Tori Smith – Staff Writer
While other classes start gearing up for a demanding finals week, one class is throwing a party instead.
The ENG-350 course, also known as the Editing and Publishing class, has put together this year’s issue of Firethorne, Gustavus’s annual literary magazine composed of student prose, poetry, and artwork. In celebration, the class is putting on an outdoor launch party from 5-6 p.m. on Thursday, May 6 on the Beck lawn. There will be issues of Firethorne (both this year and last year’s) for students to grab, as well as an open mic for authors to read their works aloud.
“The Firethorne launch party is an opportunity to celebrate the hard work of the authors and editors of the Firethorne for both last year and this year,” Senior and 2021 Firethorne Editor Ethan Davide said.
This wasn’t an easy year for students in ENG-350. Due to the pandemic, the course shifted into an all-online format, forcing the editors to collaborate electronically. With communication being one of the most important aspects of editing and publishing a work, it was a difficult transition.
Senior and 2021 Firethorne editor Kyra Bowar has submitted work to the journal before, but her experience on the editorial side of the process, especially during a pandemic, was especially insightful.
“As a class, we met fully online. It was a little difficult to collaborate over Zoom, but we were able to have productive discussions about each piece. Ultimately, the Firethorne is student-run and features student voices. It’s a campus-wide collaborative process,” Bowar said.
Despite the hiccups, the editors were able to put together a journal of student work. The issue includes themes of serious topics, like mental health and political injustices, while also combining some comedic relief, like a tribute to an old, almost-forgotten Vine.
“Gustavus students have been through a lot. Many students use writing or art to cope or capture their experiences. This issue is special because some of these themes hit the entire nation,” Davide said.
Not only can Davide speak from an editor’s point-of-view, he can also speak from the perspective of a published author as well. His poem “Aztec Whistle” was accepted into the 2021 issue of Firethorne along with many of his peers.
When authors submit their work to Firethorne, their name is not attached. That means that every piece voted on by the class is anonymous, even the pieces written by fellow editors. In fact, there’s a rule that authors can’t speak during a discussion of their work. There’s no promoting or defending an editor’s own work so that every piece that’s submitted has a fair shot of being accepted.
“It was interesting to sit back and listen to other editors consider my work. Sometimes they interpreted a piece completely differently than how I originally did, and I ended up liking their version better. I think it was a unique opportunity to grow as an author,” Davide said.
While putting together the journal, students in ENG-350 were learning the in’s and out’s of the publishing world. They even got to hear from poet, essayist, and literary critic Michael Kleber-Diggs and his personal experiences in the publishing industry.
“I absolutely loved every second of ENG-350. There is so much to publishing a literary journal that I didn’t even consider, and it was awesome to get to see the full scope of what it means to publish,” Davide said.
There’s more to publishing than just voting on submitted work as many of the ENG-350 students quickly came to find out. There are posters to make, websites to design, events to host and market for, authors to contact, and a massive amount of art and writing to organize into a neat little book.
Students in the class were assigned to one of nine roles: prose editor, poetry editor, art editor, website editor, design editor, copy editor, acquisition editor, social media editor, and marketing and promotion. All students contributed to all aspects of the journal’s production, but each role had specific responsibilities in order to achieve a complete journal.
To help celebrate the completion of the 2020 and 2021 issues and the work that the editors and contributors put into them, students are encouraged to stop by the launch party this Thursday from 5-6 p.m. Pick up a copy of the journal, stick around to listen to authors read their work aloud, or simply enjoy mingling with peers out in the warm weather.
“Whether you submitted to Firethorne or just enjoy great artwork and writing, stop by and celebrate with your classmates. It’s been a long semester, and art is made for celebration. We’d love to see all your faces, masked of course,” Bowar said.