A senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying creative non-fiction, Stroud is excited about Deek's virtual coming-out. "Deek magazine started a couple years ago. A friend of mine put it together as a literary magazine. Initially we wanted to put it out in print, to have something you could hold onto, but the cheap alternative was to put it online. Then, it didn't really go very far. We were trying to publicize it around Pitt -- through mass e-mails. We would get sporadic mailings of stuff; nobody would take an assignment. It became arduous. We sort of gave up on it, and then this year I got the bug again, and so me and a couple friends started it again."
With a grant through the student allocation board at Pitt and some ad revenue, Deek was reborn this month as an old-school-style publication -- 32 pages of black ink on gray newsprint. Twenty-five hundred copies were distributed around town -- primarily in Oakland, Squirrel Hill and the South Side.
Deek is certainly a handy read, with a dozen or so short pieces ranging from Robert Isenberg's evocative short story riffing on a bad moment in a supermarket to an intriguingly offbeat review of Irvine Welsh's novel Glue written in phonetic Scots dialect and more typical fare like ramblings on porn and an interview with local band, the Wynkataung Monks.
Stroud plans to publish Deek monthly, with a new issue hitting the stands on the first Friday. And he's eager to attract fresh voices. "Right now, we get solicitations from people I know, people who have heard about it, from mailing lists that go out to the English department. But, I've put fliers up on campus, at CMU and Duquesne.
"We publish a relatively [small] amount of pieces and all of them are short word-wise: We reject pieces not because they're bad but because they won't fit into a particular issue. If a contributor has a specific style of writing that I dig, then we can make it work. I like to read and I like to write and I like to edit people's stuff; I like to make people feel good about what they put in the magazine."
Stroud admits he's tempted by color and fancier formats, but "the idea is to keep it black and white." And, if you'd rather boot up, Deek is still available for perusal online (deekmagazine.com) in an easy-to-read-and-load site -- black and white to match the newsprint version. (The original, colorful bells-and-whistle Web site is still there, filed away under an "Archives" tag.)
Deek's been on the streets only a couple of weeks, but feedback has already been forthcoming. "People either say, 'I really love it,' or, 'You guys really need to improve this, I don't know what you're trying to do.'" Stroud shrugs cheerfully. "I appreciate both.
"I wanted people to be reading it on their lunch break instead of reading the Post-Gazette -- something to read that wasn't necessarily news-oriented. I'm being drawn toward short fiction recently, because we're obviously inundated with reality: reality TV, journalism, newspapers. I question whether it has to do with post-9/11 philosophy and not wanting to know everybody's life stories and read memoirs and whatnot. I'm kinda getting tired of that. Sometimes I just want to sit down and read a story. If you could tell me a good story, and tell me from the get-go that it's not true, and just tell me that this is something to read, I can dig that and I think that's what we're trying to get with Deek. "
Ironically, though, most of the first issue is nonfiction. "We're trying to get more fiction, though I would say 85 percent of the stuff we get is nonfiction." And of course, Stroud adds, "The second issue will be much better."