Arts & Culture » Lit

Street Cred and Good Writing

Amy Garrett-Brown's magazine, Equilibrium, hits its stride


The average U.S. citizen gets 98 percent of her information from magazines. OK, I made that stat up (89 percent of statistics are made up on the spot), but no one can deny the power of print. Granted, the most popular magazines in the country are not really filled with life-changing articles (see US Weekly, et al.), but the magazine is still incredibly influential. Many of the most-read magazines are not that old. Publications such as Paste and Wired are not even adolescents, proving that the magazine is as relevant and dynamic as ever. Folks can talk about how the Internet is changing the way people get their information, but it has yet to hold a candle to a succinct package of pictures, art and articles in print form.

Meet Amy Garrett-Brown. For the last six years, she has been self-publishing her magazine, Equilibrium, a collection of poetry, visual art, fiction and non-fiction. Recently, the magazine has really gained steam and Garrett-Brown thinks Equilibrium is only getting better. It's an evolution that began when she was 10 years old.

"My childhood was one of different towns and constant moving. My dad was a minister and he moved us around a lot. I was just along for the ride," says Garrett-Brown. "Early on, I started writing ... it anchored me. In fourth grade, I started making a magazine called The Garrett News Weekly. It was basically a collection of stuff about my pets, sports and my family. My grandparents loved it."

During her adolescent years, Garrett-Brown built on the foundation of The Garrett News Weekly and began distributing to a more critical audience.

"In junior high, I started publishing collections of poetry and non-fiction. I would photocopy all of these things and then just hand them out at school," she says. "At first, people laughed at me, which I think helped me out in the long run. It helped me gain confidence."

During her junior year of high school, the Garrett family moved to Nampa. Shortly thereafter, Garrett-Brown decided to finish high school early and take off. "I wanted to travel around and see more of the world. I got so much out of that period of my life. I got a lot of poetry published and wrote a novel called Lucille with Three Ls," she laughs. "It won't see the light of day, but I had to do it. There is something about that age that is so carefree."

In 2000, after years of bouncing around writing and working as a chef, Garrett-Brown moved to Boise to begin working on a creative writing degree. It was also during this year that she formally began Equilibrium, culling the magazine's name from personal experience.

"I've always had really bad sinus problems that would put me in a fog and give me really bad vertigo. Eventually, I had a surgery where they basically drilled out new sinuses for me," she says, pointing to her nose. "The name of the magazine refers to that. It also refers to my dealing with the heady excesses of my years between 17 and 23.

"Initially, Equilibrium was pretty punk," she says while rubbing a head of hair that used to have blue streaks in it. Equilibrium was filled with contributions from her friends, including a person whom she cites as being elemental in the magazine's creation. "There would be no Equilibrium without Shasta Nash. She is a talented artist who has helped me every step of the way," says Garrett-Brown. "When you pick up a copy of Equilibrium, it is Nash's art that graces its cover and pages. It really gives the mag a 'look.'"

Equilibrium has kept going because of Garrett-Brown's resourcefulness.

"When the mag first started, we began throwing these release parties to raise money to cover print costs. This basically consisted of me asking friends such as Travis Ward, Thomas Paul or somebody else to play a gig somewhere. I would take the door and sell my new issues to whoever showed up," she says. "It usually worked out. The only issue that didn't break even was this last one [Issue 6]. It was a lot more expensive to make because we really stepped up the printing."

Her newest issue, which was released last spring, is professional, according to Garrett-Brown. It has a glossy cover and the layout is concise. "I published the newest issue under Aleph Knot press. I love how it looks. I think to myself, 'If it is going to look this good then it needs to read this good,'" says Garrett-Brown. "With each new issue, I get pickier. I really want to mix the avant-garde writers that I enjoy with stuff that is a bit more streetwise ... but it has to have the ability to really move people. It's so cool because I am making connections with so many writers. Revered writers like Miriam Sagan are willing to give me stuff. The magazine is really hitting stride."

Garrett-Brown is too. After finishing her bachelor's a couple of years ago, she began working on her master's at Boise State where she also teaches English classes.

"Teaching has been such an eye-opener for me. It's helped me to gain a stronger vision for Equilibrium," says Garrett-Brown. "Some of my students are such amazing writers. I had this guy this semester who came to me and basically said, 'Listen, I don't really want to do the basic assignments. I just got back from Iraq and I want to write about my experience there.' At first, I didn't know what to think about it, but then he started turning in this incredible stuff. It blew me away."

The next issue of Equilibrium will come out in late January, and there will definitely be a release party. But that's just the short term. Garrett-Brown's long-term plans are to obtain a master of fine arts, and then, do something even bigger.

"My 10-year plan is to open up an artist ranch with my filmmaker husband Thomas Brown," she says. "We'll have five-month residents. I want to get an old drive-in movie screen to show movies, have outdoor concerts, brew our own beer. It will be great."

You can pick up a copy of Equilbrium at Boise retailers, including The Record Exchange, Prestige, Log Cabin Literary Center and Thomas Hammer. You can also order copies online at And Garrett-Brown is always looking for submissions (especially reviews of timeless albums).