Dear Journal provides forum for the underrepresented

Dunja Kovacevic and Laina Hughes, creators of Dear Journal. SUPPLIED/Dunja Kovacevic

Dunja Kovacevic and Laina Hughes, creators of Dear Journal. SUPPLIED/Dunja Kovacevic

A local feminist duo is joining the ranks of Canadian literary magazines such as Room and Canthius. Dunja Kovacevic and Laina Hughes are launching the first issue of Dear Journal this month to tell women’s stories through art, writing and photography.

“Women’s writing, particularly that which is considered ‘feminine,’ is often minimized and dismissed,” said Kovacevic in an email to The Projector. “We set out to create a publication that we would want to submit to, one that reflected values and stories that we could relate to.”

Women authors are taken less seriously than their male counterparts and the Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA) links this to disparities in critical reception. Their 2014 book review count suggests that books written by women take up just 39 per cent of reviews in prestigious literary journals and newspapers, while men account for about 57 per cent of reviewed authors.

Nationally, book reviewers have almost reached gender parity, but locally there’s a larger gap. At the Winnipeg Free Press, about 37 per cent of books are reviewed by women and 63 per cent are reviewed by men.

Kovacevic and Hughes both graduated with BAs in English from the University of Winnipeg and said they noticed male authors are privileged over female authors in academia.

“We read men because that’s what was expected of us. In coming to feminism (through experience, academia, or the Internet), we had to unlearn a lot– namely, how to—as writer Trisha Low puts it—‘come to terms with all of [our] literary dads’,” said Kovacevic.

Part of Dear Journal’s mission is to invite women, including transgender and non-binary identified folks, to tell their stories in a literary magazine.

“We wanted to emphasize the range of womanhood, experienced equally by those who currently identify as woman, as those who no longer identify as woman and those who are just beginning (or thinking of beginning) to explore that space,” she said.

More than 30 contributors are local, making up about half of Dear Journal, while the rest are international.

“We really wanted to resist privileging some experiences over others, so we hope that reflects a variety of perspectives and experiences,” said Kovacevic. “Our contributors range in age from about 18 to 30-something and geographically from Canada to Bulgaria.”

“The act of writing our lives as women is still radical,” said Kovacevic. “There are still experiences—abortion, abuse, menstruation, masturbating, mothering, whatever—that mainstream media does not represent or if they do, they censor heavily.”

In the US, women make up just 27 per cent of the creative workforce of writers, editors, producers, and photography directors on prime time television shows, according to Women’s Media Centre.

Dear Journal aims to elevate the confessional tradition of diary writing and journaling among women as a way to honour their lived experiences, said Kovacevic.

“We wanted to acknowledge and raise up that tradition,” she said. “It’s also a bit of a ‘side eye,’ if you will, at the usage of ‘dear’ as a diminutive or condescending term towards woman.”

While the issue doesn’t have a particular theme, a pattern began to emerge among the submissions, said Kovacevic.

“Many of the submissions deal with love, loss, parenting or being parented, explorations of self and self-worth, etc and so on. Oppression breeds similar experiences.”

“Ultimately, we’d like to create a community of contributors the world over who will respond and engage with one another’s work and a platform for minority voices.”

For more information about Dear Journal or to purchase a copy you can contact Dunja and Laina through email at