Flying to Ireland over the summer to join a groundbreaking new literary society, located at Trinity College Dublin, sounds like something right out of an 1800s drama, which is perhaps part of the intrigue that led to a handful of University of Connecticut students to do just that this past June.
Joseph Reynolds, who taught The Short Story as an adjunct professor in the spring of 2017, led the 10-day creative writing retreat to Dublin as a way to fulfill his dream to create a literary magazine. The trip was a chance for students to get their writing critiqued and to learn more about the craft in a diverse environment with people of all ages and backgrounds. It was there that the Sancho Panza Literary Society was formed, and attached to that is New Square literary magazine.
Two of the students from Reynold’s class, Erica Lauer and Amber Smith, joined him on the journey and helped start up the project.
“This is the first summer this was done, so we’re both founding members of it,” said Smith, a sixth-semester political science major and the book review editor of the magazine. “We helped start it.”
Both students said they were drawn to the trip because of their love of writing and desire to leave the country.
“I have been writing creatively I would say all of my life,” Smith said. She recalled doing creative writing practices in elementary school and noted that an excerpt of one of them had been published in The Hartford Courant. It was then that she realized she might have a talent for it, and her love for writing has grown ever since. She pursues and furthers her craft as much as she can, meeting up with friends on weekends to write and going on retreats like this one.
Lauer, a sixth-semester digital media and design major and the layout designer of the magazine, shares a similar story.
“I really started writing in high school, but I always had stories in my head,” they said. “I’d have my imaginary worlds and at some point I was like, I wanna write them. And I’ve been doing that for almost eight years now.”
The two have been working together for months, along with the rest of the staff, to bring New Square from Reynolds’s dream to a reality.
The name of the society, Lauer explained, comes from Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”
“With The Sancho Panza Literary Society, we’ve founded an independent society of ideas—a forum for unmitigated artistic expression and vigorous debate, in residence each summer at the hauntingly beautiful and historic Trinity College Dublin (where all the ghosts speak in verse and even the architecture has pathos),” Reynolds writes on their website. “Don Quixote is lauded as literature’s ultimate dreamer, but his sidekick, Sancho Panza, knew that they were just tilting at windmills, and went along to explore the unknown anyway; and that is the kind of imagination that we revere, and exactly what sustains us when everything else falls away.”
The name of the magazine itself, New Square, comes from the square at Trinity College Dublin, which is the part of campus where the members of the society stay when they’re there.
“The magazine is really cool,” Smith explained. “We have a lot of sections, which is really great, because it offers a lot of great stuff for readers.” She went on to list the sections of the magazine, which include poetry, fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, book reviews, film reviews and music reviews. There’s also a “Staff Picks” section where people who work for the magazine recommended different music, movies, books and more that they enjoy.
“I design the pages and do the layout for New Square,” Lauer said about their role in the project. “I format it all and make it so it can actually be published into the physical book.” In addition to this, they designed the logos for both the Society and the literary magazine, and they’re in the process of making them into stickers and t-shirts.
Smith works as the book review editor. “I decide what entries get put in the section and work with creators to really help them convey and get to the core of what they’re trying to say,” she said. “I help them get at the influence the book had, why that book resonates with them, etc., because you don’t really want just a summary. They picked that book for a specific reason. There are societal reasons for why that book matters.”
The magazine publishes twice a year, with a fall edition and a spring edition. To gain publicity, they’ve published the fall edition online for free. It can be read at http://blog.sanchopanzalit.com.
“For the first issue, we had people submit to us from France, England and Ireland. And obviously from the U.S., too, and that’s just from the first issue,” Smith said. “We’re hoping to get even more diverse backgrounds for the second issue.”
The two explained that the funding for the first issue came directly from Reynolds’s pocket, and so they’re looking to crowdfund the spring edition.
“For this issue, we’re doing a Kickstarter campaign,” Smith explained. “It’s really easy to find because Kickstarter featured it under their ‘Projects We Love’ section, so it’s under ‘New and Noteworthy,’ too. I’m really excited about it. We’re trying to raise $1000 by March 20 at 6 p.m. We’re at about $400 right now, and because of how Kickstarter works, if we don’t hit the goal by March 20, we don’t get any of the money.”
I asked why they chose a crowdfunding website like Kickstarter that doesn’t guarantee them their funds when others like GoFundMe would let them keep any money they raise, regardless as to whether they hit their goal. Smith’s eyes lit up.
“Kickstarter is a lot better for funding more creative projects and has a better rewards subscription, which was something that was very, very important to us,” she explained. “We wanted backers to get something creative for contributing to something creative. For any donation of $50 or above, you get a year’s subscription to the magazine. For as low as $5, you get a personal letter from the society.”
In addition to raising money for the next issue, they’re also looking for submissions. People of all ages can submit, and submissions are accepted year-round. The deadline for pieces considered for the spring edition is April 1. Poets can submit up to three poems, and short works of fiction no more than 5,000 words can be submitted. There’s no fee, and more specific guidelines can be found on their website at http://blog.sanchopanzalit.com/p/new-square.html.
“I really, more than anything, want people to submit for it,” Smith said.
While the first edition can be read online, future editions can be purchased through a subscription to the magazine. It can be bought from their website, but it’s also one of the perks for donating $50 to their Kickstarter.
The spring edition will come out in late May or early June of this year.
Courtney Gavitt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.