Long before Jenine Boisits began serving customers at 7-Eleven and Cappelletti in Sag Harbor, she was giving voice to new writers from all over North America and even a few from overseas. Now she’s poised to do it again.
Boisits’ completely self-financed literary magazine for new and unpublished talent, Beginnings, was a labor of love that had grown from a small upstart out of her Shirley home in 1999 to one of Writer’s Digest’s Top 30 Fiction Markets in 2002 and 2003. The magazine was so popular and revered by its readers and contributors that Ingram Content Group, the world’s largest book and magazine distributor, came to Boisits seeking to distribute it in 2003.
She created a website and managed to register Beginnings Publishing Inc. as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, a status it maintains, but it wasn’t enough to keep her dream alive.
In spite of Boisits’ successes and many dedicated readers, she could no longer afford the great expense that came with printing Beginnings—an advertising-free endeavor funded only by subscriptions and produced during precious free time between her day job and raising two children. “I’d do like four hours while they were in school,” Boisits says, adding later that, “with a heavy heart,” she was forced to stop publishing in 2007.
At that time, Beginnings was the one and only literary journal dedicated exclusively to the new writer. Nothing like it has appeared since to fill the gaping hole the magazine left behind.
“If I had more money I could’ve been more successful,” Boisits explains, proving true that old adage, “You’ve got to have money to make money,” even when she only wanted enough to keep printing and put it in the hands of those new writers so desperate to be heard in a world fraught with rejection and frustration.
Over the better part of a decade after publishing her last issue, Boisits maintained her website, literarybeginnings.org, but otherwise remained in mourning for “her baby” and did little to resuscitate it. Little, that is, until she moved to Sag Harbor and showed old copies of Beginnings to the right person.
Perhaps it was fate that led her husband Pete to befriend and work for artist and printmaker Dan Welden, the man who Boisits credits with sparking her desire to return to her life’s great passion.
“All Jenine needed was a little encouragement for that wonderful inspiration she has,” Welden says, acknowledging his small role in what he and Boisits—and new writers everywhere—hope will be the journal’s revival.
Beginnings was born after Boisits, then a fledgling writer, sent for a sample of a literary journal and found it to be quite lacking. “It was pretty shoddy and not well produced,” she says, describing the moment of certainty that she could do something better.
Boisits’ vision for the journal not only sought to publish and showcase new writers, but also to help them improve their craft and navigate the difficult submission process.
“A lot of people get rejected, not because their work isn’t good, but because it’s the wrong market,” Boisits says, pointing out that there are also plenty of scams out there aimed at exploiting novice writers who are desperate to see their words in print. “Beware of literary scams in poetic clothing,” she warns.
Boisits shows great empathy for struggling writers and did everything she could to return submissions with constructive criticism. She also remained quite strict about following rules and guidelines—and she never accepted work via email. “I don’t send form letters as rejections,” Boisits says, adding that one would-be author told her she loved Beginnings’ rejection letter so much that she kept it tacked to her computer and looked at it for daily encouragement.
The journal also published cartoons, it had a section for kids, and her website fostered a community for writers to share work and criticism on its message boards. Beginnings even received submissions from people in prison, giving published convicts a sense of accomplishment and, for one prison poet, a bridge to relate with his estranged son.
“I was helping a lot of people,” Boisits says. “People have written me letters saying they’ve gone on to be published over and over again.”
Boisits hopes to bring Beginnings back to its status as an important literary journal and the first step in many writers’ path to the career they dream about. And her ambitions don’t stop there.
Given the right funding, she speaks of expanding her mission into writing workshops, classes and much more. And the ultimate gift for Boisits would be to make Beginnings her full-time job with nothing else to pull her away from it.