By Cece Wildeman
The Rocky Mountain Collegian
Cody Swatek sits with his elbows on a dingy brown table in the Lory Student Center, his hands hovering over the surface.
“More,” says the junior English and art double major to Scott Van Tonningen, a senior English major and the fiction editor of “A” Literary Journal.
Van Tonningen slaps a stack of papers just underneath his colleague’s hands, and Swatek’s gaze lowers as he begins to read.
Rap music plays from behind the metal bars of the closed restaurant gates and the smell of cleaning products and fast food fills the air. The student editors of the literary journal have met to read over submissions for this year’s edition and to consult their graduate adviser, Kelley Irmen.
The papers are already marked with comments paired with checks, check-pluses and check-minuses. But they need more reads, new comments.
So, the group falls silent and begins to read. For the undergraduate students that submitted stories,
there are only their words, syntax, grammar and style to represent them as their papers fall, nameless, under the eyes of the editors.
For an hour, the students read, passing papers among one another. Shuffle. Slap. Shuffle. Slap. Scribble. Stack. Shuffle. Slap.
A little bit of “A” learning experience?
“A” Literary Journal has been around for a few years. How long exactly, none of the editors really know. At least three, they say. The editors take poetry, fiction and fine art submissions from CSU undergrads of all majors and put out a journal at the end of every school year.
“It’s (the journal) sort of the literary voice of CSU,” Van Tonningen said. “There’s a lot of talent and potential out there and a lot of students wouldn’t have a forum to release their work otherwise.”
For student editors, the process
of putting the journal together has been a learning experience, they said.
Van Tonningen said he learned a lot about copy-editing, which he didn’t have much experience with, and also a lot about his writing.
“Editing helped my writing,” he said. “Going through with a fine-toothed comb makes me reflect more on my own work.”
Aside from writing, the editorial staff received training on design and layout of the journal.
“Yeah, he’s actually the one who gave us a crash course in InDesign,” Van Tonningen said, gesturing toward Swatek, laughing.
Courtney Caccavallo, a junior English major and the assistant editor in chief of the journal, said learning about the publishing business and copy-editing will help her career. She also said working as an editor has made her a better critic of fiction writing.
Submitting work to the journal is beneficial as well, Irmen said.
“It is important because it (the journal) can be their (students) first experience with submitting and getting used to that,” she said.
She said it’s even a good experience if students get rejected because, once writers start submitting a lot of their work —- which she encourages — they have to get used to rejection.
Caccavallo and Irmen agreed that the journal is a good place for writers to start, and Caccavallo noted that it’s a way to “get the creative juices flowing” at CSU.
“If more engineering majors, more math and science majors, more history majors, if they just wrote what they were feeling out on paper it could be a great outlet. This school needs to be a bit more creative,” she said.
“A” name for the nameless
“A” Literary Journal received about 100 submissions this school year, Irmen said. And they all had the name taken off before being seen by the student editors.
But behind the 100 packets of paper are 100 real students, writing for fun, writing to be part of a community.
“It’s nice to feel like you belong to the literary community,” said Heather Goodrich a senior creative writing and technical journalism major that submitted a fiction piece to “A.”
“If you see your name and your colleague’s name, it helps you push one another to submit your work and it’s not this big scary beast,” she added later.
While Goodrich submitted with hopes of breaking into the writing community, Chase Dokken, a senior English major, submitted last school year just for fun, he said.
“It’s nice to have students publish something before they leave college,” he said.
Outside “A” Monday night meeting
When they aren’t putting the journal together, “A” staff members spend time fundraising. Van Tonningen said last semester he and some colleagues tried to fundraise at various outlets in Fort Collins.
He said they asked local businesses and bookstores to pitch in, but not many of them were interested.
More successful fundraising ventures included receiving some of Gelazzi’s profits on a night when “A” staff members handed out free samples, and getting money from the profits made by a friend’s band at their show.
“The more money the better, because that means more copies we can get out there, and we can make it (the journal) better,” Van Tonningen said.
He said that, although the group meets once a week to assess their progress and work on putting the journal together, a lot of work gets done outside of the meetings.
“Everyone on the team has a passion for the written word,” he said.
He said eight people usually see each submission and the editors spend time reading submissions throughout the week and on the weekends.
So, as the meeting concludes, each editor leaves with an outside duty: turning in forms, reading submissions.
“A good poet borrows, a great poet steals,” Swatek says jokingly to his colleagues about a poem that included lyrics. This rouses a laugh out of them as they finish up their reads for this Monday night, new check marks and comments adorning each work.
Editor’s note: Heather Goodrich is also a reporter and copy editor at College Avenue magazine.
Entertainment Editor Cece Wildeman can be reached at email@example.com.