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Literary journal editors share ideas, learn from each other at fall conferences

"Polaris" staff members sit at their table during the book fair at Winter Wheat. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Staff members of Ohio Northern University’s undergraduate student literary journal, "Polaris," attended writing workshops, listened to the poetry of professional writer Philip Metres and participated in a book fair at Winter Wheat, the annual Mid-American Festival of Writing, Nov. 5 at Bowling Green State University (BGSU).

Winter Wheat is one of the Midwest’s largest literary festivals, attracting representatives from university literary journals in Ohio, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

Workshops, varied by literary genre interests, focused on feminism poetry, bookbinding, novel writing, creative nonfiction and the “seven deadly sins” of writing. Each Polaris staff member attended three workshops.

Being a writer in a room full of so many other writers was eye opening,” said senior literature student Katie Kuchefski. “I learned that we all struggle to find our identity within our poetry, and that it is possible to write a piece of flash fiction in 40 minutes. It was comforting knowing that we all struggle with similar things as writers: getting started, accepting that it takes time for a piece to be ‘good’ and that you can start writing at any time in life.”

Senior chemistry and creative writing student Sofie Moeller added, “It’s neat to see so many writers from Ohio get together to share their knowledge.” 

Then, at the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) National Conference on Nov. 3 at BGSU, Polaris editors had a special opportunity to promote the arts at ONU. FUSE is one of the nation’s largest conferences for undergraduate literary journal staff members, attracting editors from universities in Ohio, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and California.

Polaris section editors Rachel Cruea, Erika Mortimer and Kuchefski, production manager Kasy Long and faculty adviser Jennifer Moore, assistant professor of English, led a panel discussion on the organization behind publishing a high-quality collegiate literary journal.

The panel, called “[Flip to Side B]: The Transition from Genre to Aesthetic Organization in Polaris,” examined the recent shift in the way Polaris editors organize the journal in hopes of amplifying the voice of the undergraduate writer. The journal has been altered to read more like a “concept mixtape” by creating relationships to the overarching themes of each piece.

I came away with pride in the education provided by Ohio Northern’s English Department. Also, it was interesting to learn different techniques to improve Polaris’ advertisement and quality,” commented Kuchefski.

Meanwhile, the Winter Wheat conference allowed ONU students to learn the important role editors have in promoting literature and literary culture on their campuses.

“As editors, we have great power to bring readers together, growing empathy and understanding through the work we do. We hope that editors take back fresh ideas and a renewed fervor to engage others in the craft of writing and give volume to new voices,” said Abigail Cloud, the Editor-in-Chief of the "Mid-American Review."

Polaris is seeking submissions literary works in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and visual art until Feb. 1, 2017 for publication in the 2016-17 edition. The journal wishes to publish one-third of its entries from ONU writers.