Since they were young, Hannah and Chloe Stewart had a knack for writing.
“We’ve always written some kind of newspaper or other,” Chloe said.
They hand wrote their first newspaper, which consisted solely of news at their house, when Hannah was 7 and Chloe was 4. They titled the family newspaper The Stewart Gazette.
“We would just write out by hand whatever was going on at our house,” said Hannah.
Now, 11 years later, Hannah and Chloe publish a semimonthly magazine, Bramblecreek, that they fill with poems, drawings, short stories, and local advertisements.
The Stewarts mail out seven issues to subscribers that prepay for the magazine. In total, they print 45 – 50 copies, the majority of which they distribute at local businesses like Jilly Beans Coffee House and Hillsdale Craft Supply.
Readers can purchase Bramblecreek for a quarter in local stores or mail a check to receive a six-month or year subscription and can also view the latest issue at bramblecreekmag.weebly.com.
The Stewarts moved to Hillsdale just two years ago, after moving around a lot as kids, but said they hope they can settle down here.
Handling Bramblecreek’s distribution all by themselves, the Stewarts have befriended many of Hillsdale’s small business owners.
“She just came in with this box one day and asked if she could leave her magazine here,” Julie Crowley, the manager at Jilly Beans, said. “I check the box once in a while, and sure enough, people are buying Bramblecreek.”
Since then, Crowley has come to know the Stewarts and said she is impressed by their entrepreneurship and maturity. “Hannah really impressed me. She had an idea and just ran with it.”
As homeschooled girls, Hannah said they learned to read when they were very young.
“From there, we just started writing our own stories,” she said. “We wrote poems, short stories, and news, and started to send it to our grandma.”
From the time they were young, Hannah and Chloe’s education revolved around their ability to read and write. In Chloe’s words, it was “very, very informal homeschooling. [Our parents] gave us the books and said, ‘learn this.’”
Bramblecreek’s origins can be traced back three years to the All-Week, a magazine which Hannah and Chloe first produced on a typewriter. Since then, the two sisters used computer programs to design Bramblecreek, and published their 135th issue last month.
Neither of the Stewarts seemed interested in college.
“I’ve already got a full time job, at Glei’s Orchards and Greenhouses,” Hannah said. “I really like my job there.”
At first, the Stewarts were Bramblecreek’s only contributors, with occasional columns from their grandma. Now, they get tens of submissions for each issue, consisting of short stories, poetry, and artwork. In July, they announced the winners of Bramblecreek’s second annual poetry contest.
Chloe also writes a satirical advice column called “Ask Cho.” In Bramblecreek’s Aug. 1 issue, an anonymous reader wrote to Cho under the pseudonym “Unsure,” asking about the best way to tell her friend that she hates her.
In response, Chloe wrote, “There is no need to be nice about it! If you hate her, then just tell her that. If she takes offence then that is her problem, not yours.”
Hannah often writes articles about local events like the Hillsdale Open Air Market or other things that intrigue her. “I wrote an article that’ll be coming up in the next issue or two about some interesting lore I found out about Baw Beese Lake. It’s super secret,” she smiled.
Bramblecreek grew so large that, last year, they began receiving submissions from people they had never even met.
“We also annoy our friends until they send us things,” Chloe added.
Both Hannah and Chloe said that a large part of their fascination with writing comes from reading fantasy books. They had a long list of favorites, too. “Tolkien, for sure,” Chloe said. “I guess Nancy Drew — does that count? The Hardy Boys are hilarious. They’re just so stupid.”
Chloe likes reading Robert Frost and J.R.R. Tolkien’s poetry as well. Hannah finds it boring. “I’m not a big poetry fan. I only like Chloe’s poetry,” she said. Chloe thanked her.
The magazine also features Chloe’s drawings.
“I’ve always loved drawing,” she said. “My dad draws… I don’t know how I got into it. It just happened really.”
“And I don’t draw,” Hannah laughed.
Chloe hopes that her experience with artistic publishing via Bramblecreek can expand into an art career. She paints murals, mostly on walls at her house, but believes she can paint for the surrounding community.
“I’m hoping that eventually I won’t have any walls left. If there are no walls left, I’ll have to paint on the floor,” she grinned.
Hannah felt that Bramblecreek should serve as an outlet for younger writers, like the Stewarts, who have ideas and aspirations, but might feel uncomfortable starting out on their own. “We’re not just looking for anyone to write. We’re looking for kids to write. Anybody who’s interested.”
Hannah and Chloe want to continue publishing Bramblecreek as long as they can. “I think just bit by bit we’d like to add more pages to it,” Hannah said.
“Maybe eventually we’ll be something bigger,” Chloe added.