Interview with Shannon Christie

Shannon Christie is the Executive Director For Ragtag Magazine.

Shannon had the generosity to help us publish our first guest blog post.

Thank you so much Shannon!

As people of letters, we all have had conversations with people who wonder why we would spend our time doing something that is seen by many as out of style. In this case, I am referring to writing, and perhaps, longform writing more specifically. How have you responded to this dismissal, and how has this shaped your vision for Ragtag?

I think the pandemic offered a bit of a return to these forms that may have been considered out of style. I know that in my time spent alone, I devoured things I could read and learn from, and gain inspiration and insight from. I know I wasn’t alone in that alone-ness, either! That included magazines and blogs, which I could sit with and read from at my own pace better than I could a podcast, film or Youtube video. 

Ragtag essentially jumped on that return wave, but where we pivoted was our intentionality in building community. We’re PNW makers, writing for PNW people. We want folks to feel the excitement that comes with scrolling through our articles and seeing the business owner that’s a friend of a friend, or the street artist whose work someone might see all the time on their commute. We want that interconnectedness, and in a time where we may feel isolated, finding connectivity is more crucial than ever. I’m grateful some people have found that in Ragtag.

It’s pretty incredible what you have been able to create with Ragtag magazine. From the top down, the infrastructure you have helped put in place shows all the potential to be something very special. In an industry that is still plagued by cis-male dominance, and more generally, an inequitable playing field, how do you see the political, social, and cultural ramificaitons of your success with Ragtag now and going forward?

Thank you! I think to start, because we are overwhelmingly women- and LGBTQ+ run, there’s an inherent rebellion that we pose to these industries just by existing. Us continuing to be happy, making the things we want to make, is an act of self-love and social justice. An important message that I think gets lost is that we as LGBTQ+ makers should not feel pressured all the time to make work for the cause or somehow right all the wrongs society has done toward Queer folks; we already do a lot by living our truth. The responsibility should lie on cishet peoples’ shoulders to unlearn their biases and relearn how to treat people differently than them with respect, not on the shoulders of people who have to endure the disrespect every day. Whether you’re a bisexual poet that speaks out about Queer issues, or a trans baker that’s passionate about getting your sourdough recipe just right, you are enough. There’s room for you, and you deserve love and safety.

What I hope to see Ragtag be as it continues to grow is that haven for equitable expression. I want folks to feel empowered to share their stories with us, knowing that it’s safe in our hands. We recognize and want to take on the work that will allow us to become that. We also recognize that equitability doesn’t have a final destination, and that there’s always work to be done to become better friends, collaborators, and community members. I hope that in doing so, we can shake up the way that things are done in industries that have been historically exclusionary.

At Sunflower, we often talk about how the pandemic has opened the door for new ideas to emerge in ways they might not have been able to before. In some sense, the floodgates are open and we are dealing with an open palette. How has the pandemic influenced the Ragtag project, and what are your general feelings on the relationship between the pandemic and the creation of public art?

Ragtag is scrappy. We wanted that from the start. We feature people who are creative, resourceful, and innovative, and to get that off the ground in the middle of the pandemic we had to be- surprise- creative, resourceful, and innovative. In the beginning, it was a few Portlanders and I gathering socially-distanced around the firepit in the backyard of my childhood home; it’s partially why our logo is a campfire! As we grew, we started setting up laptops on chairs by the fire to have our out-of-town friends take part, too, and suddenly we could see the possibility of being the whole of the PNW, not just our city.

In our flurries of backyard brainstorming, we set intentional rules and boundaries for how we communicated and moved in a virtual space. Since we’re not a 9-5 physical office, we have the potential to be in every Ragtag team members’ pockets all the time, 24/7. I think we have a responsibility to not take advantage of that. Putting that to practice means prioritizing mental health, and knowing that in these- I am so sick of hearing this word but- “unprecedented” times, it’s unreasonable to ask people to function exactly the way they were before shit hit the fan. If you need to be late on a deadline for the sake of getting 8 hours of sleep at night, then by all means please do it. 

I think that’s where the pandemic really influences the creation of art in general. I do believe we’ve hit a point-of-no-return in the way we approach working, one that isn’t necessarily negative. Again, it’s unreasonable to expect people to function like everything’s been fine this whole time, and the pandemic has given many of us the lesson that we need boundaries set on ourselves and each other to stay happy. As artists, we are production-driven, and unfortunately in the age of the internet we’re expected to churn out work as if it’s as easy as breathing. I don’t want to say that the pandemic brought anything positive, because we have lost and faced so many negative things in such a short time, but if this is finally our opportunity to put our foot down and give a firm “no” to sacrificing our sanity for content, then carpe diem, I suppose. 

I hope, going forward, this means that more people make art that’s more meaningful to them, even if the only meaning behind it is that the artist found a lot of joy in making it. I also hope that joy becomes the compass for more of us creators, and that what truly feels like a “yes” or a “no” within ourselves to move forward with making is calibrated more accurately. 

Lastly, what has been the weirdest thing to experience again now that the world has (for better or worse) returned to a place of relative normalcy?

I think it’s the time between the reunions with loved ones, and then getting used to people once more, that’s just a little strange. There’s been so much anticipation for the first moments we’re all able to see each other again; I know I spent a lot of time in 2020 thinking about what it’d be like to hug my friends for the first time post-pandemic. There’s also been lots of anticipation for getting completely past the pandemic and being able to move on fully with the rest of our lives. But I don’t think people really fantasized about the space in between those two things, and that space is here right now. 

I’m seeing people again pretty regularly, but there’s something electric about it that hasn’t shaken off yet, and I mean that both negatively and positively. There’s residual fear and anxiety that sometimes triggers, and I find myself needing to mentally go “it’s okay, you’re fine here.” But in the positive, there’s joy and novelty in being with community again that feels fresh and exciting, and I’m seeing that manifest in conversations lingering for minutes longer, in sitting side-by-side with loved ones and not minding if you’re touching knee-to-knee, and in full-body hugs that seem to collapse into one another. That’s pretty lovely.

Thanks for the words Shannon.

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