The Ne’er-Do-Well was founded in 2008 by Sheila Ashdown. After three print issues, and a bit of shore leave, the ship is back on course, sailing the high seas as an online literary magazine. Only now it’s been commandeered by Black Baaa, the self-proclaimed “fiercest literary black-sheep pirate in all of Oregon.”
Letter from the Editor, Sheila Ashdown
[I wrote this way back in 2008 for the first issue of the magazine, and it’s still true today. This is the heart of The Ne’er-Do-Well. —Sheila]
I hate telling people I’m a fiction writer. They always ask two questions: (1) what do you write about, which I can’t answer without coming across as a pretentious a-hole; and (2) have you been published. Until recently, I hadn’t been published, so after saying “no,” an awkward, cricket-filled silence would ensue, oftentimes broken by a platitude along the lines of “Well, I’m sure you’ll write a best-selling great American novel some day!!!”
I’m sure I’m not the only unpublished writer (or “pre-published,” as a grad school friend liked to say) who has endured a version of this conversation. And I’m sure that the platitudes are meant with the best intentions. But nevertheless, it betrays a weird all-or-nothing attitude: bestselling author of great American novels… or pretentious a-hole ne’er-do-well.
So I’ve titled this magazine The Ne’er-Do-Well as a way to embrace the disgrace. Because most of the work that any writer produces is going straight to the circular file, it takes a certain defiance of convention and unabashed love of writing to keep producing that work. It requires a high threshold for psychic pain and awkward conversation. It requires, in my case, the ability to keep going even when your mother disparages you as “a waitress with a hundred thousand dollars worth of education” when she thinks you’re out of earshot.
So I want to celebrate my fellow writers for their perseverance—help them put a notch on their belt. Because whether or not you’re the type who thinks that publication is a necessary part of a “successful” writing life, it sure can be encouraging to have an editor pick your piece out of the crowd. For me, publishing this magazine is simply my way of saying, “Hey, thanks for writing. Please don’t stop.”
The Ne’er-Do-Well Crew
Fiercest Literary Black-Sheep Pirate in All of Oregon
Black Baaa writes like a madman and makes haters walk the plank. We at The Ne'er-Do-Well like to think there's a little bit of Black Baaa in all of us.
Founder & Managing Editor
Sheila is a Portland-based ghostwriter and book editor. Her short fiction has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Summerset Review, and Eclectic Flash. She's written two novels that never need to see the light of day, and is working on a third that might actually be pretty damn good. Find her at sheilaashdown.com.
Grace Gallagher is a freelance writer who lives and works in Portland, Oregon. She is originally from New York. Grace is an editorial intern at Tin House Books and a Creative Writing Specialist at the Geezer Gallery, a Portland-based nonprofit.