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The Whitworthian

The Student News Site of Whitworth University

The Whitworthian

The Student News Site of Whitworth University

The Whitworthian

From process to production and publication

Students gain hands-on experience in literary production through English department

Students fill every chair in an upstairs classroom in Westminster on Wednesday evenings as they gather to discuss the literary qualities of works submitted to “Rock and Sling,” the professional literary journal housed at Whitworth.

The meetings are attended by student assistant editors and editorial assistants, as well as English professor and editor-in-chief of “Rock and Sling” Thom Caraway. The meetings often consist of an hour of lively debate.

“We’re having great discussions on a really intellectual level,” Caraway said. “Students are talking intelligently about things like the effects of line and stanza breaks and how the diction is interacting with the theme.”

Participation with “Rock and Sling” is just one avenue through which the English department gives students opportunities to take their learning beyond theory and into application. Students can also participate in the many contests the department hosts, as well as “Script,” the student literary journal, to gain hands-on experience in editing and publishing.

One competition the English department hosts each year is the chapbook contest, which invites students to submit 10 to 20 pages of original writing. The winner of the competition is given a cash prize, a small-print run of a chapbook using the submitted writing and the spot of featured reader at the “Script” reading.

Junior English and art major Matt Comi won the contest last year with his collection of poems dealing with issues of age and family.

“I like that [chapbooks] are handmade,” Comi said. “It’s actually the object that matters. The only thing that matters in a traditional book is the words, the language inside. In a handmade book, the physical book matters.”

Comi entered the contest again this year, but has largely shifted his focus to submitting his works to literary journals.

“It was a little dissatisfying to only give work to those I know,” he said. “With a journal, your work is going out to a larger audience.”

Senior English major Michael Schmidt entered the contest for the first time this year, and said he is anxiously awaiting results, as the entries were still under review at the time of print.

“I’ve never felt ready enough to enter before,” Schmidt said. “This is the first semester I’ve had a collection of poetry that’s all themed the same.”

His entry deals with ideas of light and dark, which he said are ideas he uses to understand his relationship with God.

“I see light and dark as two different sides of God that are both good and complementary,” Schmidt said.

Though he said he’s never felt prepared to publish his own work before, Schmidt has participated in the editing process with “Rock and Sling.” He worked as assistant poetry editor last year, and has also worked as an editorial assistant.

With experience working on both “Rock and Sling” and “Script,” senior English major John Taylor said those two publications are “the pinnacle of the writing program.”

He said his primary focuses are on participating with other “Rock and Sling” staffers in the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference and on promoting and putting finishing touches on this year’s “Script.”

For “Script,” Taylor works with Comi as assistant managing editors.

“Mainly to get the best book possible, that’s our goal,” Taylor said.

He said the journal will be finished by the beginning of April, and the “Script” staff hopes to have a reading in mid-to-late April.

In March, Taylor and Caraway and four other student “Rock and Sling” participants will be traveling to Boston for the AWP conference, where the group will work to promote “Rock and Sling.”

“We’ll be in what’s called the Bookfair. It’s a massive convention center full of literary journals, MFA programs, and lately some literary bloggers,” Caraway said. “We have a table in there, so we’re putting together marketing materials.”

The group will have the chance to meet writers, editors, publishers and representatives from writing programs from across the country.

Caraway said students getting involved with hands-on literary projects such as chapbooks, “Rock and Sling,” and “Script” is a relatively new phenomenon at Whitworth.

“Five years ago, the answer to the question of what students are doing in the literary world would have been ‘Script,’” he said. “Now, students are interested in making their own books, books for other people, literary journals.”

He said not only are students creating those things, but they are creating them well. For example, “Rock and Sling” is one of just a handful of professional literary journals run by an undergraduate staff in the United States. Caraway said he considers Rock and Sling to be among a higher caliber of work than many of the other undergraduate-run journals.

“It’s great to see well-designed stuff throughout the department,” Caraway said. “That’s the English degree in action, students thinking, ‘This is going to be in print, and the world is going to see it.’”

Contact Lindsie Trego at [email protected]

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From process to production and publication