Pandemic-born lit journal 'Tomorrow and Tomorrow' celebrates first issue

Bexley residents Kristopher and Gretchen Armstrong used time in quarantine to turn a long-held dream into reality

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
The cover of Volume 1, Issue 1 of "Tomorrow and Tomorrow," a new literary journal from Bexley residents Kristopher and Gretchen Armstrong. The illustration by Gretchen depicts "Stacy, Patron Saint of Quarantine."

Bexley residents Kristopher and Gretchen Armstrong would often daydream about creating a literary journal someday when they retired. They’d imagine how delightful it would be to have writers send them poetry and short stories, and to spend their days reading the work, then collecting it all in a beautifully designed print publication. 

Last year, as the pandemic dragged on and the Armstrongs had a bit more time on their hands, they came to a realization: They didn’t have to wait until retirement. They could live out their dreams right now.  

“We thought, how can we get the spirit of all this creativity that's still going on during the pandemic and do a showcase of it as a pandemic project?” Kristopher said in a recent Zoom call with Gretchen. “Despite all the crap that's going on, and the world sort of falling to pieces, people are still creating."

Gretchen also saw the project as a way to connect to others. “Everybody was basically living in our own little bubbles, our little houses, and it gave us some peace to know that there are other people out there creating cool things,” Gretchen said. “And wouldn't it be great if we could just collect all of it and then share it?”

On Thursday, June 24, the Armstrongs will host a launch party for Volume 1, Issue1, of their new literary journal, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Austen & Company, a bookstore and tea shop in Merion Village, with a Tomorrow-themed cocktail, readings from local writers and poets and a panel discussion about creativity in the current moment. Copies of the journal’s first edition are available at Austen & Company, Gramercy Books in Bexley, Prologue Bookshop in the Short North and the Kenyon College bookstore, as well as the Tomorrow and Tomorrow website

Between the two of them, the Armstrongs already possessed most of the skills needed to launch a publication. Gretchen, a researcher and data analyst by day, is also a painter and collage artist with an eye for design. Kristopher is an English and theater major with a law degree and a wealth of writing and editing experience, including as a textbook editor and in his current job at the Ohio Supreme Court. (He’s also an improv performer with the Nest Theatre.) Perhaps more importantly, they’re both fans of good literature that speaks to the head and the heart.

Around September of last year, Gretchen and Kristopher began reaching out to writer friends and acquaintances, including Andrew Welsh-Huggins, and the circle grew from there, eventually expanding to poet Beth Weinstock, who became the Consulting Poetry Editor. In all, 23 poets, fiction writers, nonfiction writers and visual artists (many from the Columbus area) contributed to Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which the Armstrongs modeled in part after other journals they loved, such as Slice and Tin House.  

Initially planned as a one-off anthology, Gretchen and Kristopher pivoted to a semi-annual journal published in the spring and fall. (Submissions to the fall edition, with the open-to-interpretation theme of “Ghosts,” are due by June 30.) As the pieces came in, the Armstrongs began to think of the issue as a mixtape, with various contributions purposefully juxtaposed to comment or shed light on the others. They also noticed a few recurring themes in the submissions, namely the strong sense of place (often anchored in Central Ohio) and the focus on a liminal, in-between state of being that was often tied to the pandemic.

“People might look at this and say, ‘Oh, one of the themes it touches on is the pandemic. I'm done with that.’ But I really think this involves people reaching a hand out from the mire of the pandemic in a way that makes you want to grab it,” Kristopher said. “I don't think this is going to drag anybody back to horrible days. I think it's going to be more like, ‘Here's the light that was shining in my house during that time.’”

Gretchen, who taught herself to use Adobe InDesign in order to arrange the journal, also created the cover illustration for Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which comes from a collage Gretchen made early in April of 2020. It’s titled “Stacy, Patron Saint of Quarantine,” in honor of Stacy Horn, an internet pioneer Gretchen read about while looking for collage materials in old issues of Rolling Stone.  

“She started one of the first message boards for arts and entertainment and culture, trying to elevate that conversation beyond, ‘Look what my computer can do,’” Gretchen said. “I felt like I owed it to Stacy to make her the patron saint of what we all were depending on here, living in the pandemic.”