The Liar is a bi-annual poetry and creative writing zine exclusively edited by Capilano University students. It provides an opportunity for students to publish their own poetry, prose, and artwork. Although the English Department funds the Liar, it is an autonomous publication. Each term, a new editorial collective composed of students determines the content and style.

A high turn over rate is usually considered a bad thing, but in the case of the Liar, it allows for constant renewal and growth. Still, there is quite a knowledge gap in the Liar’s history. Some information has been lost. Other information seems to change depending on who is recalling it. With a twenty-two year history and revolving door editorial collective, it’s no wonder.

Former prof Pierre Coupey recalls bringing the idea of a student-run publication to his writing class in the late 1980’s. Students from Coupey’s class began publishing their own weekly broadsheet, which eventually grew into the student run literary magazine known as the Liar. The first volume is believed to have been edited by Derrick Stone and Pete Hofmann in spring 1987, though this issue is missing. The pair edited the second and third volumes as well.

Volume four was edited by Robert Pacey and Kimberley French. Pacey, now the owner of a Vancouver based graphic design company, had poetry published in the third volume. He took over editing when the previous editors moved on to SFU. The early volumes of the Lair included some well-known writers. For volume four, the editors managed to interview Margaret Atwood and included an excerpt from her novel, “Cat’s Eye”. The spring 1989 edition contained an original poem by Charles Bukowski. Pacey recalls that, at the time, the Liar was receiving many submissions in Bukowski’s style so they thought they “might as well go get him”. Pacey sent a letter to the poet, along with $5, writing, “have a beer on me and send me a poem”. To his surprise, Bukowski sent him a poem the following week.

Capilano English instructors, including Sharon Thesen (1990) and Ryan Knighton (1996), have also been published in the Liar. However, the focus always remained student creative writing. Book reviews appeared in the first few years, as publishers were regularly sending new books to the collective. There was only one unofficial rule regarding submissions: “No poems about cats”. For the record, this rule still applies.

Along with perpetual changes in the editorial collective and the visual appearance of the Liar, the name has also undergone transformations. From fall 1992 until spring 1996, the zine was published as the Lyre. The volumes, which were larger, glossy, and professional in appearance, were published once a year. The reason for the name change is uncertain. Prof Roger Farr remarked that the name played with “the oral tradition of poetry”, noting that in ancient Greece, poetry was often spoken while the lyre was played. Whatever the reason, after four yearly volumes, the Lyre disappeared.

Then, in 2005, Roger Farr brought the idea of a Liar revival to students in his Creative Writing class. Seven students came together to create the first issue in ten years. The original Liar name was restored, while the zine shifted to include writing solely by students. Carmen Papalia, co-editor of that, recalls, “Nobody really knew what they were doing, but we learned together and had way too much fun doing so—we would often jump on a trampoline to ‘bounce’ ideas off each other”. The English Department provided a budget of $500. Farr supplied the crew with examples of past issues of the Liar and a timeline for the production before setting them loose.

Aubyn Rader, another co-editor in 2005, remembers Roger Farr telling him that “working on magazines doesn't change much. You have different budgets and you can print more copies. But the production process is always nearly the same. You accept submissions, you lay them out, you print them.” After leaving Capilano, Rader and Papalia, along with most of the Liar collective of 2005, went on to create their own magazine, Memewar, which was voted Best Free Literary Magazine by the Georgia Straight last year. 

The departure of the revival crew resulted in the creation of the infamous Jedi Council. Like each successive collective, the Jedis aspired to distinguish themselves from previous Liar incarnations. Co-editor Laura Kane focused on attracting a wider audience by spamming Capilano with hot pink posters and speaking to creative writing classes. Still, they only received about 25 submissions each term, of which 12-15 were published. With only four co-editors for each of the 2006 issues, they were all involved in every aspect of the zine’s production. “It's a great way to get experience if you want to work in publishing, editing, or just plain writing.” said Kane. “Through working on the Liar, I got experience in selecting and editing content, working with a collective, laying out a magazine, distributing it on campus and in small bookstores, organizing launch parties, and designing websites.”

While Farr agrees that students benefit from their experience working in an editorial capacity, he stresses the benefit is not limited to university studies. “Working with different people and building friendships is crucial for a lively and active literary circle. The best writing emerges from friendships and affinities, not from lessons and reading.”

For many writers, the attraction to the Liar is the possibility of being published. Most university literary journals publish the work of graduate students, faculty, and even professional writers. The Liar offers first and second year students a rare opportunity for publication. “The game of literary stardom is bankrupt. DIY rules,” says Creative Writing prof Reg Johanson. “ I'm glad we can introduce students to the means of their own literary production, and hopefully their own intellectual emancipation.”

The writing in student-run literary magazines is autonomous and more experimental than writing in most other literary magazines. Farr notes that, in general, student magazines tied to other creative writing programs may be closely affiliated with the universities themselves while the Liar is closer to student culture. “There is a real history of radical, risky student mags in Vancouver,” says Farr. “That spirit is crucial and it’s alive in the Liar.”

The current Liar Collective is accepting submissions until October 30th. The issue will be available at the end of November with the launch party occurring around the same time. The evening will include readings by the Liar writers as well as performances by local musicians. A few copies of the spring 2009 edition are still floating around. Look for them in the Library, Bookstore, and Writing Centre. To submit writing, ask questions, or tell tall tales, email  All submissions will be judged anonymously.

//Jennifer Cole, writer

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