by Lina Vergara Huilcamán

Illustration © Pia Taccone

Illustration © Pia Taccone

When I saw the web page of this literary magazine specialized in illustrated short stories, I wondered who they were and why they were publishing it, I wondered about their name (why Caries?) and whether they were somehow connected with dental practices. I wondered whether they had drawn inspiration from Willy Wonka’s father or whether they were dental hygiene fundamentalists devoted to the floss like me. I wrote them, they answered me immediately, we had a brief meeting at the Bologna’s book fair, and then I had the pleasure of getting to know three of the nine members of Carie and hosting them at my home to share their work—but, above all, their dream—with you.

Davide: This project was born on the dental unit (the dental chair) in Ilaria’s practice: I was the patient, she was my dental hygienist. We were having a conversation about the average cultural level and we joked about the idea of improving it by offering something different from gossip magazines in a practice waiting room. We should carry out a literary experiment, we said. She is a strong reader and in the previous six years I had attended several writing classes. So I proposed this social experiment at a creative writing course I was attending with Giorgio. This is precisely how Carie was born, for fun! Now we are friends, but at the beginning I think I was almost the only one who knew them all. Pia is my wife, Ilaria is my dental hygienist, our graphic designer introduced us to Manuela, Andrea is Manuela’s husband, and all the others are classmates from the creative courses. During the first months we simply discussed about the idea, then in the late spring of 2016 we got down to work and the first issue was released on the 15th of October 2016, the birthday date of Italo Calvino and Manuela, a big fan of Calvino.
Pia: We are nine in the editorial department, plus a professional graphic designer who doesn’t read the stories: Davide Genta, Giorgio Ghibaudo, Pia Taccone, Giulia Muscatelli, Manuela Barban, Andrea Ciardo, Roberta Bracco, Paolo Battaglino, Ilaria Carretta, and the graphic designer Orietta Martinetto.
Giorgio: We brought our individual skills into the project, taking on different tasks: Pia is in charge of the illustrators, Manuela and Andrea curate the website, some people take care of facebook, twitter, instagram...
We started collecting short stories from our creative writing teachers, from our classmates, or in the literary scene we are involved in. Now we receive a great volume of material, we have already collected 390 short stories. Each one of us reads them from the beginning to the end, so that we can personally judge them, then we make decisions based on the majority rule. We want our shorts stories to be as varied as possible: we accept all sorts of literary genres. The only restriction consists in a maximum length of twenty thousand characters including spaces. Poetry is not taken into consideration because we wouldn’t be able to evaluate it.
Davide: We receive stories from people aged from 19 to 70, with all kinds of jobs, not only teachers and professors...
Giorgio: And the stories are not self-referential, the narration is filled with across-the-board elements, in terms of writing styles, themes, opinions and different points of view on the same subject.
Davide: We found out that there are writers who deal specifically with dental themes –as they told us– and specialize in dental stories, but we haven’t received any of their short stories yet… they sent a novel, though.
Pia: After defining the short stories to be published on each issue, our professional editor, Giulia, takes charge.
The three of them: We meet once a month, sometimes more often, depending on what we are going to discuss. We all live in Turin.
Giorgio: Once we are done with the texts, Pia starts looking for the illustrators who are most suitable for that particular theme.
Pia: I’m still an inexperienced illustrator: I finished my master about one year ago. I’m in charge of the illustrators, which at first were mainly my ex-classmates, but now more and more people are sending their works and I examine each one of them. I know them all; although we receive many requests through social medias, I try to personally know them. As each illustration is built on the specific text we supply, I like to choose carefully the most suitable illustrator. I ask them to complete the illustration within a month. Even if we cannot pay our contributing artists, they have always been very helpful. So far, they have been very happy to collaborate with us and immediately got into the mood. This is a great result for me.
Davide: And all the writers have been very satisfied!
Pia: Actually, from this experience friendly relations and new collaborations between writers and illustrators were born, creative couples matched up. We print every illustration for the author of the short story, as a gift, in 21x21 format and with the name of the illustrator, the title, and Carie written on it. We would like to organize exhibitions and possibly sell prints to pay back the illustrators. We are looking for some sponsors to be able to print the magazine and have some money to pay the artists who work for us.
Giorgio: Illustrations are square-shaped, so they fit well on instagram and facebook. We continue to promote the short stories and the illustrations even after they have been published, through social media, for example on special occasions. We like to take care of the people who are helping us to create the magazine, publishing and sharing their events on our social network pages.
Pia: You can download the pdf version of the three issues from our website for free, or read them online. The pdf can be printed in high definition: we are investing a lot of energy on illustrations, so we are careful not to spoil everything with a bad printing. We have drawn inspiration from two great models: Illustrati and Cuentos para el Andén, a magazine published for the tube in Madrid – we met its creators and had a nice chat.
Davide: We would like to get in touch with the professional orders: many dentists already follow us, but we aren’t printing enough copies to reach all their practices.
Pia: There are also dental companies among our followers. As a peculiarity, during our events we always have some dentistry gadgets, namely toothbrushes, dental floss, mouthwash, mouth spray. We make tiny bags with the gadgets and our bookmark.
Giorgio: When we launched Caries, there were more than two hundred people at our event and more than one hundred at the Circolo dei Lettori in Turin. We gave them presents: toothbrushes, dental-plate brushes, denture adhesives...
Davide: We see reading and writing as social activities, therefore the magazine has to be free and distributed as widely as possible. We are POP, we are against a concept of reading and writing as activities to be carried out behind closed doors, by privileged intellectuals.
Pia: At first we wanted to be online, that’s it. But the request for a paper version was so high that we eventually decided to print it.
Giorgio: The printed copy is for free as well, this is why we’d like to find a sponsor: to be able to print and distribute more copies for free and release four issues a year, a three-monthly magazine.
Davide: I was thinking about a name and I wanted to call it Il Male, which was a magazine issued in the 1980s/1990s and which, by the way, I think I had just flicked through, but then I associated Male (Evil, but also pain) to Carie. It goes straight to the core of the narration, on the nerve, there must be something in the title that shocks you. Seeing a paper copy of Carie in the hands of a kid from the suburbs would be a real joy…

I have left out the hour and a half of conversation and reading suggestions, from (not only) French comics to illustrated books and novels – all absolutely worth reading. All the little inputs we exchange when we meet passionate readers: that’s when we understand the reason of our immediate connection. I am sure that when you hold their magazine in your hands, or you read it on the web, you will feel the desire to be part of this big little club of people who believe in what they do, regardless of the profits (zero) and the amount of time devoted to this activity (a lot), to talk with them about our common pleasure: the pleasure of reading. Reading as a form of entertainment.