About this project
So what's this all about?
Deca is a cooperative founded by a group of established writers. We've banded together to send our work directly to you, as a download to your digital device, rather than publishing it in a print magazine or as a book. It’s a collaborative project. Deca's members take turns editing one another, promoting each other’s stories, and sharing some of the collective earnings and expenses.
Our members are based around the world, and our stories reflect that. We do ambitious, deeply-reported journalism on vital topics from criminal justice in China to oil exploration in the Arctic to immigration in the Mediterranean to the tourism economy in the Andes. They’re nonfiction narratives written by journalists who speak the local languages and often live in the places we write about. Our goal with each story is to show some aspect of “the world, firsthand.”
Deca’s stories take about an hour to read. There’s a new one each month.
The members are all professional writers with extensive experience. We’ve written well-received books with major publishers, and we contribute to national magazines like Rolling Stone, Harper’s, Time, The New Yorker, and National Geographic.
Sounds great. Why are you on Kickstarter?
We started Deca a year ago, paying for it out of our own pockets. Graphics. Lawyers. Equipment. Travel.
To keep going, we need your help. Real reporting, especially the globe-spanning work we do, can be expensive. To write Deca’s first story, And The City Swallowed Them, Pulitzer Prize finalist Mara Hvistendahl flew from her adopted home, Shanghai, to British Columbia, and then back. She traveled deep into the Chinese countryside to track down the family of an accused killer. She interviewed dozens of people. She paid for all the travel and reporting herself.
We’ve found a fantastic designer to make Mara’s story and the next titles from Deca attractive and easy to read. We’ve hired a proofreader. We’ve paid a Web host. We’ve determined how to deliver our stories seamlessly to your phone, e-reader, tablet, or computer—so you can read wherever you are and on whatever device you’re carrying. We’ve done all this on the cheap. But it has still taken more than we have. Without help we can't make Deca the great project we envision.
Our Kickstarter goal, $15,000, will help us cover the rest of our startup costs. If we’re fortunate enough to get there, our plan is to use any additional income to focus on our next goals.
UPDATE MONDAY, JUNE 16: WE REACHED OUR GOAL OVER THE WEEKEND?
We're going to have more tomorrow. The truth is this has happened a lot faster than we anticipated, so check back. In the mean time, what were those next goals again?
UPDATE TUESDAY, JUNE 17:
Okay, it’s possible we underestimated you.
Three and a half days. That’s how long it took to reach Deca’s goal here on Kickstarter. Barely a day and a half later we’re on pace to reach $20,000 by the end of the first week — more than a third of the way over our goal, in a quarter of the time. We’re stunned by the response and immensely gratified that you believe in us.
Here’s what you’ve just done:
We can tell our designer to start working on the next gorgeous covers for our upcoming stories, right away.
We can pay back some of the costs of the reporting several of us have already done.
We can start planning new stories.
Our costs for those stories aren’t as high as most organizations. We run a tight ship. But things still add up. Here are two specific examples of what we do with the money we raise:
The $3,500 that went into Mara's story, And the City Swallowed Them, included her flight from Shanghai to Victoria, Canada and living and travel expenses while she was in British Columbia. In China, she paid the salary to cover a researcher who traveled with her to the remote town of Anhui.
She paid another researcher in Shanghai and a transcriptionist in the Philippines. She bought books to research the world of modeling and covered the phone bill for dozens of calls that were impossible to make with free VOIP service. So far, she’s paid all that herself.
Now here's an example of a story we’ll need to fund in the very near future, by Delphine Schrank:
For years, Delphine reported undercover from Burma, building crucial connections and friendships. Now she wants to go back to explore a resource war -- for jade, teak, opium and hydropower -- in the northern jungled hills that border China.
She’ll need to get to the country from her home in the U.S., and once there, have reporting and travel expenses within the country similar to Mara’s. After that, Deca will have the same production expenses we have with every story: copy editing, a cover, and formatting for Kindle.
Like we said at the beginning of this effort: it’s not a lot of money, but it’s more than we’ve got.
Our next goal is $35,000, about double what we've raised so far. Our specific plans for the money are in the box just below, the one with a picture of our researcher Zanna and her assistant. Check them out.
We hope you’ll tell friends and colleagues about your support for Deca. Talk about your support for Deca on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, and here on Kickstarter.
You’ve asked us to think big. Trust us. We are.
As of this writing, we've just reached our first Stretch Goal, $18,000. The next one on this list is $25,000. We think we can do it.
Once more, thank you for helping create more great stories about the world. Away we go:
Besides donating, are there other ways to be involved in Deca?
Absolutely. And we’re very glad you asked.
We created Deca not just to tell stories but to listen to them. We hope to get rid of the barriers between journalists and readers—to move past the old model of us writing and you reading, toward the modern era of interaction and collaboration. On Deca’s website, www.decastories.com, we’re already setting up spaces for readers and journalists to come together for discussions. We hope you’ll suggest topics and react critically—in the good sense of the word—to what you’ve read. We want Deca to be a conversation, and for the last page of each story to be a starting point, not an ending.
You can begin talking to us today, and we'll listen:
Has this been tried before?
Yes—but not quite like this, not for the written word. Deca finds its inspiration in the global photo agencies that formed starting in the '40s and '50s. Back then, photographers founded cooperatives in places like Paris and New York, helping each other create, market, and distribute work. By combining not just their financial resources but their ideas and vision, these co-ops told us the most important stories of the 20th century.
Today, digital technology—particularly mobile technology—makes this kind of collaboration possible for writers, too. We believe that what worked then will also work now. We just need your participation. And a little help.
Who are you?
Rome-based Stephan Faris recently traveled to Lampedusa, Italy to look at the human impact of international borders, a story Deca will publish in July. He’s the author of Forecast: The Consequences of Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, from Darfur to Napa Valley. He writes for Time, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The Atlantic.
McKenzie Funk is writing the untold story of 18 roughnecks trapped on a runaway oil rig in Alaska, which Deca will publish this summer. He is the author of Windfall, a 2014 book about climate change. Based in Seattle, he has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award and, for his interview in Tajikistan with one of the first prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay, the Livingston Award.
Vanessa M. Gezari is covering the tense trial of a U.S. soldier accused of war crimes in Afghanistan. She’s the author of The Tender Soldier: A True Story of War and Sacrifice, about the U.S. military’s use of civilian social scientists. She has reported from four continents for The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, The New Republic, Mother Jones, the Columbia Journalism Review, and others. Vanessa lives in New York City.
Marc Herman is reporting for Deca from northeast Spain, site of the world’s weirdest, cheeriest breakaway republic. He is the author of Searching for El Dorado, an account of his travels with Amazon gold prospectors, and The Shores of Tripoli, based on his reporting from the Libyan war for The Atlantic. Having reported for many years from Latin America and Indonesia, he now lives in Barcelona.
Mara Hvistendahl wrote Deca’s debut story about the mysterious death of a young Canadian model in Shanghai, and her family's quest to understand what happened. A longtime resident of China, she is a contributing editor at Science magazine and the author of Unnatural Selection, named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and best book of 2011 by The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and Discover.
Tom Zoellner travelled to an ancient silver mine in Bolivia to write Deca’s August story on the bizarre world of “dark tourism.” A resident of downtown L.A., he is the author of five nonfiction books, including The Heartless Stone, Train, A Safeway in Arizona, and Uranium. His writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Time, Men’s Health, The Daily Beast, Slate, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Washington, D.C.-based Delphine Schrank is a former reporter for the Washington Post, a contributing editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review and the author of the forthcoming The Rebel of Rangoon: A Tale of Defiance and Deliverance in Burma. A Franco-American, she has lived and worked in England, France, Belgium, Germany, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Thailand, New York, and Washington, D.C. She worked largely undercover in Burma for four years.
Sonia Faleiro is the award-winning author of Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars, named a Book of the Year by The Economist, The Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus, and The Observer. Faleiro’s writing and photographs have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Granta, and Vogue. She divides her time between London and India.
Donovan Hohn is the author of Moby-Duck, a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Prize for Excellence in Journalism and runner-up for both the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. A recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award and multiple literary fellowships, he is a former features editor at GQ and a former contributing editor at Harper’s. He lives in Michigan, where he teaches creative writing at Detroit's Wayne State University.
Right, so that’s our project.
Thanks for reading. It’s probably obvious, but we’re pretty excited to be doing this. And you're invited.
Risks and challenges
There are nine of us. If one has an emergency, another can cover. It's happened already. But much as we'd like to, what we can't control are the events we write about.
We plan to publish a new 10- to 20,000-word story every month. The biggest risk for Deca is that a story we have scheduled for publication, or for printing as a reward, somehow falls through at the last minute. Journalism isn't a science: you have to let events play out. A story that seemed important in February can sometimes, by May, leave you a little...meh. It happens.
Should reality throw a wrench in our plans, we might have a delay of two or three weeks past the announced publication date until another story is ready. In that case, we'll advise you of the delay and the reasons why. If you're a subscriber, or have donated at one of the subscription levels, we'll credit that immediately.
We could probably just rush something else into publication. That's what large media organizations do -- they call it "plugging holes." But our bottom line is the quality of our work. If we miss the target early on, it will be because we don't have a story that's deserving of your attention. It won't be long until we do, and we'll communicate with you when we'll be back on schedule via our website, by email if appropriate, and via our app as applicable.
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