Saturday, April 6, 2013

Some things get better with age

Last night I attended the 50th anniversary party for my alma mater’s literary magazine. I edited the magazine for two of those fifty years, and I was thrilled to see that the magazine has not only survived, but thrived, in the years since my graduation.

It certainly was a shoestring operation back in the day. I inherited my position from the graduating editor, who passed the materials along to me in the hopes that the magazine just wouldn’t die. We were a college full of science majors, so creative writing wasn’t a priority, and we had no spiffy desktop publishing or digital layouts to help us. The magazine’s faculty advisor had gone on sabbatical and then retired; my first task was to find a new advisor. (I discovered last night that he kept that role long afterward, guiding many more issues to life in the following years.) The size of the magazine was based on how many pages I could afford, given the budget that student government allotted me. I laid out the pages by hand against blue-lined backgrounds, and a printer who was most likely using lead type produced the magazine. The artwork was all hand-drawn, in black and white.

My second year in the editor’s chair, I had an actual staff to help, and I trained two people to succeed me as co-editors. Today, when I look at the issues we produced, I can say: Not bad for the time. (Also, the influence of Pink Floyd’s The Wall on my generation is obvious.) (And of my own writing, all I want to say is: I’m a much better writer now.) But those issues pale in comparison to the thick, professional, color-illustrated, golden-anniversary issue I was handed last night. The current faculty advisor has obviously done a lot to nurture the magazine and the creative-writing program in general. (There is now a creative writing minor at my school! How I wish I’d had that opportunity.) The staff includes an art editor, a fiction editor, a poetry editor, a nonfiction editor, and so on. (My first year on the job, our staff consisted of ... me.) The poems the students read aloud were much better than anything I was writing myself at that age.

I loved talking with the students about what has changed at the school (the campus has grown significantly, and everything is somewhere else now: the gym, the dining hall, the English department; most of the fraternities that were a big part of campus life then have folded or changed). But most of all, I was glad that they’ve been able to build the magazine into something so beautiful. That my directive to “just keep it alive” has grown into something more ambitious. That my science-oriented school is embracing, more than ever, the need for creative arts.


  1. Love this! I was the editor-in-chief for my university's literary magazine, as well, but it had only been around for four or so years by the time I arrived. It has grown a lot since then, since I've graduated. I need to go to the next publication night!

    1. Some of the campus groups I belonged to have folded, but it was so nice to see this one thriving and strong.

    2. How fun it must have been to go back, especially since the magazine has thrived. And it must have been inspiring for the students to talk to a past editor who has gone on to publish books!

    3. I don't know about them, but I know I was inspired!