October marks the end of the quarterly publication The Siem Reader, the popular literary magazine published by expats mainly for expats. Filled with everything from poems to short stories to film reviews, The Siem Reader was founded two years ago by a group of expat friends with a creative bent, who sadly are now going their separate ways.
“The Siem Reader started as an idea over a couple of beers in early 2011,” says one of the co-editors Clementina Velasco, who founded the magazine along with fellow NGO workers Megan Smith and Sol DeLeon, plus fashion designer Leigh Morlock and teacher Kitty Williams. Deb Schapp joined soon after.
“Megan and I had both been involved in various creative projects prior to coming to Siem Reap, and got talking about how so many projects outside of our work lives here end up having an awful lot of cross over with work,” she says.
“We decided to get together a small group of like-minded friends to start something different, and see what we could put together. Reminiscing about some of the projects we'd been involved in before, we came up with the idea of a small literary magazine, so decided to give it a shot. Art for art's sake! We certainly didn't envisage that two and half years later, it would still be going strong.”
But while The Siem Reader proved popular, the time has come for the band of editors to part.
“We never set out to become a long-term project,” Velasco explains, “It all started with one issue and just snowballed from there. We're really proud of what The Siem Reader has achieved but with changing work roles in our editorial team and increasing travel plans over the past year, it was getting harder to put together.
“We toyed with the idea of handing it over to someone else, but decided we'd prefer to wrap it up while still going strong and go out with a bang. Part of the energy of The Siem Reader team comes from the fact that we had started from scratch.”
The concept of the handbag-sized periodical was a magazine designed to bring together the talented creatives of Siem Reap, says Velasco, and give them “something to talk about besides the usual conversations about perils and pitfalls of NGO work, and comparing life in Cambodia to their home countries.”
It was published in English and aimed at the English-speaking expat community, although the editors have also welcomed contributions from Khmers and expat students learning English, she says.
Funded by a small group of regular advertisers, the magazine was available free in various cafes, restaurants and popular expat hangouts in Siem Reap. Five hundred copies have been produced every quarter, and it has also been published online.
Velasco says there have been many amazing submissions over the years, and that some of the pieces really got tongues wagging.
Personal highlights of mine include an hilarious piece by communications officer Vicky Pateman about the enchanting effects of a Barry Manilow song.
Velasco citesThe Siem Reader's collaboration with Angkor Art Explo in 2011, where people were invited to write on a large sheet of paper on the wall what they thought Siem Reap looked, sounded and smelled like.
“I loved the collaborative writing pieces, such as our collaboration as part of the Angkor Art Explo in 2011, and the Write in Me books that were dotted around town last year,” she says. “Both were as much about the process of collecting everyone's words and thoughts as the writing that came out of them.
“Reading short stories and poems by friends or just people we knew around town was always interesting, and a good opportunity to see a different side to familiar personalities. A former editor, Sol, wrote a new take on the topic of saying goodbye in Issue 5, which we all loved, and it's an optional theme we're sticking with for our final issue.”
She adds, “While we're ready to wrap up our final issue and go out with a bang, we know there are so many new and exciting creative developments happening in Siem Reap. We're looking forward to seeing what follows in The Siem Reader's footsteps.”
Reapers wishing to submit pieces for the magazine’s final bumper issue can email: [email protected]. Deadline is September 8. As well as creative writing items, the editors also welcome original artwork and photographs.