March 29-April 4, 2002
Back Issues
U.Va. to confer Thomas Jefferson medals in architecture and law
Genius at work
Disability insurance: shifting to new plan
Adenosine compound promising in treatment of spinal cord injury

Book festival closes chapter on eighth annual event

Sex sells but is it necessary? Authors discuss erotica
Journals offer students creative opportunities
U.Va. hosts anti-terror meeting
Hot Links -- Architecture School Web site
‘Envision’ sessions bring goals into focus
Architecture looks to create new ties to U.Va. community
Arts & Sciences planner looks forward to more esprit de corps
TJ Award nominations sought
Clock stops on NSF biological timing center, but the momentum carries on
Notable -- awards and achievements of faculty and staff
Shulman to discuss religion and culture in South India
Off the Shelf -- recently published books by U.Va. faculty and staff
Poet Carl Phillips next Rea Visiting Writer
Doctor, researcher and teacher, Wispelwey puts his students’ and patients’ interests first

Journals offer students creative opportunities

By Anne Bromley

Among the University’s many scholarly journals, Meridian and Iris: A Journal About Women stand apart by involving students through internship-style, credit-bearing classes. Students have the opportunity to dig into the editorial process and cultivate these literary publications from start to finish. Their pages are bursting with poems, stories, book reviews and essays for national and even international, audiences.

Although many university-based journals provide hands-on experience for creative writing students, Meridian gives editorial control to the staff of graduate students pursuing Master of Fine Arts degrees.

“They make all the real decisions,” said Jeb Livingood, an assistant professor of English who serves as the journal’s faculty adviser.


“The power of everyone’s ideas, including my own, and the power of communicating those ideas is what really brings about change.”

Third-year U.Va. student

Associate Editor Jett McAlister, a second-year M.F.A. student in poetry writing, took Jeb Livingood’s “Literary Editing” class, which is closely affiliated with Meridian, in spring 2001. She also has worked closely with John Lundberg, the outgoing poetry editor, on choosing which poems to accept and publish in the journal.

“I look first for emotional and intellectual heft and maturity. I want to learn something from a piece,” McAlister said. “The piece should, of course, be linguistically interesting as well — avoiding clichés and so forth.”

Paula Younger, a second-year M.F.A. student who is fiction editor this year, gained editing experience as an intern at a small publishing house in Boulder. “It has been useful to see how many submissions come [to Meridian], the different types and ranges of quality in manuscripts and the different cover letters,” she said.

Along with advising four to eight graduate-student editors, Livingood teaches the “Literary Editing” class, which exposes “select undergraduate and graduate students to the ins and outs of publishing a literary magazine.” As poetry and fiction readers, students help “chip away at the growing number of submissions.

sAlong the way, the class members write book reviews, do author interviews, and attempt some nonfiction essays to develop their own publishing credentials and editing experience.” They also learn about desktop publishing, proofing techniques and marketing efforts.

“It is a lot of reading – more than I think most students anticipate,” Livingood said. “That’s typical of real-world writing and editing, though, where you’re expected to do twice the work for half the pay.”

Each week in the Meridian class, Younger hands out manuscripts to the readers and the next week they give back their impressions — “what the story was about, how well it was done, and whether to reject it, send an encouraging reject, or if it is a possible acceptance. After that, I collect the manuscripts and read all of them to see if I agree with the reader’s impression,” Younger said.

One example of the journal’s growth: it received 100 short story submissions in 1999, and the same number this year in January alone.

Along with its reality-training, Meridian, only 5 years old, has a national distribution. “It’s really quite exciting to have students — and their selections — representing U.Va.’s commitment to the arts,” he said.

The journal recently began a more formal partnership with the University Library, whose Special Collections department has assisted in researching works for the unique “Lost Classic” section, which features an unknown or underpublished work by a well-known author. The library’s communications and publications staff helps with production, and the library has provided space for Meridian’s office.

Iris: A Journal About Women, which explores meanings and images of feminism, has depended on an all-volunteer staff for many years. Now there’s a coordinating editor who’s on the faculty, part-time graduate-student workers and undergraduate interns, along with the volunteers, who produce the journal twice a year. The Iris intern staff – who number 15 this semester, up from five three years ago – decided to target twentysomething women more specifically, according to Kimberly Roberts, a lecturer in the Studies in Women and Gender Program who became the coordinating editor last fall. The magazine, which began in 1980, will continue to include women’s creative expressions of poetry and fiction along with news (in a section called “Hot Flashes”), essays, book reviews and artwork.

Roberts teaches “Feminist Publishing and Scholarship” to the student-interns who plan and produce the journal. They solicit and assess submitted articles, using critical reading and editing skills. They consider stacks of stories and poems. In addition, the students discuss feminist readings and issues each week.

“The students take ownership of the work,” Roberts said of the students. With their energy and excitement, “they are younger women who want to change their world.”
In their course evaluations, students talked about that involvement and what they’re learning.

“As a part of Iris, I feel like I am making something – I am making a difference,” wrote one student.

“The book review and interviews taught me the most valuable skills applicable to academic life,” said another. “Any good social scientist or academician needs to be able to evaluate an author’s purpose, style, strengths and weaknesses when sourcing a work. … Interviewing should be a more common practice in undergraduate work since information-gathering is so often person-to-person in the real world.”

Fourth-year student Sandra Beasley, who is the poetry editor, called Iris and the Women’s Center “a haven for meritocracy. What matters at the end of the day is what I have accomplished, and nothing more — and I thrive on that. More young women need access to that environment.”

Students also are contributing more of their own writing to the upcoming issue, which focuses on women’s emerging voices, and includes a section called “Girl on the Street,” where staff randomly asked women, “Do you identify yourself as a feminist?” Twenty-five out of 50 said “yes.” When asked, “Do you think you’ll see gender equity in your lifetime?” 43 said “no.”

“That shows we still need feminism,” Roberts said.

“What I think I learned from this class,” wrote one third-year student, “was something that I already knew but had forgotten: the power of everyone’s ideas, including my own, and the power of communicating those ideas ,is what really brings about change.”


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of the University of Virginia

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