Every other month, Robin Bingham and Nijole Gedutis meet over beer and Chinese food to drum up a theme for the next issue of their literary magazine, the Wash. The most recent one offered thoughts on nudity. The next issue will publish works on race.
Other "seeds," as the editors lovingly call them, haven't been quite so trendy or serious. This year's Valentine's Day issue used the word "pink" for inspiration. And then there was glue. "I thought glue was an excellent idea, but then I couldn't think of anything to write," Bingham says with a grin.
That's the fun part of their job as editors. The not-so-fun part is rejecting submissions, which are increasing with each issue. Luckily, rejection is not really what the Wash is about. Instead, it's about encouraging people to be creative. "Everyone has a poem under their bed," Bingham says. The two want to "make people feel they can share their secrets," adds Gedutis.
Printed in black and white on 12 pages of newsprint, the Wash defies pretension. Its short stories, essays, poems, photographs and illustrations fulfill the editors' desire to capture the essence of the everyday.
"We already have The Washington Post to write about all the wars in the world, but we don't have anywhere to put the little things, like the guy who dropped his bag on the subway, and that's important, too," Bingham says, referring to a piece Gedutis wrote for the last issue.
The two friends met while working on the Annex, a literary supplement to the student newspaper at their alma mater, California's Pomona College. "We were always the people who were still there at 3 a.m. eating french fries and [drinking] Coke and giggling together," Bingham says. "It was so much fun that we decided to do it once we graduated."
After moving to Washington last year, they enlisted the help of another college friend, Angelo Gonzales, and the first issue of the Wash popped out last December. Gonzales' recent move to New Mexico forced Bingham and Gedutis to sharpen their desktop publishing skills in preparation for the next issue. "He's definitely our left brain," Bingham says.
Although putting out the Wash consumes a good chunk of their spare time (Bingham works for a nonprofit and Gedutis teaches), neither woman considers it work. "We laugh 90 percent of the time," Gedutis says. "Only the last day is kind of painful," adds Bingham.
They amuse themselves in the wee hours by putting inside jokes in the calendar of events and adding bits of information or quotations related to the theme on each page, such as "15 percent of Americans sleep naked," or "You can make glue with skim milk, vinegar and baking soda."
The Wash comes out every two months and costs the women about $450 to produce 3,000 copies. Free copies of the Wash are distributed around Adams Morgan and Georgetown for now. The editors say a sure place to always find it is at Tryst, a coffee place on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. The target audience is anyone and everyone. So, really, do Bingham and Gedutis dream of editing or writing for the New Yorker or Granta one day? Nope, they say, they'd rather be editors of the Wash.
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Mayor's Arts Awards
Mayor Anthony Williams made his inaugural appearance at the Mayor's Arts Awards on Monday night at the Lincoln Theatre. Now in its 15th year, the Arts Awards recognize individuals and organizations that contribute to the city's cultural life. Scattered among the presentations were performances by local talent, including the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, two members of the Washington Ballet and vocalist Bernice Johnson Reagon.
The late poet Gaston Neal, artist Michael Platt and the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company won for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline. Keith Alan Baker of the Studio Theatre and poet, teacher and vocalist Lisa Pegram were recognized as Outstanding Emerging Artists. Writer Kenneth Carroll and the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., won the Excellence in Service to the Arts awards.
For Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education, the National Building Museum Youth & Family Education Programs and Washington Very Special Arts were honored. Laurie Stroblas, founder of the District Lines Poetry Project, won the Innovation in the Arts award.
"There are two things that make a city," said ceremony host Jim Vance, "a kick-butt football team and a vibrant arts community. At least we have a vibrant arts community."
On Tuesday, two Washington-based arts organizations won $10,000 awards from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Coming Up Taller Awards recognize creative programs for children from at-risk communities.
Among the 10 winners were D.C. WritersCorps, a project of the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., to strengthen reading and writing skills, and the Corcoran Art Mentorship Program, which pairs professional artists with students in a long-term mentoring relationship.
CAPTION: Marlon Prather and co-editors Nijole Gedutis and Robin Bingham at a Wash staff meeting.