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The editors* of The Lark met in 2003, at a public arts school. As Creative Writing majors, we were full of all the piss, vinegar, and unshakable curiosity that teenagers possess. We were lucky enough to find ourselves in a nurturing, challenging, multi-disciplinary environment. There, we began developing ideas about collaboration, access, process, and experience. We started Working Together then, and haven’t stopped since, despite our lives taking us miles apart from one another. Informed by our longstanding relationship as creative collaborators, and by our eventual physical distance from each other, it’s little wonder we ended up here, both under and atop the wings of The Lark.
I mention this today because The Lark is, as has been mentioned, in a space of transition, growth; of tectonic activity. It will always be like this, for it must always be like this. The Lark is, in more ways than one, a testament to things always being a work in progress. This one, we feel, is in progress towards the ideals of being a flexible, expansive container, and one that is always prepared to adapt; to inform as well as to be informed.
Much of this is growth and movement is happening behind the scenes. It is both structural and conceptual: the whole weight of this great animal is slowly turning over, re-adjusting, letting out a grand sigh, to speak a truer version of their name. And because of the nature of this transition, it is, at times, difficult to talk about comprehensively. The changes represent a shift in thinking. So the best way to explain it is maybe to talk around it a bit.
When we, your trouble-making editors*, were youths in art school together, our class was assigned a project: create a book of free-writing exercises, the likes of which began each class, with every student writing for ten to twenty minutes on a given prompt. This was an attempt to get the junk out and the energy moving, as well as, I think now, a way to teach us all the value of our own voices while exposing us to the powerful, formative magic that comes from hearing thirty wildly different pieces that come from the same seed.
At the time of the book assignment, we’d all written to hundreds of these prompts, just as every class before us had done for two decades previous. From this tradition, there were thousands upon thousands of models to look to for guidance.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about the final product. It was probably thoroughly mediocre. But today, as I was sitting in a little bar here in Maine, I wished I’d had such a project to refer to. I needed to get the junk out and could have used a little guidance. But, I thought, if I were to make such a book of prompts now, well, it wouldn’t be printed; it would be fully digital. And what an incredible resource and history that we now have. What if all those exercises from decades of writing students weren’t all archived on a shelf in a distant classroom, but instead living somewhere in the midst of a growing, responsive collective? What if they could be tagged, categorized, and manipulated as elastic data, so that a person seeking a writing prompt could read them at random, one by one, or read each group as written by the author, or search them by style, content, or genre?
After all, we’re talking about a digital project here, so what if responses to this work could also be uploaded, to create the experience of reading dozens of pieces made from the same bit of text, yet all different?
Actually, screw uploading.
Works could respond to one another. Refine the prompts together. At this point, the prompts no longer need to be textual—they could be visual and auditory, as could the responses. The prompts themselves could be a collaborative act, a kind of exquisite corpse in dialogue with the responders. And all of this in the spirit of free-writing—low-barrier, no finished product required, all held in a digital container, rich with history but ever-lasting and interactive and alive—!
That process is something close to what The Lark has been through in the last year, only multiplied by several minds with different skill sets. Thanks to Em’s commitment to and curiosity about digital structure—informed by a radical, critical examination of it—and Laine's own background in arts and humanities programming, as well as our mutual love of Collaboration, community, boundary-investigating and dialogue, The Lark develops, flies ever farther, and for some reason decides to return to our windowsill.
In part, the upcoming changes are a result of shifting conceptual interests, in part they are due to the kind of conversations we are interested in facilitating, as well as the energy that is rocketing around us spiritually and politically. As these changes take shape, we’ll be in touch with you all. For now, know that our focus right now is on building a reliable container for artistic conversation, and soon everyone—you and us—will have more autonomy, more influence, and above all, more community, when encountering and engaging with The Lark.
Forthcoming are a few major changes. In part, the change will be financial. Consistent funding, despite our best efforts, has remained elusive. I doubt this will surprise any of you. So the bad news is this: this is the last episode of The Lark in which we can promise payment stipends. The good news, however, remains: as we undergo this huge alchemy with which we are working presently, then by the time of the following issue, there will be more opportunities for us all to support each other, to make decisions, to have a voice that involves your work, others’ work, and the readers at large, and that influence will not merely be financially. It’s hard to describe when a new world is on the horizon. But we know that you’ll know it when you see it—you’ll feel it.
In the meantime, thank you for being here with us. Through our flexing and our blunders, through the mistakes from our earnest efforts, through our fidgeting, successes, and cumulative shock at the extraordinary response we have had these past many months. We love you, and it must go without saying that The Lark could not exist without your language, your images, your ideas.
Thank you for fueling us, for feeding us, with this.
L.K. and E.H.,