche,” my mom said.

“We’ll be willing to invest some money into it since this a business but you have to decide if running a magazine is something you really want to do.”

My parents were serious about their support, my friends were serious about committing to the project, and I realized it was time to conquer my fears and get serious as well. If I wanted to launch a successful literary magazine I’d have to put all my efforts behind it.

On the same day that I launched Niche’s website, Evanescence’s new single, “Do What You Want” was released. I took it as a sign from the universe that I was following the right path at last.

This post was originally published on Niche’s website on September 24th, 2011.

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