Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Interview


Looking for a magazine that explored ideas, concepts and assumptions, but was practical, was part of the motivation behind James Shelley’s creation of Caesura Letters.

What motivated you to start this magazine?

In 2012, I found myself looking for a general interest magazine that filled three basic criteria: I wanted to read about the history of ideas, and explore the concepts and assumptions that shape the world we live in. In other words, I wanted a magazine that was all about not taking life for granted. Secondly, I wanted to read a magazine that was accessibly written, but also drew from a wide, interdisciplinary range of research; a journal simply about ideas. And, thirdly, I wanted this exploration of ideas to point somewhere practical; to constantly ask, “If this is true, how would this actually change the way we live? What does this mean for the next twenty-four hours?” This meant the magazine wasn’t just about trivia, but touched on aspects of personal development as well. It was vision for a periodical that blended together curiosity, academia, and mindfulness.

I searched long and hard, but could not find anything else that fit what I was looking for. At the same time, I was going through a time of personal transition, so I decided to take the leap and create the magazine that I wanted to see in the world. The Caesura Letters launched in the summer of 2012, delivering via email, ebook, and paperback formats.

Describe your average reader.

The Caesura Letters readership appears wildly diverse, spanning both geographical and ideological backgrounds. There is really only one common denominator: curiosity. Our readers seem hungry to contemplate new perspectives. As a magazine we have done everything we can to embody a spirit of openness, discovery, and eagerness to learn.  The culture that has grown up around these values is inspiring and invigorating: it is a celebration of the carnal pleasure of second-guessing the obvious.

How do you plan on reaching new readers?

We have found that our only viable growth strategy is writing the most provocative, inspiring, and compelling material possible. All of our proverbial eggs are in this basket. The web is saturated with ‘filler’, and our sole ambition is to deliver genuinely meaningful and perspective-altering angles on what it means to be human. By far, our greatest success comes as a result of readers saying to their friends, “The Caesura Letters has made me a more aware, thoughtful, critical, and curious person. You should read it too.”

You can’t buy people’s willingness to share your product, you can only earn it.

One of our challenges as a niche periodical is that we do not fit well into any formally established genre or category, which makes the standard marketing and promotional strategies in common practice pretty useless to us. We simply focus on square one: writing beautiful, paradigm-smashing stories — the kind of stories that seem woefully incomplete unless you take some time to chat about them with a friend.

It has been a terrific experience working with the TypeEngine team. Partnering with TypeEngine has allowed us to ‘outsource’ all the technical and design aspects of developing our app, which keeps our team free to focus on what matters — research, writing, and crafting the best content we can.

How do you see your magazine evolving over the next few months and years?

We’re keeping a sharp eye on the trend towards mobile. At present, all digital iterations of our magazine are mobile-ready, but it seems more than plausible that continued growth in mobile reading will have further ramifications for the practice of reading itself. There is more to the future than nice typography, responsiveness, and paper-like screens. How this all evolves is still anyone’s guess (or gutsy prediction). Technology and the practice of reading are intertwined and reciprocal — they must inform one another constantly — but the present emphasis definitely seems concerned more with the technological side of things. We’re still not really sure how the capacity to carry a whole libraries’ collection in your pocket is going to inform the actual reading practices of the next generation. On the crest of this technology, we’re swimming mostly in theory and speculation right now.

How do you define the success of your magazine?

Success for us is when readers write us to say, “I’ve never thought about it that way before — thank you.”

Download and subscribe to Caesura Letters today!