An art and literature zine distributed around the country is created right here in Baton Rouge

Some say they first saw the owl splayed on a table in a Mid City antiques shop beside a stack of vintage nonfiction. Others say they saw it staring from a magazine rack in a Perkins Road cafe, catching scone crumbs in its beak. And others still say that it wasn’t an owl at all that they saw, but a jackalope, and all the way in Los Angeles. 

Of course, that depends on what time of year they spotted the cover of Fine Print, the literary and visual arts publication set for its second release of the year this October. Each biannual issue features a different artist’s illustration on the cover, an image chosen to help reflect the literature inside. 

And those issues seem to commence at a rapid pace for the passion project created by graphic designer and editor-in-chief Christopher Payne, who originally fostered the idea while living in Los Angeles back in 2011. After a couple of early editions on photocopied pages, Payne started the publication up again in 2015, this time in its current newsprint format.

When Payne moved to Baton Rouge in 2021, he brought his role as editor with him, working from home and communicating with his team of volunteer editors to compile each issue and print them at Baton Rouge Press. 

“I was inspired by a similar, now-defunct publication, Mother’s News, that I discovered in Rhode Island,” Payne says. “I liked the idea of creating something at the intersection of highbrow literary journals and DIY zines—especially something with a ‘found object’ vibe that people could stumble upon in the wild and be inspired by.”

The mission has thus far been successful, with copies available wherever members of the Fine Print masthead may roam, networking with independent bookshops and other cultural centers in places like North Carolina, New Mexico and California. Baton Rouge, however, remains the hub for the submission-based publication. 

Inside each issue, readers will find a curation of poetry, prose, artwork, interviews and the enigmatic, zodiac-based “Letters to the Elements” written by local poet and managing editor Dylan Krieger, a Notre Dame graduate who earned her MFA in creative writing from LSU.

“Chris knew a friend of mine from college, Omar, who is still on our masthead, so I first got involved by submitting to Fine Print and getting published with them,” says Krieger, who now helps edit submissions for each issue. “Before I got involved, they had even published a Chilean poet, Raúl Zurita, who I had actually seen at a reading at Notre Dame. I just thought that was amazing; it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to include the voices of talented people who otherwise might not be as common in traditional literary magazines.”

For Payne, this emphasis on accessibility and diversity is part of what sustains his push to carry on the publication after all these years, even if the money to do so has come from his own pockets at times. Still, he welcomes donations, submissions and ad placements from supporters, and looks forward to evolving the press in broader directions, from hosting events to distributing more art objects like Krieger’s vinyl-recorded poetry readings.

“It’s cool that we’ve been able to create this cross-pollination between artistic communities in Baton Rouge and across the country,” he says. “I love reaching people who aren’t necessarily deep in the art or writing scene—to be able to create something that might impact them in a positive way is part of why we do this.” fineprintpaper.com

This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue of 225 magazine.