Confeitaria is a dynamic Brazilian publisher
The Portuguese word confeitaria means a confection or candy store where sweets are made and/or sold. This post involves sweets of the artistic or literary type. The Confeitaria referred to here is a website/magazine/collective/publisher based in Brazil and founded in 2012 by Fabiane Secches and Flávia Stefani Resende. The following is an interview with Fabiane in which we discuss independent art, literature and publishing specifically in Brazil but also more generally. This is the first interview in a series for Real Pants about what is going on with certain independent small presses, writers, artists and creators in Brazil at this moment. Enjoy.
On the “About” page of Confeitaria the site is described as being inspired by other sites such as McSweeney’s and The Rumpus. Can you give some background about Confeitaria and what direction it has taken since 2012 (publishing online content, books, etc…)?
Recently, I read a great line describing a website about music and culture: “An ear for the new, a heart for the classics.” This fits us, too. What we have been publishing over these past four years is not necessarily news — this is not our goal. Our real interest is to publish fiction, poetry, articles, essays and interviews that are relevant, and maybe atemporal. Eventually, during this process, we made room for new talents, not because they are new, but because they are meaningful, in some way, to us.
However, it’s fair to say that we are not in the same place we were when we began. A lot has changed since then. When we started Confeitaria, it was a simple idea: we wanted to create a place on the internet where a group of authors could write about what was appealing to them, a place where they could take some time to share their thoughts and words, where they could organize their ideas and develop them, a place where they could have authorial columns (maybe something like Medium is now doing on a large-scale). In that time, it was somewhat rare to find good places online to read fiction, poetry and essays in Brazil. There were a lot of interesting websites talking about the latest news, but only a handful were interested in discussing truly relevant themes further. This scene has changed today. Now, fortunately, we have some good cultural, social and political websites in Brazil with deep and vertical content for different kinds of public.
About our background — we have published more than 600 pieces online. We have also published an anthology of flash fiction called Love — Short Stories (Amor; Pequenas Estórias) — in which each story was written and illustrated by a different writer/artist. Later, we went on to publish a collection of poems and photographs (Não conheço ninguém que não seja artista) that composed a very interesting dialogue — they were crafted together in a rich exchange process between writer Ana Guadalupe, one of Brazil’s greatest new poetry voices, and by the skilled photographer Camila Svenson. This project was really darling to me.
A few months ago, we published our third project, something like a journal — a fanzine — called Time — Lost and Found (Tempo — Achados e Perdidos). It was also illustrated with paintings from artist Thiago Thomé. From a small website/publishing house standpoint, producing these three titles was an enormous challenge. And also a wonderful, complicated journey through the Brazilian independent publishing world.
Maybe the one thing that hasn’t really changed since we started Confeitaria is the belief that words and images are a great pair and can work extremely well together, possibly going places that individually they are unable to reach. We also still firmly believe in the idea of a real collective, a plurality of voices and ideas. But now we also have found a personality as Confeitaria, with political and ethical convictions purposefully upheld by us.
How did you get all of the different writers, artists and others involved with Confeitaria?
In the beginning, we started with a small group of friends and friends of friends. First, I invited my dear friend Flávia Stefani Resende, who is also a very sharp writer, and together we started to think about all the different people we knew and admired in some way, people who would like to write or draw about different things, with different styles, backgrounds and interests. Then Thiago Thomé joined us as the art editor and the project continued to evolve. I love that we (authors and illustrators of Confeitaria) are completely different as individuals and yet have managed to come this far together.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on the independent literature and arts scene in Brazil right now, especially in Sao Paulo.
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. I mean, we have a lot of talented voices emerging, a really busy independent literature and art scene here today. A lot of good independent fairs and new small publishing houses working non-stop to make things happen and it is a joy to be part of this in some way. In these four years, I have had the privilege of getting to know gifted and hard-working people and I’m grateful for it. On the other hand, we are living during a very difficult time in our country, going through a huge political and economic crisis. The editorial scene is still fragile from a commercial perspective. Some important bookstores and publishing houses are closing. But we have reasons to persist. When it come to books, I am personally a believer. Before being an editor at Confeitaria, I am a reader and although changes may happen and cycles may come to an end, I will still remain a reader. This is one of the few things that won’t change throughout my life.
You have mentioned Ana Guadalupe already as one of “Brazil’s great new poetry voices” and I would definitely agree. I consider Ana a friend and have worked with her for the last few years on various projects. Can you give me some of your other favorite Brazilian writers/artists and why they are your favorites? It is my hope that these interviews will help to give more exposure to Brazilian writers and artists.
In poetry, we have Angélica Freitas, Ana Martins Marques, Alice Sant’Anna, Laura Erber and Matilde Campilho, who is not Brazilian (she was born in Portugal), but has lived and blossomed as a poetry writer in Rio de Janeiro. As a notable writer in Portuguese, I feel I have to mention her work too. With essays, the journalist Juliana Cunha is one of my favorites. Her texts are very clear and she is really sharp. In novels, Daniel Galera and Michel Laub are great storytellers. They are not “new” but well worth considering. One of my favorite novels from the past few years is Galera’s Barba Ensopada de Sangue (published by Companhia das Letras in Brazil). In novels, we also have Tatiana Salem Levy with A Chave de Casa and Ana Luisa Escorel with O Anel de Vidro. And I have to mention my friend Flávia Stefani Resende again here. She is now living in San Francisco, CA, and studying Creative Writing at SFSU as a MFA candidate. Flávia is writing her first novel and I really like what I have read from it so far. About independent publishing houses, I think that A Bolha Editora and Arte & Letra are doing a serious and consistent job. We also have Feira Plana (created by Bia Bittencourt), the most important event involving and about independent publishers in Brazil, and others small fairs such as Feira Miolo(s) and Ugra Fest.
Confeitaria had a store that sold a wide range of books, notebooks, posters, prints, etc… from what looks like your contributors. Can you explain more about the store?
The store was an enriching experience, especially for me as a curator. It was also an attempt to honor and indirectly reward the work of writers and artists who collaborated in some way with Confeitaria. Since Confeitaria is an independent and small project it is hard to formally compensate its collaborators. In the beginning we were enthusiastic about the store, but we faced several obstacles that ended up being an impediment in the current scenario. We would need to have a larger team in order to efficiently respond to all the emails we received as well as shipping and having a safer delivery system. As the postal service could not guarantee that the products would arrive in a timely manner and fully in tact, we have decided to leave the store closed for now.
Confeitaria does not have ads…how is Confeitaria sustainable financially or is it? Does Confeiteria pay their writers or contributors?
Confeitaria was not conceived to be a company. It was conceived to be a side project since the beginning. We all had and continue to have our full-time jobs and we carry the website and its projects as time permits. As the internet supports an open business model and our costs have always been low, we are able to manage Confeitaria in this way for the past four years. We have had proposals from business partners but it is hard to have autonomy of content and editorial freedom in a sponsored model. So we have decided to go another way and stay independent as those were essential principles for us. We have never made any profit with Confeitaria. We have made small profits for Confeitaria projects though, as our publications have paid for themselves and allowed us to invest in re-editions and improvements in the website. Any profits we have made have been reinvested into Confeitaria. We have upgraded the architecture (UX), website programming and layout as well as authorial content with proprietary rights among other things. If Confeitaria had been born with the objective to be an editorial business, then maybe our path would have been different. However, it was more a consequence rather than a business plan. In this sense, I don’t think we are a model for anyone. Confeitaria has been successful during these years — the number of website visitors and collaborators has increased substantially, our publications have been well received by readers and critics, and we accomplished important projects for Confeitaria as a whole. But if the measure is profit, then we are definitively not a good model to be followed.
I am interested to know more about your experience publishing the books especially in regards to a part of your answer from the first question: “From a small website/publishing house standpoint, producing these three titles was an enormous challenge. And also a wonderful, complicated journey through the Brazilian independent publishing world”
We live in a country (Brazil) where the habit of reading is confronted by social inequalities and a high index of illiteracy. The economic crisis of the past years that was recently aggravated brought a concerning level of unemployment. In a country where books are not quite a tradition, we cannot hope for a very optimistic scenario. It is natural that people have other priorities during such hard times. So we have several challenges to overcome, both cultural and economic. Anyhow, I believe in the importance of literature even to help cope with such crises as these, which makes projects that stimulate reading even more important.
This interview was conducted via email over the course of a few weeks in February/March 2016 and mainly in English. Special thanks to Fabiane and Nathalia Pastor for help with translations. Any errors in the text are mine. All images courtesy of Fabiane, Confeitaria and Juliana Vomero. -Jeremy
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