T.O.F.U. is good for you

One of the most amazing things about being vegan for this FGV is the wealth of knowledge, expertise and inspiration I draw from like-minded individuals. If someone wants to give me some advice, I’m all chubby ears.

Latest issue of T.O.F.U.

In what is to become a regular feature of this blog, I recently connected with T.O.F.U. magazine editor Ryan Patey to see if he would share with FGV readers some of his insights into independent publishing, transitioning to veganism and how people can get hold of his amazing magazine.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the first of what I hope will be many FGV interviews designed to highlight the wealth of knowledge within the vegan community.

Also, if you have a favourite vegan writer, blogger or personality you would like to hear from, please leave a comment and I will do my best to track them down.

FGV: Hi Ryan. Can you explain how you became involved in publishing a vegan magazine?

RP: I ‘m never really sure how to start questions like this since it always seems like a long series of events leading up to one thing. In this case, the short version would go a little something like this:

1. Work at an Internet cafe that turns into an all-ages music venue.

2. Have said venue run into issues with the provincial liquor board.

3. Organize free outdoor show to raise awareness of issue.

4. Continue outdoor shows, even though a compromise was reached with the liquor board, because they’re fun.

5. Create a vegan cookbook as a fundraiser for one of the shows, due to several friends being vegan at the time.

6. Produce another cookbook just because the last one did well.

7. Produce a vegan dining guide to Halifax.

8. Realize that cookbooks are not as crazy as a magazine.

9. Start T.O.F.U.

Basically, when the idea first came into my head, it seemed like a sensible thing given the past projects. So, I’m not sure what one event led to that idea seeming logical, but I’m glad it happened.

FGV: Can you sum up the ethos of T.O.F.U. for people who are unfamiliar with your magazine?

RP: The idea behind T.O.F.U. is that folks have things to say, and we think they should be heard. The hope is that by showcasing a variety of people, and the things they do, love, eat, etc… the rigid view of what a vegan is will be relaxed. Lately, we’ve been expanding our content a bit to hopefully encourage people to think about certain issues, become independent as much as possible and develop some sort of activism that they’re comfortable with.

Basically, the magazine is always in a minor flux. The simple premise of being a soapbox for those who have something to say relevant to living a vegan life leads to a lot of subjects being presented, but we like it that way.

FGV: T.O.F.U. seems to have a strong belief in DIY veganism, sourcing articles/photos from activists and bloggers from all over the world. Would you say is it important for vegans to push for self-determination in their publications?

RP: I think it’s important for people in general to push for some sort of independence in what they do. With the current state of technology, especially the Internet, people can create and distribute pretty much anything they can imagine, but only if they have the determination to do so. We’ve been running T.O.F.U. with the hard work of a very small number of people, none of whom get a set paycheque. Of course, our recent move to digital-only is helping us change that, but we’re still not quite there.

However, if money was the point of all of this, we would have stopped a long time ago. We started the magazine because we could, and the magazine continues to grow because we have searched for and discovered the tools and the resources that allow us to keep working on it. Being able to do so much of this ourselves has led to the creation of something we can be proud of, which is the best payment of all. [cue studio “awwwwwww”]

FGV: What advice would you give to someone wanting to publish a vegan magazine/zine/blog?

RP: I may have gone a little ahead of myself in the last question in regards to this, but I’ll try to give a few more details.

Just do it. [Wait, are Nike’s lawyers already at my door? Wow, that was quick!]

No, seriously. Don’t worry about whether or not you should, or how exactly you can do it. Just go for it. Starting a blog takes five minutes, and it costs nothing. If you can write an email, you can maintain a blog. Sure, starting a zine or a magazine takes more knowledge and work than that, but it’s all in steps. Learn the ins and outs of your blog, find a groove in terms of what you write, or just write about anything and don’t worry about having a certain “thing.” Just write.

Start a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Write in them. Keep writing.

Poke around the Internet to find other people doing the same thing, and, believe me, you will find people doing the same thing. That’s alright though. Share ideas. Communicate. Learn from what they’re doing.

T.O.F.U., the cookbooks and the dining guide happened over a period of five or six years at least. I’ve lived in several different places, had numerous jobs and met plenty of different people over that time. Luckily, a lot of my friends have talents that they’re willing to offer me to make things happen, and I’m not sure the magazine would be what it is today if it was not for all of them.

So, the short answer might go a little something like this: Just do it. Keep it fun. Make friends. Get them involved. Enjoy.

FGV: What advice would you give to someone considering switching to a vegan way of living?

RP: Do your research. I’m still not sure if I’m doing the best I can in terms of my nutrition, and I probably should be taking the time to learn more about it all. Grab some books, which you can probably find at any decently stocked bookstore. I’d recommend an independent one, but how many do we even have left? Sigh.

Get online. Introduce yourself on Facebook and the web in general. Sure, the popular image of a vegan may be all snark and gnashing teeth if you ask the media, but the online vegan community can be crazy friendly. If there’s one thing vegans are good at, it’s sharing recipes and raving about how great kale chips and tofu are.

FGV: How can FGV readers get the latest copy of T.O.F.U.?

RP: The latest copy of the magazine, as well as the past issues and the two cookbooks (an updated dining guide to Halifax is being worked on, so the old one is unavailable), are all available at tofu.limitedpressing.com. We use the pay-what-you-want system, so people can choose to get any of the publications for free, or they can send some support our way in whatever amount they want. As well, people can sign-up for the newsletter at www.ilovetofu.ca and receive the new issue for free.

We also have shirts available through the store, and we expect to be doing another design or two in the coming months.

Much thanks to Ryan Patey for giving his time to this interview and for all of the countless hours he dedicates to improving the outcomes of non-human animals.

Follow Ryan Patey on Twitter.

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