A Brief History of Rhubarb Magazine and the Mennonite Literary Society

The Mennonite Literary Society ceased publication of the Mennonite Mirror in 1990. The Mirror, a monthly newsletter featuring Mennonite stories, non-fiction, travel journals, and occasionally some poetry had published since 1970. The MLS Board sent out a call for proposals, seeking new board members who would take on the Mennonite Literary Society and re-invigorate its publication initiatives.

A new MLS Board grew from this initiative, although it took almost a decade for the MLS to redefine and reposition the Society’s publication to be a more focused arts and writing quarterly – called Rhubarb Magazine. Launched in the fall of 1998 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery with its premiere “Peace” issue, featured a reading by Rudy Wiebe about the reaction to his first novel – Peace Shall Destroy Many – as well as a reading by Armin Wiebe from his newest novel – Tatsea.

Thirty-two issues of Rhubarb have been published since the Peace Issue. Most have been themed, and a number of regional editions published to seek a wider circle of writers and audience. Original publishing and promotion strategies saw the MLS hosting launch events for each issue of Rhubarb magazine. Rhubarb will continue to present one event or launch annually in its last fiscal quarter.

The number of self-initiated events have been reduced, as our events promotion strategy shifts to promoting publications with externally planned events that would be a good match for Rhubarb Magazine. Examples include the launch of Issue #26 – food – at a Mennonite Heritage Village exhibit focused on “Mennonites and Food” themes (we’ve run out of copies); and the Manitoba Mennonite released at the Manitoba Mennonite Writing Panel at the 2012 Symposium of Manitoba Writing.

A Rhubarb website has been a part of the Mennonite Literary Society and Rhubarb operations and marketing strategy since the launch of the Peace Issue in 1999. The Winnipeg Foundation provided a grant of $9,000 for the redesign of the print magazine and the first ever professionally designed, e-commerce capable website.

The Mennonite Literary Society and the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society entered into an agreement in 2009 to scan all MLS Mennonite Mirror issues published from 1970 to 1990, and to create a digital archival file to complement the print publications on deposit at the Mennonite Heritage Centre.