As the weather gets hotter and the humidity increases one thought comes to every student’s mind: summer. An inherent marker of the end of the school year at Gustavus is the publication of its prominent literary and graphic arts journal, the Firethorne. Compiled by students in Baker Lawley’s editing and publishing class and a process that spans the entire spring semester, the Firethorne is a compilation of Gustavus’ finest student created art, poetry, and prose. With over 200 submissions, according to Lawley, this year was one of the most successful and challenging for those participating in the creation of this compilation of work.
The process is heavy-handed and full of great discussion. Each and every piece is discussed and no names are given to the students: it is all done under complete anonymity.
“I really enjoyed everyone getting their own work and having their own specific story or poem to make into a piece of art,” Sophomore and Release Party Co-Organizer Haley Kaul said. “I liked getting all of the submissions without names so that there was not any bias, and so we have a clean slate and are able to give an honest opinion without being rude.”
The process begins with creating posters to advertise for submissions. The team made a conscious effort to create various different designs in order to attract different types of people and the art, poetry, and prose they have the ability to contribute. Moreover, they used word of mouth to bring in submissions as well. Then, the whole class discussed each and every piece and debated about which ones they thought would be the best fit for this year’s issue.
The submissions received this year were “wonderfully diverse in form. We got everything from honest essays to surrealist fiction to jagged-edged confessional verse– I don’t think there were two authors working in exactly the same style. And that’s not including all the art,” Senior Poetry Editor Jack Beahler said.
The class was not looking for anything in particular and decided as a whole against working with a theme for this year’s edition, something not unusual for Firethorne.
“We did our best pairing stories, poems, and works of art together that made sense and flowed well,” Junior and Release Party Co-Organizer Leanna Nielsen said.
The goal of the publication was to capture Gustavus as a student body in a snapshot of art, prose, and poetry. Due to this being a college campus, many of the submissions turned in were sad and angsty, much of what would be expected. But, it was the pieces that varied from these narratives that grabbed the attention of those working on Firethorne.
“There was a story about a girl who literally gave birth to snakes, which was unanimously decided to be featured in the magazine,” Kaul said.
Those involved want to use Firethorne to capture what is being talked about and thought about on and around campus. They want to listen to what students are feeling and thinking and what art they make in response to those feelings.
“Art that speaks to poems, subjects that speak to one another,” Lawley said, were used throughout the publication to create a coherent feeling for readers and to illustrate how interconnected the different disciplines of art truly are.
“This year’s issue not only showcases a ton of creativity, but I think it also does well to capture the atmosphere of the campus over this past year,” Nielsen said. “This was not something I had expected. If you look at Firethorne as a whole, there is a definite sense of unease and turmoil present in the pieces and artwork. However, amidst the turmoil, there are several pieces that are uplifting and funny, which I think shows the perseverance of the Gustavus body.”
For those students involved in the creation of Firethorne that are not English majors, the process of creating a literary journal was very exciting, especially for Senior Prose Editor Madeline Struck, who got to step out of her science focus to create something she found very meaningful.
For others, such as Senior Design Editor Ben Keran, the most exciting part of the process was, at first, how it would look on his resumé. But as the project really got going he found a different angle to be excited about.
“Once you actually start working on the piece, there’s a definite joy in working with a group of people to create something extremely unique,” Keran said. “Now, instead of thinking about my resumé, the most gratifying and exciting things about this project were to see everyone’s reaction toward it. There’s also a dreamlike quality in seeing your name on the editor’s page, knowing that all your hard work was worth something.”
The creation of Firethorne was wrapped up with an exciting release party on Friday, May 12. With lots of careful planning led by Kaul and Nielsen, the party featured open mics and the first chance at seeing the spring’s issue of Firethorne.
“[It was] Fun when people had not seen the magazine before and first saw it on the table and picked it up. Got a lot of positive feedback on the design they went with and the surprise and seeing student’s names in print,” Lawley said.