In early March last year, as classes went online and the pandemic began under the guise of a two-week lockdown, many seniors at UBCO were wrapping up their degrees as they waited on news about graduation. One of these students was Dana Murphy, an English major and Political Science minor, who is now the founder of Train Ticket Bookmarks, an independent publishing platform and writing collective.
As Dana puts it, "My degree ended just as the pandemic started, which was just so disappointing in so many ways". After deciding against a previous plan to stay in Edmonton, she returned to Kelowna and is now waiting to go to law school in Calgary in September.
This is when the idea for this website was born. When we were only supposed to be indoors for two weeks, Dana and her boyfriend at the time were discussing what she might want to do next, "I couldn't sleep one night and so I got up and opened my laptop - it was 4 in the morning!"
She thought she might want to write a book. In figuring out the steps she needs to take to this goal, she learned that she wanted to own the rights to everything herself. So she started a publishing company. Despite the circumstances, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. "It was 4 in the morning! At the end of my degree. During a pandemic. And I'm like, you know what? This is what I'm gonna do."
Train Ticket Bookmarks grew into a publishing platform with a team of UBCO graduates who all have experience with writing and editing in their past. Sophia Rideout is a contributor and social media lead with a B.A. in Political Science and Gender and Women's Studies. Brianne Bennett is another writer, who is a recent graduate with degrees in Psychology and English. Tayana Simpson is also a contributor who used to be Editor in Chief of The Phoenix from 2019 to 2020, and is going to begin her Master's degree of Political Science at McGill University. They are also joined by Hannah Privé, a self taught illustrator and multimedia artist from Vancouver who creates most of the digital art for the team.
But these are not the only writers. The website is always looking for contributors. Dana states, "If someone sends me an email and they want me to publish something, the answer is probably going to be yes." The team wants the community to grow and make sure that the writing covers a variety of topics.
They saw the invisible boundaries that made content difficult to acquire. She wanted to know, "What if this was something that people could use as sort of a way to have academic writing and creative writing just more accessible? Because what I found throughout my degree was how exclusive a club it often feels."
As a platform, Train Ticket Bookmarks aims to be a space that does not require your writing to go through a long process of review, or, as a reader, it does not have to be something you pay for. Dana adds, "It also isn't something that pays you unfortunately, but I'm working on that!"
Especially in a time filled with so much misinformation, her and her team's experience helps provide a platform to make a diverse range of voices heard. She believes, "The main issue in this whole shitstorm that we find ourselves in societally is that there is so much gatekeeping that goes on, in terms of who can have what information. I mean, I'm not reinventing the wheel by any means, but I just wanted a space where my friends and I could publish our stuff."
Considering the politically temporal significance of when the platform started in early March, with the multitude of BLM protests all over North America and the website's ever-growing Evolving Allyship page, there is always the concern that the depth and significance in the articles and essays does not translate to social media. When I asked Dana about how she prevents Train Ticket Bookmarks' Instagram page from becoming a platform for performative activism, she explains, "Coming into this, I'm very aware of my whiteness and of my cis-ness. My goal is to come more from a place of appreciation and awareness rather than preaching. [...] I'm sure I make mistakes all the time, [...] but I do try and make it clear that this is a work in progress. I'm always open to feedback."
As for where the name, Train Ticket Bookmarks comes from, the story is very clear in Dana's head."In 2019 I did some traveling and [...] I went to Ontario to scout schools because I initially wanted to go to law school. I was on a train from Ottawa back to Toronto, I think, and I was seeing my uncles and looking at schools and I had all these journals and I wrote all while I was overseas [...] and all of my boarding passes were stuffed into my books. A few weeks later, I was in Croatia and I went back to the one book that I'd been using when I was in Ontario and [...] I'm just looking at it and all these train ticket bookmarks. Look at this. This is just so messy. And that phrase just kind of stuck in my head [...] And I loved how it sounded."
A project entirely helmed and developed by students and alumni from UBCO, Train Ticket Bookmarks is accepting contributions from everybody. If you have something you are passionate about, or have a story to tell that is dear to your heart, contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org to send them your work.