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Thoughts from the Arts Editor

When I was a kid, I used to read this children’s magazine called OWL. I got a subscription from my aunt for Christmas—and you know, at first, I wasn’t overly thrilled. “Reading materials” tend not to appear in all that many young children’s Letters To Santa. (I’m reminded here of Cousin Eddie’s advice to Clark Griswold, upon receiving, in lieu of a bonus paycheck, a membership to the Jelly-Of-The-Month Club: “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”)

Soon enough, though, OWL made a believer outta me. As the third-week mark of each month neared, my anticipation for the new issue’s arrival would swell. I’d race off the school bus, the mailbox’s miniature red flag raised to indicate the potential booty waiting within its tin dome. Needless to say, from this eagerly-conducted after-school ritual, a loathing of bills was fostered quite early. But, eventually, after enough disappointment had been suffered and enough driveway doo-wop had been sung (“Please Mister Postman, look and see/Is there an OWL in your bag for me?”), my new magazine would arrive. The accompanying joy was largely tactile: the paper, the ink, even the staples in the centrefold had a distinct and familiar feel, look, smell and taste. (Scratch that last one—I wasn’t one of those kids who eats weird stuff when dared at recess. I swear I wasn’t; I swear.)

But I didn’t just hold the thing, of course. I didn’t just stare at it, or sniff it— and I didn’t just eat it, either! I read it, carefully, closely, cover-to-cover. Over time, I came to relish each issue’s predictable unpredictability. Each month, the magazine was the same—only different. On a macro level, they were all nearly identical—but on a micro level, no two were alike at all. And there was something so comforting in this regular, reliable structure. I knew just what features would be found on page 9, and just what features would be found on page 16. And I knew—boy, did I ever—just what features would be found in the back pages.

There, in the back, each OWL had an assortment of games and activities, but my favourite was a recurring item called “What If.” Each month, the magazine would publish one reader-submitted “What If” hypothetical, along with a cartoon depiction of said hypothetical illustrated by a professional artist. This, in my childhood perspective, was the peak of publishing—and so, one Sunday afternoon, I sat at the rarely-used plastic desk in the corner of my bedroom and, slowly but surely, hammered out a handwritten list of (hilarious, I hoped) hypotheticals. I brought it to my parents, and, with their assistance, sealed the list in a stamped and addressed envelope, which I left in our mailbox, reversing the demands of our mailman—He giveth, and He taketh away—and off that list went, headed for the Big City (and home of my beloved Maple Leafs): Toronto.

For many weeks I received no response. I started to wonder if the list had been lost in the incomprehensible intricacies of the Canadian postal system, or worse: read by the OWL Editors and thrown straight in the trash. But one day, a large envelope appeared in our mailbox, return address signalling it had come from the OWL Headquarters. I ripped it open, and inside, found a new issue of the magazine. Something was up—I knew the next issue wasn’t due for at least a week-and-a-half.

Even still, the memory plays out in slow motion. I opened the magazine, headed straight for its back pages. Flipped, scanned, searched, until I spotted an all-too-familiar sight. “What if …” the caption began, “You could write with your finger?” (I cannot decide whether to be proud or ashamed that this was the creative apex my 9-year-old self was capable of.) There was a cartoon, too, depicting someone whose finger ended in a pen-like point, but beneath that, there it was, it really was there even after a headshake and an eye rub, there it was (in bold letters to boot!): BY RYAN GAIO.

My name. Had appeared. In OWL Magazine.  

Word got to my teacher, and to the principal after that, and a photocopy of my “What If” appearance was thumbtacked to the corkboard in the foyer of my elementary school. Not quite the thrill that’ll gitcha if ya get yer pitcha on the cover of the Rolling Stone—but not not a thrill, either.

And here I am now, too many years later to admit, helping to put together a magazine myself. And maybe—just maybe—you’ll come to find this magazine around campus, or downtown, and will come to know the tactile joy in its distinct and familiar paper, its ink, the staples in its centrefold. Maybe you’ll come to know its feel, look, and smell. (Maybe even its taste, but I don’t recommend it.)

And maybe you won’t just hold this magazine, either. Maybe you’ll read it, carefully, closely, cover-to-cover. We’ll have regularly-occurring features, too, and maybe you’ll come to know them, will come to relish their predictable unpredictability. Maybe we’ll make a believer outta you, and your anticipation will swell, as you eagerly search the library or your residence or your favourite coffee

shop downtown for each new issue. Maybe—just maybe—this magazine of ours—The Brunswickan Canada’s oldest official student publicationcan become to you something like what OWL once was to me.   

What if?

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