Sitting in class every other day listening to a lecture can teach you a lot, but it doesn’t necessarily teach you the “how” of things. Listening to an anatomy lecture won’t teach you how to be a doctor, and listening to a lecture on 18th century Europe won’t teach you how to be a historian. However, running a literary journal in class will teach you how to run a literary journal. Students working on the Long River Review meet in class twice a week to plan, organize and create this yearly literary journal. Every year a new class of students comes together to give the publication a new vision and take on any new challenges.
By this point in the semester, the Long River Review is already in its first draft form. Submissions have been solicited, works have been selected and everything has been sent to the design center partnered with the publication. But before all this could happen, the co-editors-in-chief, eighth-semester English majors Siobhan Dale and Brianna McNish, had to decide what their vision for the publication would be.
“We said this year we want to be more experimental and more cutting-edge,” Dale said.
While most literary journals strive to be contemporary, it also comes down to a sense of consistency between each of the pieces.
“There’s something about seeing all the pieces the staff shortlisted and selected come together in a tangible product,” McNish said. “And it urges us to consider not only what constitutes as a ‘good’ piece but also what pieces complement each other best.”
As Dale explained, if the poetry panel is selecting a lot of experimental pieces for publication, the fiction panel shouldn’t be selecting more traditional works.
“We turn down a significant number of submissions each year not necessarily because they are ‘bad’ per se, but because we simply think the piece might be suited elsewhere,” McNish said.
This year, specifically, the staff ended up selecting a lot more works of translation than they regularly feature.
“I want to create something that inspires empathy and translates experience,” Dale said, expressing how language can be a big piece of this.
In order to make all of the selections, the 20-person staff is divided into different panels to focus on poetry and translation, fiction and drama or nonfiction and multimedia. Many of the staff members have additional roles as well, like marketing or social media coordinator.
The staff is supervised by the publication’s advisor, Darcie Dennigan, an assistant professor in residence for the English Department. The staff advisor rotates every year between creative writing professors. Dennigan has served in the role twice before.
In addition to selecting the students for the class from a pool of applicants and helping everyone find the role that’s right for them, Dennigan can help them to frame or contextualize the work that needs to be done. However, the publication is primarily student-run.
“One goal I had was to delegate even more,” Dennigan said. “In the past (advisors) tended to manage a lot more than was probably necessary … I’ve been trying to create opportunities for students to lead.”
Now that the selection process is over and the first draft completed, the staff has moved onto fundraising and event planning. Eventually, the class will have to deal with the release and distribution of their finished publication, which will be introduced at a launch party later in the semester.
At the end of the semester, not only will students be able to take with them the finished product they helped create, but all the experience and know-how that comes from a hands-on class like the Long River Review.
Alex Houdeshell is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.