One of my favorite moments from Pride Fest 2022 was when I got to hold my very own copy of the premier issue of The Lavender, Champaign-Urbana's new queer newsletter. Along with a calendar of events for the month, fantastic illustrations by @blushboi_, monthly "homoscopes" featuring random poetry-style messaging presented in analog collaged sentences, the reader learns that The Lavender was inspired by and born out of the history of The Lavender Prairie, a C-U lesbian publication that ran between the 1990s and 2000s. In the editors' note, Jada Fulcher and Sophie West write how it was a "lifeline to queer people in all of Central Illinois." Shuttered by the internet, but not forgotten, The Lavender "exists as an extension of Chambana's queer legacy, and it exists as a place to embrace all queer identities that this town has to offer."


With the November issue now available and December's in the works, I reached out to the folx at The Lavender to learn what inspires them, how things have been going, and what's in store for the coming year. In true team style, they shared the interview duty to maximize the number of voices and perspectives. In addition to co-editors Jada Fulcher (she/they) and Sophie West (they/them), you'll meet and hear from graphic designers Toby Kutz (they/him) and Meghan Faulkner (she/her). And when you're done, find out how you can get your own copy of The Lavender. Or better yet, how you can get involved. 

 

Smile Politely: How did you first learn about The Lavender Prairie?

Jada Fulcher: Around June of 2022 I saw the Urbana Free Library posting some of its archives on its Instagram. I thought the idea of a queer publication like that was so cool, and the more research Sophie and I did on it confirmed that it was something we wanted to see more of.

Sophie West: I learned about it in June, when Jada told me about a lesbian newsletter feature they’d seen at Urbana Free Library. We both thought it sounded really cool, and went to the library archives to learn more.

SP: In what ways do you see The Lavender being similar and different from it?

Fulcher: The biggest changes are probably to the audience and the content. Rather than being a publication for lesbians and being very women-centric, The Lavender’s audience is the entirely of Chambana’s queer community and embraces the entirety of the gender spectrum. Content-wise, the original was largely an event calendar with small segments of writing here and there, but we’ve sought to make The Lavender more interactive so the local community can really see themselves in our work.

West: Both publications feel really community-centered! The Lavender Prairie particularly inspired us in terms of their monthly events page and emphasis on local resources and mutual aid for women and queer people. While The Lavender Prairie felt specifically aimed at women, I hope The Lavender feels like a publication for all queer folks regardless of gender expression.

SP: You debuted your first issue at Pride and now you've released your second issue. What has the response been so far?

West: So far, so good. It’s still early stages, but everything we’ve heard has been very lovely and positive. Folks seem excited to see where this takes us.

Toby Kutz: So far the responses have been positive. It’s been fun to try new things with the newsletter and get feedback from our community. I’m looking forward to growing the newsletter and seeing how we can make it even better for ourselves and our subscribers.

SP: What have been some of the challenges and/or surprises? What have been some of the lessons learned?

West: We learned a lot since our first issue. We are making it more colorful, more interactive, hopefully a little more fun. So much felt conceptual before the first issue launched, and now we’re all settling into the reality of a monthly publishing routine.
 

Black and white illustration of lavender and wildflowers with the words

SP: How do you see The Lavender evolving in 2023? Any new features? What new territory would you like to conquer?

West: I would love to see our issues in public libraries, for us to have a website and not rely on Patreon for online distribution, more community engagement/interaction, and wherever else 2023 takes us!

SP: What have the editorial and publication processes looked like so far?

West: It’s a lot of teamwork, a lot of brainstorming/workshopping, and definitely a lot of learning. Each issue teaches us something new, both in terms of future creative potential and ways to make our lives easier. It’s also been really lovely to learn more about each other as a team and how to best support one another.

SP: What kind of an impact do you hope to make in the local queer community?

West: I want every queer person in Chambana to feel like they have a platform on which they can share their voice. I am also very excited about the idea of creating a print record/written archive of our beautiful local queer community.

Kutz: I just hope that people see our newsletter and feel a little less alone. We have a bustling queer community, and people should know about it!

Megan Faulkner: My hope for The Lavender is that it comes to serve as not just a newsletter, but a place of joy, community, and retreat for all queer folk, regardless of age, race, gender expression, or identity. I see it becoming a platform in which the queer experience and worldview is given a spotlight, and is allowed to shine within a world largely centered around heteronormativity.

SP: In addition to subscribing, how else would you like members of the community to get involved?

Fulcher: Write for us! We would love to be able to publish poetry, fiction, op-eds, and journalism from people in our community. I think that’s the truest way we can connect with the community, but having their voices heard in the most direct way possible: letting them speak.

SP: Anything else you'd like our readers (and yours) to know?

West: How truly grateful we are for them!

SP: How can readers learn more or reach out to you?

West: Folks are welcome to follow us and DM on our Instagram @thelavendernewsletter. That's a great place to start learning more. Or you can email us at [email protected] with any questions, comments, etc. We would love to hear from you.

Find out how you to get digital or print copies of The Lavender here.

Top image from The Lavender's Instagram.