Minneapolis Convention Center | April 11, 2015

Episode 114: How to Teach Literary Magazines in the Classroom and Why

(Rebecca Morgan Frank, Rachel May, Michael Nye, Jenn Scheck-Kahn, Christina Thompson) For new writers, the rich community of literary magazines is an invaluable resource of inspiration, education, and publication, and yet such writers know very little about this vast and varied living literature that's dependent on their readership for survival. From our teacher panelists, learn three ways to integrate literary magazines into university writing and publishing classes and take our applicable tips and tricks home to your classroom.

Published Date: February 10, 2016


Speaker 1 (00:04):

Welcome to the A W P podcast series. This event was recorded at the 2015 A W P conference in Minneapolis. The recording features Morgan Frank, Rachel May, Michael Nye, Jen, check Khan, and Christina Thompson. You will now hear Jen Check Khan provide introductions.

Speaker 2 (00:33):

Thank you all so much for coming to How to Teach literary magazines in the classroom and why. First, I'll begin by introducing our panelists and then each of them will give a brief talk before a q and a. So here to my right is Christina Thompson, the editor of Harvard Review and instructor in the writing program at Harvard University Extension. She's the author of a memoir, come Unsure and We will Kill and Eat You All, which was shortlisted for the 2009 N SS W Premiere literary Award in nonfiction. Rachel May just completed a PhD from the University of Rhode Island and is the author of two forthcoming books of fiction, the Experiments and Embedded Tings.

Speaker 2 (01:14):

She earned her M F A from the University of Montana, and recent work has been published in Michigan Quarterly Indiana Review, Los Angeles Review of Books and others. Morgan Frank over here is the author of Little Murders Everywhere, a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Ward and the Spokes of Venus forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press. She's an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, an editor-in-chief of memorials. Michael Nye is the author of a short story collection Strategies Against Extinction. His work has appeared in Kenya Review Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Krab Orchard Review and New South among many others. He's the managing editor of Missouri Review. And I'm Jen Chacon. I'm the founder of Journal of the Month, which is a service that sends literary magazines to writers every month. I also run a classroom program where I provide literary magazines that writers can teach to their students. We'll begin with Christina Thompson.

Speaker 3 (02:18):

I'm sure you all feel the way I do as you've been run over by a truck at this point. We've been in the book fair for three days and so we're stunned. So I think it's good that you came at this late stage of the whole thing. What I think I'm going to do is talk very, very briefly about literary magazines. I think we all probably, if you fact that you're even here shows that you know why we need to have literary magazines, but I'm just going to remind you in case you're in a position to defend the principle of the literary magazine to someone in a position of authority or someone with money. The idea I think, is that we have what I think of as a literary ecosystem, and the literary journal is just a piece of that ecosystem that writers need them in order to, for their careers to be advanced, they need to publish in small places before they can publish in big places.

Speaker 3 (03:06):

And the agents, editors, big commercial publishers, they need to see credentials before they're willing to go out on a limb for you and that all is appropriate. So you can't really have the literary environment, the literary ecosystem without the little fish. And that's what we are. And I have been doing this for a really long time and I actually take a lot of pleasure in finding writers and in advancing the careers of young writers in ways that I've had so many young writers who've published with me first and then gone on to get book contracts and win prizes and do this, all that kind of stuff. So it's just, it's an important job. It's an important part of this big food chain. The problem is of course, that they're not self-sustaining and I believe strongly that they cannot be self-sustaining from a financial point of view.

Speaker 3 (03:56):

They need to be supported in one way or another. Ideally you have institutional support or you have a sugar daddy or you have something. We at Harvard are supported by the institution, always a little bit precariously. I have to admit, even at Harvard and some journals, some of the older journals are well endowed. That is wonderful when that is true. If you ever know any really rich people who want to do good, you could suggest that they endow a journal forever and ever. That's the safest situation for journals. It keeps them going in perpetuity almost. But the point is that it's almost impossible to make enough money with a journal to keep it alive. And so you need to be constantly thinking, constantly strategizing. And I have huge admiration for people like Jen who have been thinking laterally about how to get magazines distributed into new places where they haven't been read before, to encourage young people to read them, to encourage teachers to use them in the classroom. This seems like a super good idea. It's just win win, win, win. Good for the writers, good for the publishers, good for the students, good for the teachers. I mean, come on, this is great. The question is how are you going to do it? And I actually have no idea. So I'm going to handball this to somebody who would know about people who've actually done this before because I don't do it. I just publish the things

Speaker 3 (05:19):

Rachel May.

Speaker 4 (05:21):

Thanks so much, Jen, for having me and for organizing this and for making the Journal of the Month Club. I had a lot of fun teaching with it last year and I used the Harvard Review and New England Review, Georgia Review and post road in my classroom. Since you may not know how it works, basically you choose, can you still choose the journals? Yep. You choose four journals. You can choose the journals that you want and your students will get four journals for the semester. Jen sets it up so that the students have a code for your class and they go online and sign up for it and pay online, and then all the journals are distributed to the teachers and we distribute them to the students. It's pretty easy. We get the journals at the beginning of the semester and then the first batch at the beginning of the semester and the rest are distributed, parsed out for the rest of the semester.

Speaker 4 (06:11):

I'm going to talk about how I used it in a 200 level fiction workshop and I wanted to use the journals to draw from the stories, examples of different craft elements like point of view, setting characterization, all those things that introductory students need to learn. And then also I asked each student to critique each journal to understand the aesthetic and to design a journal of their own that would include their own writing and art. And I know Michael's going to speak in more detail about using journals for publishing, but I can tell you a little bit about how we used the journals as examples of what kind of objects they might want to create or be a part of. So I teach at U R I right now, the University of Rhode Island, which is a state school. And most of my undergrads had never heard of literary journals before this course.

Speaker 4 (06:57):

So I chose journals that I thought would provide an aesthetic range and that would give me some information for my own work too. So there's definitely an element of selfishness and what I can get from it as well. So I already of course knew of the Harvard Review and Georgia Review and England Review, but post Road was brand new to me. Jen suggested it as something that she thought I would like and I did. It's one of my favorite journals now. And they each provided a really different range of voices and a different aesthetic for my students. It's really affordable for students, especially at a state school that matters for me. So it's $40 for the semester for each student, and they loved that. We also used a craft book that was pretty affordable. So logistically it worked really well. So we started by reading each journalism object, thinking about how it's designed, what kind of art's on the cover, how is it bound, what kind of paper and font do they use?

Speaker 4 (07:53):

And then we talked about the content. Do they publish poetry, fiction or nonfiction? And all of the journals and the J O T M incidentally do publish every genre. Do they include visual art and what kind of art is it? Who are the contributors? What style are each of the pieces? How would we describe them to others? What kinds of language and form do they use, et cetera. And in the fiction class we actually read poetry and nonfiction too so that students could develop a sense of what is the short story, how is it its own genre, and how will I engage with it and write it myself? So across the four journals, there was a pretty great range of style and levels of experimentation too. So for example, I was just telling Christina about how we use this story, her Great blue from the New England Review, which is an apocalyptic kind of fabulous story.

Speaker 4 (08:43):

And that set us off on this really great conversation about the boundaries between literary fiction and genre fiction and how to write magical realism or riff on a classic tale like Moby Dick. And then we compared this apocalyptic story to the realist fiction of Helena Dirage and the Harvard Review, which is a really beautiful story and apparently it was just in the O Henry collection, which is really great. And also a piece from Post Road by Anne Hood that was much more realistic. So I used stories from the Harvard River Review to talk about dialogue and compare how it works in two stories and also to think about short shorts in the Georgia Review. So there were three different short shorts, and so we talked about how those work on their own, how language becomes so powerful in a short, short, and how shorts could be strung together into a longer narrative.

Speaker 4 (09:32):

I also was editing the Ocean State Review, which is a small and very new journal at U R I. So I could talk a little bit about the editorial process and opportunities for them to be interns at journals like this and what editors think about when they curate work. I also use the art in the journals as writing prompts for the students. So there's this great collection of Antarctic images in the Harvard Review that the students absolutely loved. They were called America and Ice members of the Expedition, expedition Dogs on the Ship, just these really beautiful titles and these amazing stark black and white images. So the students responded to those and they also really loved Celeste Pons art in the Georgia Review. They were more abstract, so they looked like collages with really bright colors and something that looked like a wrapping paper body with legs sticking out in heels, high heels.

Speaker 4 (10:24):

They thought that that was just fabulous. And they actually decided that the Georgia Review is going to be their model for their own journal because they responded to it so powerfully. I watched them first learn to identify and articulate the Georgia Reviews aesthetic and then grapple with, well, okay, if we love that aesthetic, how will we replicate it in our own work and in our journal? And they could only use their own writing in the journal and their own art. So there were two artists in the class and they were responsible for creating the art. So they spent a lot of time thinking about the fonts, how to lay out the fiction and poetry on the page. They decided not to include nonfiction for some reason. They thought about how to balance the mood of each piece, where would the sadder stories go and the funnier stories and how would they alternate the linear and more experimental work?

Speaker 4 (11:12):

And I just sort of handed the class over to them at that point. This was the end of the semester and they were really excited and really engaged and I think it gave them a chance to think about fiction differently because they had gotten to know all of these writers as alive and they had researched them online and they had been reading their work that had just come out in these journals. And so they had a different sense of the writing community and their place in it. And then they felt really invested when it was their turn to go and make a journal of their own. So they also actually had to learn how to identify their own aesthetic in their own work, which was pretty challenging. So to think about, well, am I interested in realistic fiction or am I interested in magical realism or do I love shorts and writing that's really spaced out on the page, or am I interested in linear stories?

Speaker 4 (11:58):

So it was really good practice for them too to identify what was powerful in their own work and then how to seek that out from writers they had found in these journals. And then to take that writing and go find that writer's collection or novel and then to find the people that writer admires. And so it sort of spread them out into the community even more powerfully. My only regret is that I couldn't publish their final journals in full color as they had imagined them because I didn't plan out the budget for that. And it's really expensive to print in color as you know. So I wish that I had thought about that upfront and maybe collaborated with the art department or asked students to put in for that at the beginning of the semester as if it was another text. But that was the only downside to my experience teaching with the J O T M. It was a lot of fun and I'm using it again next semester for an advanced nonfiction class.

Speaker 5 (12:51):


Speaker 2 (12:54):

Thank you. Rachel Morgan, can you go next? And I also have a handout here on do's and don'ts for teaching, so I'll hand that out once we're done with our talk.

Speaker 6 (13:04):

Thanks for being here at the end of the day and it's so great to hear your ideas of what you've been doing in the classroom. I'm going to shift to talking about the poetry classroom and specifically the graduate classroom. I teach in a program that's mostly doctoral students in creative writing, some master's students. And I think many of these things can apply to upper level undergraduate classes too. And I'm going to pull some quotes from Travis Kowalski's, paper Dreams Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine. I think there's a couple of great books that have come out that help you give students a sense of the history that they're part of with the little magazine. So two quotes from there, William Carlos Williams, the Little magazine is something I've always fostered for Without it myself, I would've been early silenced and Pound said The work of writers who have emerged in or via such magazine outweighs in permanent value the work of the writers who have not emerged in that manner.

Speaker 6 (14:01):

The history of contemporary letters has to a very manifest extent been written in such magazines. And I think sometimes I forget, I take for granted that students understand the import of the small magazine and what it has on our literary history. And so I like to, along with using Journal of the Month, I was so excited when Jen started this. It's such a great tool, but to also kind of give them some context. I also think, of course when you're teaching a graduate class or I think for some people upper level undergraduate classes or thinking about telling them about ways to place their own work, but I try not to focus too much on it as consumers of the magazine in terms of where they can be. I'm also trying to cultivate them as readers. I think in the classroom it can be a tool to train them as readers, even readers where we think we're pretty sophisticated, all of us.

Speaker 6 (14:51):

So when we did it, one of the things that's interesting is we read the magazine cover to cover well Poetry Only, and some of them also read the fiction. So we're starting to assess the magazine's aesthetics and help them use us as a tool to figure out their own tastes. So there's this discussion of what a good poem is. So we start with liking and they come in and what they thought was interesting in it, when we start to see how students in the workshop are drawn to different poems and different things, I think that's an amazing tool for seeing what kinds of readers they're going to be for each other's work, right? Oh, I like things that are really lyrical and this person likes prose poems who are using humor, et cetera. And we start to understand, okay, how can we learn to be readers of the kind of work we're less comfortable or less drawn to?

Speaker 6 (15:39):

We might feel some discomfort being honest about that when we're talking about peer poems, but if we're talking about a work that's outside of ourselves, I also think it's different than talking about poems and books. Books feel like this finished object that's gone out into the world, even if we're critical of it in a way that I think the individual magazine there holds these poems that are individual entities that we might be able to go at together and dig in and try to understand what's happening, understanding the taste of others in the room, understanding the editors. Why do you think they publish this? How's it speaking to the other magazines in this issue? What things do we notice in common and how does it help us articulate? So even my students who are sophisticated readers, they're publishing their poems, some of them have books. We can say, well, oh, that seems like a Sally poem, or That seems like a Christina poem, but what do we mean by that?

Speaker 6 (16:33):

Alright, this person always writes funny prose poems. How do we start to find the language for that? And the most rewarding thing I had out of the Choosing Journal of the Month with those conversations, what is a poem? And I remember one of the students saying, I've never had a conversation like this before. We were going on so many common principles, and I love that the magazines deconstruct that. The other book, this is just out the little magazine in Contemporary America from Ian Morrison, Jo and Diaz, I have a chapter in this, but it's got editors from Poetry Andal and MCs Sweeney's and so many different magazines. And Jeffrey Lor in the intro says, I do believe there's a literary magazine out there for everyone who reads it. It's just that for any one person, it's more likely a different magazine than the same. This is not a function of snobbery, it's a function of connoisseurship and it ought to be encouraged and celebrated.

Speaker 6 (17:23):

So having them find what are the poems that you're interested, what are the magazines that you're going to commit to? This lets them taste it in different ways. You can also use the magazine to look at different moves. It was really interesting for me. I don't know about you, but I rarely read cover to cover. I kind of dip in when I'm reading literary magazines and to go through and say, wow, I have a deeper understanding of the Iowa Review or this issue. At least it's different when graduate students are involved. We have maybe a less consistent sense from issue to issue. And so we started to talk about, wow, all the poems tend to have these kind of lines or end in this sort of way. And I think just like when we read in the slush pile as editors or as students, we start to see those kind of patterns and ticks and become clear to us and we can talk about them.

Speaker 6 (18:08):

Oh, they all have this kind of ending. What does that mean? All these kinds of turns matchmaking, of course, finding home for student work, just like it's easier for students often to talk critically about other people's poems before their own. That's what I see the workshop is doing, is giving us that tool that we can then apply to ourselves to some degree. So does the matchmaking. They seem to know, oh, Andrea's poems will fit here, but, and then as we figure that out, it lets us start to see where we might fit in the spectrum. What do we mean by, okay, formalist, experimental. There's all these other kinds of subtleties of each magazine. I like doing some kind of search and rescue where I did things in my graduate workshop this semester where I asked them to go to literary magazines and we had read some critical articles on closure and poetry and it's like find an ending of a poem that succeeds, find one that fails.

Speaker 6 (19:06):

And then they brought them in and read them for the different magazines. And then we started talking about the magazines. I also do something called Literary magazine Minute, where students have to do a one minute presentation on a literary magazine and talk about it, give a little context of history, who's in it, what kinds of things that they do that's geared a little more towards helping students find places to publish, right? But it's a nice way to squeeze that in if you start to realize that your students aren't that familiar. We're in, I edit an online magazine, so I love the irony that I'm on the panel touting, yes, use print magazines in your classroom. Do it. I do it, I love it. It's so important giving 'em the objects. But also students are increasingly more, that's where they're reading. Those are the journals that they know.

Speaker 6 (19:47):

And so these old friends, Harvard Review, polishers, ny, these feels like old friends to me and Poetry Magazine. They need to be introduced to those friends. I want to wrap up just quickly. I have lots of exercises, but one of my favorites is the CentOS, the collage poem. And what I'll do with students is kind of the icebreaker First class is spread out a bunch of magazines. Or you could do this if you're doing Journal of the Month at the end of the semester. And students each pick two lines that they like. They're in groups of four. And then together in their groups of four, they build ascent. They build a poem with those eight lines and shape it and then share it to the class. And this leads to amazing conversations about why do you like that line, right? That sounds so simple. What makes a good line of poem?

Speaker 6 (20:35):

What makes a line? And then when they have built them, why did you structure it that way? Oh, a poem can tell a story. Oh, a poem. Did you start with happiness and end in sorrow? Did you start with light imagery end in darkness? And they start to realize already on that first class, no matter what stage they're in, what the shape of a poem is. But in that experience, you've also had them touch, feel, look through, experience the object of a magazine. And I just wanted to say one other thing. I asked a few of my students what they would want me to say, and Alison Campbell said, it was interesting how the ones that she really liked, the way they looked wasn't always the ones that she liked what was inside. And Tom Holmes said how it was hard as a graduate student to keep up. And he said, it's difficult to stay atop the contemporary poetry scene with all the work that needs to be done. I don't think I'm alone in that. So doing this got me back in touch. I fully read these magazine and felt involved instead of just skimming the new journals in the free Moments of free time, I have, yeah, now I'm hoping you do that again. So letting them step in and be part of community. Thanks.

Speaker 7 (21:49):

Thank you Morgan. Michael.

Speaker 8 (21:53):

Well first and foremost, thanks for coming. It's the end of a long weekend or week depending on how you look at it, and I appreciate you coming by and listening to what we have to say and being willing to talk to us about literary magazines in the classroom. If there's anything that comes up today, if you don't get a chance to ask the question that's on your mind or something just occurs to you sometime next week, please do feel free to contact me. My email address is not m nancy yahoo eor mary@missouri.edu. I actually did that right off the top of my, the EOR is always a tricky one. So all of us have very different approaches to how we integrate literary magazines into the classroom. And I think maybe it's helpful to simply walk through how I structure my class. The Missouri Review is based at the University of Missouri.

Speaker 8 (22:42):

We have an internship and publishing program, which is a 4,000 level class for undergraduates, and it's a 8,000 level class for graduate students. What we do is we conduct interviews with a reading test. We typically prefer to have upperclassmen take the class rather than sophomores and freshmen, and we assess their ability to talk about the work in both analytical and in a critical way. And so those interviews take about 30 minutes. I've been told kind of an intimidating interview actually, and just get them feeling that they're part of an organization, that they're really a critical element to our magazine because frankly, they are. One of the most important things that interns do at the Missouri Review is they read manuscripts. They're the first, second and third readers on everything that comes into the magazine. It's a misconception, probably not one that's held in this room, but for many of our colleagues out in the hallways that we solicit everything that comes into the magazine and that the game is rigged.

Speaker 8 (23:44):

In fact, that's not true. In fact, we prefer never to solicit as the lifeblood of a literary journal is to get new content, the fresh next voice before anyone else. And so it's important for us to make sure that our students are looking for reasons to accept work, not reasons to reject work, which is something that I really hammer home the first week of the class. So students in our classroom, they give us three hours for the formal class time, which is on Tuesdays. They give us three additional office hours per week around their schedule. So we have a very full house at our magazine if you're thinking we'll deserve really all that much for you guys to do. Well, the Missouri Review receives in a given calendar year approximately 11,000 submissions of which we publish roughly 50. What that means is that much of the work that we receive is high quality that we simply don't have room to put in our pages, and that means that our students have to really articulate what it is about a piece that's going to fit into our magazine initially at the beginning of the semester.

Speaker 8 (24:44):

I don't worry so much about trying to tell them what our aesthetic is. The very first assignment that they have is to read the entirety of our current issue. Since I teach my class in the spring, it's the winter issue of the magazine. And one of the things is interesting is how they read it. That's usually one of my first questions. How did you read the magazine? Because I think most of us don't read a literary magazine from cover to cover, right? If we're honest, we flip to see the contributors first and then we're like to hell with those guys and throw us out. So for me, for the Missouri Review, to me, the Omnibus review is the most exciting thing that we do. That's something I really love reading, and I skip around and I ask my students, well, how did you do it in some read from cover to cover?

Speaker 8 (25:24):

Mostly they think it's an assignment. Others will bounce all over the place and just get them thinking and talking about what our magazine is. And eventually the conclusion that I kind of want them coming to is one that we're a true miscellaneous, that we publish a wide range of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art features, book reviews, and some occasional other weird things. Second, what type of work that we publish? And literaries a bit of nebulous term, isn't it? Especially with the way the genre has crossed into the field the last 20 years. But we do tend to be a magazine in the American realist tradition. We do tend to publish work that is linear, not entirely. And I don't want my students thinking, oh, this is in the second person and there's three main characters. Clearly we're not going to publish that because that's certainly not necessarily true.

Speaker 8 (26:17):

But just to get a feel for, okay, well, what's suitable for T M R? So our students read approximately 15 manuscripts per week. That means that a student in our class will read 300 submissions to the magazine over the course of the semester for poetry, of course is a little bit tricky to tell. One submission might be one poem, it might be 15 poems, who knows? But what that means is that in terms of their training as a writer, they have a true sense of what their colleagues in the field are doing right there right now. Oh boy. Another story about Mor Galland's disease and Joni Mitchell. No, we got like six Joni Mitchell stories in last month. I'm not kidding. So no Joni Mitchell stories or how we published poetry features. We have to have a minimum of three poems. We can't just say, oh, this is the best poem out of a group of seven. We've got to have at least three to consider it for the magazine that we do, do poem of the week.

Speaker 8 (27:13):

And so what they're doing is they're coming into the meeting the next week and they have to pitch a minimum of two pieces. Of course, this is great for the magazine, but for many of our students, what they want to do is they want to work in publishing and they think basically what that means is a corner office in Manhattan with a latte. I know I want that job too, and we need to kind of disabuse 'em of the idea. That's what it is. But they need to say succinctly, here's what is a good piece for the magazine. And early on this semester, the difficult thing is to emphasize with prose that the plot's not really the thing I'm most interested in. I need you to talk about character. I need you to talk about imagery. I need you to talk about thematic resonance. I need you to be able to articulate that in a way that makes sense to the room the first four or five weeks of the semester.

Speaker 8 (28:02):

That meeting can run a really long time. It can be rough, but that's why we teach. So that's kind of the very quick lay of the land because many of the students that come into our classroom are interested in going into publishing and they might not know what that is, but the acquisition, the pitching is I think a critical component for any entry level job into publishing, whether you're at Sarah Band or Coffee House or whatever it might be. What's the overall aesthetic here? And trying to find a way to articulate that and getting better at that process.

Speaker 8 (28:33):

So my students will see the full production schedule of a magazine. We're a quarterly, so approximately 12 to 13 weeks. So they do get to see us fill up an issue. They get the opportunity to see page proofs, to copy edit, to get some basic sense of, okay, well here's what it looks like when you mark up a manuscript, how we would collate all of that, walk them through what it's like with a proofer laying out the issue, even though we do some of that stuff outside the university, letting the students understand how that process works before sending it off to the printer. And then boom, the thing shows up in our office. So try to give the full scope of what the overall magazine's like. As for my class itself, I try to bring in other editors to the classroom. I always make sure that I Skype with other literary magazine editors because of course, the way that t m R works is not the way that every other magazine works anywhere from three to four editors, kind of depending on the schedule.

Speaker 8 (29:31):

I try to get to Skype in with us for an hour. It's really important for my class to see that there are women editors in charge of journals out there. So we have to Ellen Duffer of Plow Shares in a couple of weeks. We're talking to Lisa Lucas of Guernica. We have talked to Karina McGlynn of Gulf Coast. She's no longer the managing editor there. But the point is that they see that there are young women in publishing that are running the show. I would say 70 to 80% of my students are women, and they need to see that there's opportunities for them in the field. And it's also important for me to see how an independent journal works. University support is a tremendous boon for us, whatever headaches it might sometimes come with. So to be able to talk to a magazine like Hobart is really valuable for my students.

Speaker 8 (30:15):

If I want to run a magazine, if I want to start it from scratch, what do I do? There's a new magazine called the Riveter based here in Minneapolis, run by a former student of mine and her business partner. It's an online long form magazine purely of women writers, and it's excellent. And I'd like to think I had a little bit to do with that, though I probably didn't. And give these students a full sense of what it means to be in the publishing world. The creative writing field is very big in the English department right now. I think 70% of our students focus on creative writing. So I want to make sure to do more than just creative writing in my classroom and really think, okay, how can I get your publishing career going forward? So that is the very quick run through of what T M R operates. And I guess we'll go from there.

Speaker 2 (31:01):

Thank you so much, everybody. I'm really struck by a consistent chord in all of your talks, which is connecting your student writers with the wider publishing community. And one thing I was curious about, a nice thing in the creative writing class, you have your talk of craft and the student work, but when you described using literary journals, you talk about expanding your students' skill at critical thinking. So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what level they came into your class with and and how that developed a little bit.

Speaker 6 (31:35):

One of the things I didn't talk about is one exercise I've done with graduate students, if you're familiar with the website, the review Review also new pages, but both have reviews for literary magazines. And so one of the things that I have students do is write reviews. So not only do they have to go on in the roof, review, review and read about magazines, see what lit mag reviews are like, but they have to really get to know. So let's say they pick the Missouri Review or Harvard Review. They need to look at a lot of issues. They get a sense of its history and then know the issue that their reviewing inside and out. And then when they write those reviews, I give them feedback. It's act of critical work, and I'm very rigorous. Sometimes my comments are, as long as they're reviews, we're really getting them to think about how to be good critics and I'm not be lazy with those. And then the added bonuses, they're getting the critical act. They're learning how to be stronger writers, but all of the students publish them in the review review. And then they also now have clips for if some of them have gone on to write reviews for literary magazines. Well, so they get to participate in community, but also practice critical writing. So if you have a class that has some kind of critical writing requirement in it, that's a nice way to do that.

Speaker 4 (32:52):

My students, they're mostly juniors and sophomore students and seniors in the introductory fiction class and a couple of freshmen. So I had them start by writing blog posts in response to each of the stories to think about each of these elements of craft and to draw out specific examples from the text, which they would do with any text that we read, whether it was Journal of the Month or something else. But I really wanted them to also then after they had gone through all these exercises of focusing on the stories and reading closely and drawing out examples, then of course they're applying that to their workshop stories later in the semester when they give feedback to each other. And then they're stepping back from each of these texts that they read in the journals at the end of the semester from all of the journals and thinking about, okay, so how do these journals compare to each other? How are they different? How's the work that they publish different? What kinds of voices do we see in each of them? And what are the connections between the different pieces within the journals? So it's a really great creative and critical exercise to think about how we would categorize what each journal is doing.

Speaker 2 (34:02):

So you guys talk about what's worked well in your class, but I think it's equally important to talk about what exercises you've tried that sort of didn't work out that could be helpful.

Speaker 9 (34:12):

Any thoughts?

Speaker 8 (34:15):

Well, to go the other way on the blog posts, I have found that has not gone particularly well with my students. So our blog voice tends to be transparent. We also try to not be too reactive to the current news, to not try to be the new center of the literary world. We want to have a little bit more thought and consideration of what happens. And so when I ask my students to write blog posts for our classroom, they tend to be young. I get a lot of Harry Potter stuff and how Harry Potter's actually really this and that or whatever. So I think we've really struggled with that. What I think works best in the classroom is when they're doing behind the scenes stuff, things where they're thinking about the public persona of themselves in the magazine doesn't go great. I prefer to have graduate students do anything when it comes to the outward face of the magazine. I'd rather have a little bit more quality control and have focus on what's going on behind the scenes. So if something goes wrong, if it blows up publicly for whatever reason, I can take the heat for that rather than the students,

Speaker 4 (35:19):

I should say, our blog posts were private, so only our class could see them. Yeah, those were not for public consumption. Gotcha.

Speaker 6 (35:27):

I guess I would say we're teaching the pleasures of literary magazines, but then there's the trickiness of having that lie in the world of liking and not liking. So constantly figuring out together with him, how do we deepen the conversation to if there's one magazine of the four that everybody's not as huge a fan of, like, well, why is this still worthwhile to talk about? What can we take away from looking at these poems or how the lack of diversity in the poems just serves us? So that kind of getting the conversation passed as always with teaching, I like this. I didn't like this. While still teaching them to learn how to discover things to and maintain that love with that magazine.

Speaker 2 (36:10):

Thank you. So do you have questions for

Speaker 10 (36:16):

Us? Hi, I have a question for Rachel. Okay, so you use the journal of the month, right? Yes. So do you get the journals ahead of time so you can create your syllabus, or is it sort of syllabus on the fly?

Speaker 2 (36:29):

Let's repeat the question. Oh,

Speaker 4 (36:31):

So do you get the journals before you create your syllabus or is it creating your syllabus on the fly with the journals that are sort of a surprise? Yeah, I didn't have the journals before I made my syllabus. No, that was four months out, six months out, something like that. So I just wrote on the syllabus that we were using Journal of the Month and that the readings would be T b A, but I still outlined my syllabus according to the different elements that we would focus on each week. So we're focusing on dialogue or characterization, and then I could always find examples of those things in whatever journal we got. So I got the first batch of journals a couple of weeks before the semester started, so I had a little headway with those and I picked out the readings that I wanted and then I posted them to our Sakai or Blackboard site.

Speaker 4 (37:15):

And then with subsequent journals, I would pick out examples for each craft element. And then I began asking students also to choose the stories that they wanted to read. So what looks interesting to you? What strikes your eye? What first line do you love? Having them be more engaged? You do have to teach a little on the fly, which I really love. And I think in retrospect, I would also use some classic stories that I would just have on hand for more examples of those craft elements. But also to give them a sense of the context and the history like Morgan was talking about, of the genre and what else has been happening in the past and how it's evolved. But I think the second batch of journals comes halfway through the semester. Is that how it works now?

Speaker 2 (37:57):

The first batch of journals arrives before the class begins, and the second one arrives just after ad

Speaker 4 (38:03):

Drop. Yeah, so you still have a little leadway before you pass the journals out to your students, so you have a little time to preview. Yeah, sure.

Speaker 2 (38:14):

Are there other questions

Speaker 10 (38:16):

For the classroom journal that you produced? Where did you get the money?

Speaker 4 (38:19):

So for the journal that my class produced, where did we get the money? The problem was that I went to an independent printer. I imagined I was going to pay out of pocket to have these journals printed because I hadn't thought ahead to that stage, and it was something like $30 per journal. And I was like, well, that's my salary for the semester, so I couldn't do it. I'm a grad student. So if

Speaker 3 (38:43):

You have layout skills or you have somebody who has layout skills, you could lay it out or teach the kids how to lay it out. And then you could do it as a P O D print on demand and they could pay for their own. And that would probably run you 10 to $12 a pop and maybe less if it wasn't that many pages. But you could get over 200 pages for probably between 10 and $12. And most people have someplace where they can get that done locally or you can get it online and you'd want to lay it out in something like an InDesign program or something and then produce a P D F. And once you've got your P D F, it's pretty easy to do. And the kids, I think in a way, if I were in a class and we made a journal, I would pay for a copy for myself. You'd be proud of it. So that might be a solution,

Speaker 4 (39:28):

And you could put that cost on the syllabus upfront. So for my students, cost is a big deal. So if we just built that in, that would've worked really well.

Speaker 6 (39:36):

It's a great idea also, just even though you might be reading print magazines, which you like to do, but you can have the result be for no money, really an online magazine. And that's what I do using WordPress or Square or one of the free platforms and students, they can draw on the elements that they like from those magazines and choosing work or doing design or images and still be able to do something if you have students like our undergraduate students wouldn't be able to afford that. And I know that's the case a lot of places.

Speaker 2 (40:09):

So Rachel talked a little bit about supplemental materials that she provides in her class. I wonder if Morgan or Michael would like to talk about other supplemental materials that you use, reading materials in addition to literary magazines.

Speaker 6 (40:20):

Well, just as I said, the two books that I talked about, the little magazine in Contemporary America, depending on the level, I'm talking about graduate students today, but with upper level undergraduates, you could use this too. And also Paper Dreams. And the other thing I was going to say, manifestos, which some of those you'll find in Paper Dreams of Editors in the past. And another cool exercise that I'm wanting to do that haven't done yet as have students write reverse manifestos where they have to read one of maybe the Journal of the Month magazines and write what they think the manifesto would be for that magazine. But to do that, they would need to read the manifestos from Hound and Harriet Monroe and other folks, the people from the dial, et

Speaker 3 (41:00):

Cetera. That's great. Yeah.

Speaker 8 (41:02):

I'm sure this is entirely answering your question, but I'll give it a shot. So with the Skype that I do with the editors, I have my students buy a copy of the journal themselves and expect them to read it before we have our conversation with the editor. One of the reasons I have them do that is so that they understand the different pay portals that we set up as magazines to have people access the work. Some are very easy, like PayPal, others are kind of a pain in the butt and you go through 12, 13 pages. What's that experience? Why do you think it's designed that way? Pay attention to the URLs. What's changing as you're going through these different portals? How quickly does the magazine arrive at your apartment? Has it been stamped media mail or not? What kind of condition is the magazine in when it arrives?

Speaker 8 (41:47):

All those things I think become factors. And then there are conversations about, well, how are they shipping the magazine? Is it in some kind of thick paper envelope? Is it plastic? Why do they make that decision? What headaches have they had with the postal service? Again, kind of macro picture with the magazine. So I use other magazines as that supplemental material. And then one of the other things that we do is we have a exchange. Many magazines, they just send a exchange copy to other magazines. So there's about 40 other magazines that we currently have an exchange with where we receive copies in our office. Georgia Review, of course, is one of them. We also get Antioch Review, Southeast Review, third Coast Kenyan Review, a whole mixture of 'em, and they're available in this reading room that we have, and the students are allowed to just borrow those at any time.

Speaker 8 (42:34):

So usually with my first year of students, I will either assign them a journal like, okay, I want you to read the last three copies of Gettysburg Review and be prepared to talk to me about it, or I sign 'em the push card prize. I think as an outside anthology that best reflects what's happening in little magazines, push carts, the best of the anthologies, best American tends to be the New Yorker's greatest Hits or something like that. And the prize stories I think is very good, but I'd like to get the poetry and nonfiction mixed in there so that they get kind of a true scope of what other magazines are doing. So my supplemental materials tend to be other magazines. I want them focused on that. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (43:14):

Other questions?

Speaker 2 (43:19):

Well then I think we will close out. Thank you so much to everyone for speaking and for sharing your experience. I find it very exciting to see what a broad education you can give your writing students. When you look at other literary magazines, I mean also as teachers, you have such power and such an opportunity to support literary magazines. I mean, of course, everyone encourages writers to subscribe themselves, but when you encourage a classroom of students to subscribe, you're really ballooning the reach of the literary journal. I had the wonderful experience today of four students who were taught Journal of the Month in a classroom, came over to my table and the book fair to sign up for Journal of the Month to continue on. So it's just a beautiful tradition that has begun. If you're interested in more information about teaching literary journals through Journal of the Month, I have a signup sheet and you can give me your information and I'll send you a little more about that. But again, thank you to everybody for sharing your wisdom and your experiences. There are also cards front here.

Speaker 11 (44:19):

Thank you for tuning into the A W P podcast series for other podcasts. Please visit our website@www.awpwriter.org.


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