Commentary : Issue One

On the Meaning of Bound Off

by Posted on February 1st, 2008 at 1:41 am

Bound Off is a monthly audio magazine. This February, Bound Off celebrates its second anniversary, and remains the only literary magazine that’s distributed solely as a free podcast and also pays its contributors.

Ann Rushton and Kelly Shriver are co-editors and founders of Bound Off. Ann’s fiction has appeared in Storyglossia, REAL: The Journal of Liberal Arts, Literary Mama and elsewhere. Kelly’s fiction has appeared at Pindeldyboz, Juked, and on Opium’s website. Here Kelly reflects on the idea of bounding (and binding) off.

We love to imagine our listeners literally bounding up the stairs from the subway station, looking up and seeing the crisp edges of white clouds in the sky, catching that fresh breath as they listen to a story through their earbuds. Our subscribers listen as they drive, walk their dogs, and weed their gardens. They’re taking a leap with us into a bright future for stories. Today’s multiplicity of media allows authors to go wherever lovers of literature want to take them.

We appreciate multiple meanings of the word “bound.” Our magazine is literally unbound. We don’t rely on paper, or even text on a screen. Our stories exist only in a recorded format, unimaginable in the age of Gutenberg. We aren’t limited by geographical boundaries, either (just the limitations that our listeners understand English and have access to a computer).

The name Bound Off is also a nod to the low-tech. Ann and I are both long-time knitters, so we decided early on that our “podcast of stories” must have a name related to the craft. When a piece of knitting is bound off, it leaves the needles and can go on to become a finished garment, blanket, mitten, scarf, anything its maker chooses. To fulfill its intended use, a bit more finishing is usually required. The knitter must weave in the loose ends, graft that square to another, sew up side seams, add buttons or fringe, et cetera.

Likewise, we select stories that are “off the needles” and ready to be read out loud. (We evaluate manuscripts the old-fashioned way.) For them to reach their intended audience, we create a finished package in which to present them. We knit together a podcast episode through which readers can enjoy each story. And we couldn’t do it without the help of Mark Rushton, our audio engineer, or Dave Robinson, our frequent reader. Both are musicians; neither one knits.

Visit our website——to subscribe to Bound Off or to hear individual episodes.