Arts & Culture / Mosaic / February 8, 2012

Creating Knox’s literary legacy (a how-to)

As the oldest continually published college literary journal, Catch is well-known on campus. However, other publications such as Cellar Door also stand out as indications of a community rich in writers and artists. The process between writing and creating and the final publication, however, can be a long one.

For both magazines, the process starts with soliciting submissions. While the publications accept any type of work (in the past, Catch has advertised for math proofs), fiction and poetry are the most common genres received. Catch will have an average of 250 to 300 poems submitted to each issue and 50 to 60 fiction pieces. Art also receives a large number of submissions, usually around 100.

“The rest of [the genres] are smaller,” senior Hannah Benning, the Co-Editor-in-chief of Catch, said. “You really have to solicit.”

Although Cellar Door receives fewer pieces, they guarantee publication of any piece that is turned in and goes through a workshopping process. This can leave them initially unsure of the number of pages in the final issue.

“It’s sort of built into our budget and built into the way we run things,” senior Kate Barrett, a Cellar Door editor, said. “If it gets big, we’re not going to cut anybody out. We just make less copies.”

Once the submission drive has ended, Catch’s section editors start the work of reading all the pieces. In conjunction with Benning and senior David Brankin, Catch’s other Editor-in-chief, the editors discuss which pieces they want to include. Since any revisions by the editors are only suggestions, editors have to be willing to publish the piece as-is.

“Ultimately, the pioneering spirit behind Catch is saying ‘yes’ to as many things as possible,” Brankin said.

“It’s pretty selective only because we get so much,” Benning, who said she submitted 20 poems before receiving her first acceptance, said.

Once Cellar Door’s submission drives finishes, the editors schedule several writing workshops; contributors are required to attend at least one, where they edit their work in collaboration with the editors and other writers.

“I have a lot of fun with them,” Barrett said. “Knox keeps their workshops kind of small, but [Cellar Door] gets even a little more intimate.”

While section editors are working with individual pieces, Catch’s Layout Editor is in the process of designing the physical book. Junior Renni Johnson, in her second year as the Layout Editor, picks the book’s fonts, lays out pages and helps design the book’s cover art. All of these revolve around a theme chosen by her and the Editors-in-chief at the beginning of the process.

“I definitely believe in themes and continuity,” Johnson said. “After coming up with what the cover’s going to look like, I have to also have in mind how that can communicate with the pages inside.”

In the fall 2011 issue, she chose a font where the letter has varying heights, similar to the buildings seen on the front cover.

Johnson also lays out the final edited pieces on the pages themselves.

This can often prove a challenge with dramas with hundreds of indents or poems that draw additional meaning from their layout on the page. However, Johnson enjoyed the challenge.

“Even though I sort of jokingly bemoan difficult pieces to format, I really get a thrill doing it,” Johnson said.

Cellar Door, rather than working around a theme, frequently uses a submitted piece of art for their cover photo. With fewer pieces to print, the process of laying the pieces on the page also goes more quickly.

Once the final issues of the magazines have been printed, both celebrate the final work with release parties, featuring snacks and readings from the contributors. For the editors, however, the magazines represent something beyond a chance for one to see their name in print.

“It’s about process rather than product,” Bennett said, noting that Cellar Door gave students a chance to improve as writers.

“It has kind of this time capsule effect,” Brankin said. “You could read a book from ten years ago and still see stylistic trends through the entire book — things the entire writing community was doing or striving for.”

Katy Sutcliffe

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