erriam-Webster defines the word “haven” as “a place of safety and refuge; an inlet providing shelter for ships or boats.” For Cincinnati writer Liz Bell Young, it takes on a deeper meaning.
“It’s a word that I’ve always loved,” Young says. “I’ve always cared a lot about bringing people to a place that feels like home, whether it’s literally into our house or in conversation. It’s always felt important to me for people to feel safe and known.”
Young translates those feelings into a new magazine she founded, aptly called Haven. It’s an 84-page photo-essay print magazine in the vein of
Kinfolk, Cereal, Trouvé and Darling, suffused with short travel essays and eye-popping photorealism.
“I was working with freelance photographers and writers and stylists and I thought we could all come together and actually create a product that could join that world of photo-essay magazines,” she says. “It started with that idea as a way to just create something beautiful.”
With the hubbub over print dying and publications going digital-only, a new print magazine in this day and age seems unheard of.
“I totally respect digital, but it feels like where print magazine is going — with the ad-free photo-essay,” she says. “I think it’s an aesthetic that a lot of people like tapping into. It felt like the right form to really display really solid writing and photography.”
For volume one, West Chester’s KETMOY printed the magazine for free. “Everybody just started saying yes,” she says about the contributors, the printer and bindery (The C.J. Krehbiel Company) offering up their services.
She wanted to produce something conspicuous yet charitable, so she decided to give 100 percent of the magazine’s profits to Freeset, a nonprofit company in Kolkata, India, that manufactures fair-trade and eco-friendly bags. Kolkata’s red-light district, Sonagachi, is unfortunately home to hundreds of brothels and thousands of sex workers, but Freeset employs them with manufacturing jobs so they can earn the money to empower them with a choice to leave the profession — yet another reason Young named the magazine Haven. “It’s the work that Freeset does: it creates haven for these women. It makes sense,” she says.
Young found out about Freesest through Crossroads Church, which has worked with the organization for seven years. In July, while pregnant with her third child, Young, a photographer and two other writers traveled to India and wrote about their experiences for the magazine.
“These women have suffered such horror, and the atmosphere of the red-light district is like none other I’ve witnessed,” Young says. “I have a short history in social work, so abuse and exploitation aren’t completely foreign, but of course this was different — the scale was so massive, so wretched. Honestly, I felt foolish walking into Freeset as a ‘creative.’ The work of Freeset and the healing of these women is so remarkable that I just stood in awe and self-doubt. But then I realized the weak and selfish choice would be to back away.”
Haven’s awash with 16 essays such as Rachel Peters’ “Voyaging Young,” on metaphorically and literally traveling with kids. “Leave your baggage behind. Take your children,” she writes. There’s a homey recipe for chai tea, and a few articles about traveling throughout India. Young contributes a short essay called “Toast,” about how while in India she had a humiliating fall in public. The aftermath involved her ordering toast, which comforted her.
In Jen Seiser’s thoughtful “The Return,” she remarks: “We travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us … Coming home is all about asking, ‘And what, now?’ ” The magazine emphasizes no matter how far you are away from your physical home, you can find an intangible sanctuary in any part of the world.
Young grew up in Cincinnati and began writing as a child. “It really is always something that I wanted to do — to be a writer,” she says. “Even when I was 6, 7, 8, I was writing. For school I went into social work for my undergrad just because I wanted to be a useful part of society and I loved the study of social work.”
For four years she lived in Vicenza, Italy, with her military husband, Ryan. “It rotated between extreme homesickness and absolutely thinking how could we ever leave this kind of lifestyle,” she says.
After Ryan’s military stint ended, they moved to Chicago for a year-and-a-half so Young could attend The School of the Art Institute. They later moved back to Cincinnati and Young got her M.F.A. in fiction writing at the University of Cincinnati, and for her thesis project she self-published a memoir, In the Wide Country of Love.
In October, Haven launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 so Freeset could update their screen-printing equipment. The campaign ended Dec. 8, and by CityBeat’s deadline, they had raised $9,236 of their $50,000 goal.
Young’s not sure if there will be a second volume of Haven, but she’d like to turn it into an annual publication and not exactly have every issue center around travel. “I think we’ll absolutely always be about what home means — how to find it, people who are searching for it. Both in the abstract and the literal,” she says.
Not necessarily every issue would give all profits to Freeset, either; it might alternate per issue, unless they can find an investor.
The magazine is on sale now ($18) at Article Menswear, the Fern Studio/Idlewild Woman pop-up shop in OTR (1232 Vine St.; open until Christmas), Parlour Salon in East Walnut Hills and will be available for purchase at this weekend’s City Flea in Washington Park.
“It’s been a ton of work but it’s also been easy because of how much people are helping and are excited about it,” Young says. For her and the rest of Haven, what started out as an experiment may evolve into something bigger. “We’re just testing it right now to see what happens,” she says. “I can’t imagine that it just ends here.” ©
For more info on HAVEN MAGAZINE, go to