(Fwd) SK-L: CANADA: Magazine published by street kids

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Mon, 26 Jul 1999 00:07:29 -0400

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See: http://www.canoe.com:80/CNEWSFeatures9907/23_slice.html

Friday, July 23, 1999

The Slice magazine serves up uncensored reality of street life

By DENE MOORE -- The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER (CP) -- Darek Czernewcan was living on the streets when he
first walked into the office of The Slice magazine, hidden in a
basement accessible only from an alley in the city's downtown. 

Czernewcan badly wanted to be a published writer. Like other
Vancouver teens who find themselves in a soup kitchen rather than
secondary school, The Slice was Czernewcan's best chance. 

A magazine published by street kids, The Slice offers an uncensored
look at the reality of street life. 

"It allows people to spill whatever they have to spill," says
Czernewcan, who is now senior editor. "It's honest and it's true." 

Editor Monique Baillargeon has a similar story. At 16, she was on the
street, moving from city to city throughout North America. 

But both have gone from panhandlers to published authors in the pages
of The Slice. 

"It's actually therapy," says Baillargeon of writing. 

The hazards of street life are laid bare in the pages of the magazine
-- drug addiction, violence, AIDS. There are junkies, underage
prostitutes and the just plain confused. 

In the poem Lady Heroin, one anonymous author describes the turmoil
of drug addiction. 

I hear her voice/ Whisper into my brain/ She comes to me/ And eases
my pain/ My secret lover/ Then casts her spell/ And conjures me
somewhere/ Between heaven and hell. 

The raw honesty of the magazine has its critics. 

One reader complained about an issue with several contributions from
teen prostitutes. But Czernewcan defended their decision to run the
stories unedited. 

"It's not child porn," he said. "They were victims venting. It's not
exploiting them. It's the other way around." 

Being published gives the authors, who are largely forgotten by
society, a boost of self-confidence, says Baillargeon. 

The 20-year-old remembers the first time she had her work published. 

"It was so reaffirming...seeing that paper with my name on it," she

Today she's the editor/den mother of Slice. She lives in a house with
her boyfriend and two roommates, and spends most of her time working
on the magazine. 

There's more than editing and layout to worry about. 

Baillargeon and Czernewcan try to offer a meal to their homeless
contributors, or find them a space at a detox centre if they need it.

But while Baillargeon is sympathetic because she's been there, she
insists she's no pushover. 

"I don't have a soft spot for panhandlers or junkies," she says. "I'm
only interested in bringing an opportunity to people who are looking
for it." 

By Slice standards, Czernewcan is nearing retirement age. At 23, he's
among the older contributors to the magazine. Most are between 14 and

"Most of the people who started (Slice) up, most of them are dead
now," he said, victims of the lifestyle they wrote about. 

But there are also success stories to keep Czernewcan and Baillargeon

Several contributors have jobs and are off the street. Some of the
artists have had gallery showings based on the work they did for The

Those "one in 200 bright, shining success stories" keep Baillargeon
and Czernewcan going, even in hard times. 

The magazine, which has relied on a provincial subsidy since it
started nine years ago, will likely lose the $36,000 annual grant in
September. Baillargeon's position is no longer paid and she's looking
for another job to support herself. 

But the staff has not given up. They are looking for private funding
and are confident because the magazine has started to show a profit
for the first time.

Earlier this year, The Slice debuted in Edmonton and Calgary and it
will soon be available in Toronto. 

And while the magazine was previously sold only on the street,
Baillargeon and Czernewcan have expanded to book store sales. 

They are selling out 2,500 copies and will be printing 3,000 copies
of the next issue. 

"You're not down until you're down," Baillargeon said. "The fact that
we've made it this far with absolutely no investment and no training
shows that the potential once we have those is virtually limitless." 
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