Lifetime Kitchener residents Fitsum Areguy and Andy Myles have recognized a gap in the voices that are telling Waterloo Region’s stories. Certain voices haven’t been given the platforms to share their experiences — platforms that appear to be more readily available to other groups. As a result, Areguy and Myles are launching Textile, a publication devoted to uplifting and amplifying the voices of underrepresented and underprivileged folks in our community by publishing their fiction, creative non-fiction, memoirs, poetry and visual art.
“Andy and I both grew up in KW,” Areguy said.
“We both like writing and we wanted to do something for our community, sort of give back and do something [where] we could use our skills and create something. Our vision is for a compassionate KW that engages with our literary community.”
Areguy is currently a master’s student in science in family relations and human development at the University of Guelph. He has also worked extensively with the city’s youth, sits on the board for Bridges to Belonging and is the chair of the Young Carers Project.
Myles is enrolled in the experimental digital media (XDM) masters program within the University of Waterloo’s English department in addition to having a writing background.
Textile’s mission, according to their website, is “to empower new and emerging writers of different gender, age, race, class, sexuality and ability.” With core values surrounding diversity, creativity, relationships, respect, inclusion and equity, Areguy and Myles hope to give writing and publishing opportunities to those who have not been published before.
Areguy explained that Textile is also a reflection of how they view the foundation of community work, which is that it should start with genuine and trusting relationships with people. Areguy and Myles hope Textile can connect the past, present, and future of the Region, while shaping the historical, contemporary and future relationships they want to engage with.
“With Textile, we’re focused on a metaphor of weaving, of bringing together stories, but we’re also trying to reflect on the history of KW which was once more well known as a manufacturing industry,” Myles explained.
“We’re trying to comment on the city at a time where it’s really shifting.”
The first print issue is expected to be released in the spring. Right now, Areguy and Myles are focused on finding funding, as well as spreading the word. With the support and guidance of KW Poetry Slam’s Bashar Lulu Jabbour, Areguy and Myles have applied for the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund and LSPIRG’s community grants. They are currently looking for more sponsorship or available grants.
“There’s all of these writers,” Areguy said, “who are just pulling, and they all know what we’re doing, and as soon as we get the funding then we can really move forward. One of the things we really want to do is pay contributors and we want to pay the editors.”
The theme for the first issue will be “transportation,” but Areguy and Myles are encouraging contributors to make their own interpretations of that theme and allow for flexibility.
“We’re not prescribing things to writers,” Myles said.
Right now, the first few pieces planned will explore ideas surrounding transit in KW, immigration, disability and movement — and that’s only the beginning.
After the first issue is released, Areguy and Myles will then decide how often Textile will publish. Right now, they are considering publishing a print product annually with consistent online content throughout the year. They’re currently working with Feather and Anchor, a local publishing company run by Mona Faith Mousa. Feather and Anchor is an artist services agency with a publishing branch for work that is created by and for BIPOC artists and audiences.
“I feel like I just have a sense of what KW means to me, and that’s not always articulated,” Myles said.
“It’s like hometown syndrome: I want to leave, but I also love this place, so this is a way to give back and articulate what KW is or what it could be.”
For Areguy, it’s about bringing a vision to life.
“We’re envisioning a city of engaged readers and engaged writers, people who want to celebrate the literary tradition here.”
Areguy and Myles are still looking for contributors — writers, editors and artists. They can be contacted through textilekw.com.