Tag Archives: Undergraduate literary journal

Widener University Attends 2017 FUSE Conference on Representation and Resistance

Cabrini University hosted the fifth annual Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) conference at the beginning of November 2017. FUSE is a national organization that provides a network for undergraduate student editors and writers and their faculty advisers. The three-day conference brought together about 60 students from 13 universities for a series of writing and editing workshops and panels centered around the theme of representation and resistance.

The conference aimed to display the importance of understanding “tha capacity of literary arts to evoke social change, depict the experiences of underrepresented populations, and protest injustices.” Each workshop was dedicated to speaking out, finding your voice, and telling one’s story, whether it be through Susquehanna University’s “Feminist Short-Shorts” or SUNY Geneseo’s “Defining Your America.”

Poet and activist Martín Espada kicked off the conference with a captivating reading of his poems, which “explore the immigrant and working class experience.” He read passionate poems from his published works as well as moving poetry in response to today’s political climate. Espada also hosted a workshop on satirical poetry where he read examples from Marge Piercy, Ernesto Cardenal, Jack Agüeros, and John Millington Synge before encouraging students to write and present their own satirical poetry from what they learned.20171103_201203

Widener University was represented by Nicole Gray, Jasmine Kouyate, Haley Poluchuck, Jennifer Rohrbach, Carlie Sisco, and Kira Smith, along with their professors. Below are reviews from Widener representatives regarding the 2017 conference:

Jennifer Rohrbach
Carlie Sisco, Nicole Gray and I presented an hour-long workshop session titled “Using Documentary Theater to Craft Monologues of Resistance.” During the workshop, we worked with student editors from other schools to write monologues that addressed the issue of polarization in our society. We used examples from Anna Deavere Smith’s 1994 book, Twilight, Los Angeles, 1992, to help students shape their own monologues. Smith’s book contains monologues from people involved with and impacted by the 1992 Los Angeles uprising in protest of the police brutality of Rodney King. 2017 marks twenty-five years since the uprising occurred, so we really wanted the monologues created during our workshop to do justice to Smith’s work and the legacy of the event. It was a little nerve-wracking to present in front of a whole seminar room of my peers, but they were extremely receptive to our vision for the workshop. It was especially rewarding to hear how the mode of monologue-writing pushed people out of their comfort zones and made them think about language–and the impact of 20171103_135311it–in a different way.

Carlie Sisco
The most inspiring aspect of this conference was being able to hear the incredible writing of my fellow peers at the open mics. We are a very tight-knit team at Widener and we’ve gotten to know each other not only as people, but also as writers. It was amazing to hear from the talented students at other universities and colleges who are brave enough to read personal or vulnerable pieces of work to a room filled with strangers that share the same passion. This conference allowed for so many opportunities to generate pieces as well as reading them. Between those who shared during Martín Espada’s workshop and those who read during the two-hour open mic, I’ve become so impressed and inspired by those around me. It’s a true testament to why we do what we do. As writers, we aim to inspire, move others, express a given voice, and potentially make a difference with the stories we tell. Listening to the students I’ve gotten to meet and work with over the course of three days, it’s easy to tell that we’re on that path. I’ve never felt such a part of such a talented community.

Nicole Gray
After attending Martín Espada’s workshop and enjoying how people got very into the performance element of their writing, I felt it was a must to attend the performance poetry workshop. I was glad I did. Susquehanna University held a session titled “Using Performance Poetry to Reclaim Identity” in which students were asked to explore their identity, what brought them to this place in their lives, and what sense 20171103_134045of self does to propel them in today’s society. The students running it had history in acting and were able to provide suggestions about voice and body language. They also shared information about a slam poetry club they were involved in at their own school. It was cool to hear that performance poetry is becoming more appreciated as literature in itself, since it certainly has qualities that cannot be expressed through pen and paper.

Jasmine Kouyate
During the FUSE conference, a few Widener students participated in the workshop shop hosted by fellow University of California Los Angeles students, titled “Finding Your Voice.” The prompt given at the workshop was to write about a time that you feel you should have spoken up when feeling marginalized or when your voice was undermined. We were given fifteen minutes to write about this moment in time and then an additional ten minutes to write about how the conversation would have gone had you spoken up. In this moment, I was forced to step into the consciousness of the individual whom I disagreed with and conceptualize realistic dialogue for this hypothetical situation. While I did not necessarily come to any resolution with that person, I found that exercise to be cathartic, daunting, and comforting. It was comforting to know that I had internally confronted the individual and myself, knowing that I will be prepared in the future for confronting ignorance and bigotry.

Haley Poluchuck
FUSE was interesting. I liked being surrounded by writers and getting to know people from different schools who shared my majors. Martín Espada, our guest reader, had great pieces with awesome backstories and meaning. He was very animated and was entertaining to watch. I also enjoyed hearing pieces written by the other students, read during the open mic. I learned some interesting things during the different panels as well. The first talked about writing monologues, which is a style I hadn’t written in before. It’s a great way to exercise dialogue-writing skills. Another panel I went to talked about editorial policy, which I was interested in because I want to be an editor. We discussed how to choose what should and shouldn’t be accepted in a journal. Being Widener Ink’s past editor-in-chief, it was interesting to hear from other students who ran literary journals and to hear what they did differently. Overall, the conference was a great way to meet people with similar skills and goals as me, and it was a great learning opportunity.

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2016 FUSE Conference Addresses Literary Citizenship

Since 2012, Widener students have been attending and presenting at the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) national conference. This year, students and advisors from fifteen schools from South Carolina to Pennsylvania to Michigan to California came to Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio to present on the conference theme of literary citizenship. Widener University was represented by junior English majors Emma Irving and Jennifer Rohrbach and senior creative writing and communications double major Kelsey Styles, along with creative writing professor and faculty advisor Dr. Michael Cocchiarale.

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Literary citizenship is, to put it quite simply, the act of creating a more positive community with stronger writers and editors. It can also include the acts of maintaining diverse journals, teaming with other publications and organizations on campus, communicating effectively among staff and writers, and encouraging participation from all students—not just English or creative writing majors.

Widener students presented a panel about how four campus publications tackle this issue.
Widener’s The Blue Route, a national undergraduate literary journal, publishes interviews with local authors and poets. Widener Ink and the Blue & Gold both sit down with students and work together to improve that student’s writing. The Chester Magazine connects Widener with the surrounding community, and works to bridge Chester’s growing arts scene. All three of Widener’s student representatives collaborated to create this panel.
Here are personal reflections from two Widener participants at FUSE:
Jennifer Rohrbach

Working with Widener’s dedicated community of writers, editors, and readers gave me the opportunity to hone my own writing and editing skills through publications such as The Blue Route, the Blue & Gold, and Widener Ink. My three years at Widener have shaped me into a literary citizen without me even realizing it! But the literary community is so much larger than what we see on Widener’s campus. Attending FUSE at the wonderful Bowling Green State University opened my eyes to the national literary community, what it has accomplished, and what it can become.

We hit the ground running on Thursday, the first day of the conference. After a business meeting and a journal showcase, students from universities across the United States presented panels on how their schools and publications promote literary citizenship. I learned that literary citizenship is a much broader, yet more inclusive term that I’d originally thought. Anyone with a love for literature and a desire to share it can be a literary citizen. One of the most inspiring panels I attended was about representation and diversity not only in the stories published in journals and lit magazines, but also among the editors reading submissions.

On Friday, the group split up for roundtables where students from different schools could more casually discuss topics such as aesthetics and technology and advising student editors. It was a great experience to speak with students I otherwise would never have met, and it was reassuring to hear that they go through the same highs and lows with their publications that I go through with the publications I’m a part of. After the roundtables, I chose to participate in the Guerilla Poetry activity—just one of the various activities for the afternoon. A group of about 10 students and I left sheets of poetry all around Bowling Green’s campus which, for comparison’s sake, is at least three time’s Widener’s size, if not more. We got some weird looks from Bowling Green students as we stuck poetry in random books at the library and in between bike wheel spokes. But not an hour later our ‘tour guide’ Ally Butler (a student at Bowling Green and FUSE attendee) got a Snapchat from a friend who was delighted to have found a poem stuck to a tree in the middle of the quad.

While the conference itself was great, my favorite part was the new friends I made. On a campus as small as Widener’s you can see the same people every day. It was inspiring to realize that there is a community of writers and editors out there in the world who are as enthusiastic about literature as I am, and who are dedicated to instilling that enthusiasm within others to further cultivate literary citizenship.

Kelsey Styles

I attended many panels about literary citizenship. The first panel I attended was run by two students from Francis Marion University in South Carolina. They talked about how to get more majors involved with the literary journals on campus. Editor-in- chief of their journal, Snow Island Review, Anna Jackson, was herself a psychology major, and used that to her advantage. During her presentation, she pulled up scientific theories of motivation, such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and explained how she incorporated them into her campus organization. She explained that by giving editors more responsibility and making them feel like they were contributing to something important, they became more excited to work toward the common goal. Not only did meeting attendance increase for them, their submissions soared from about 75 to about 180.

The next presentation I saw was about Susquehanna University’s literary journal, Flagship. It’s a journal just for travel writing, and it’s open to all majors at their university. At Susquehanna, it’s required that all students study abroad at least once. This journal is not only a collection of some of those stories, it’s a way for students to cope with any culture shock or large experiences they were struggling with since returning from another country.

The final panel I attended before my own presentation was about representation in literature, entitled “Maintaining a Diverse Literary Community.” Camera Martin from Oakland University explained how it was the responsibility of editors to include diverse writers. Editors are the gatekeepers of media, in many cases. By opening the door to writers of color and writers of different sexualities, editors are able to create a more diverse and empathetic audience—and it is their job to do so. Her panel was fabulous. Widener followed her which was both tough because it was such a strong presentation but also a plus because she’d drawn a significant crowd. We basically had a full room to discuss how Widener contributes to literary citizenship—which we do in many ways.

There were more than just panels. I also went to a keynote speech by the very talented Karen Craigo (I know she’s very talented because I attended her reading later that day). I went to a reading by Wendell Mayo, a fascinating author with strong voice. Friday, I attended a discussion about how other schools conducted their literary journals. Widener’s literary journals are extracurricular, though the Chester Magazine had a class element to it and Professor Cocchiarale has taught a Contemporary Literary Scene class that examined current undergraduate journals including our own. All schools who participated in the discussion explained some of the benefits and the drawbacks of conducting their journals in the class format. Some schools, like Susquehanna and Widener, had several journals, and some schools, like Cabrini, only had one. Bowling Green also hosted workshops where students could either work on their writing, post poems around campus, or create their own zines.

Though I had initially been wary about the small size of the conference, FUSE 2016 was ultimately just as amazing as a large conference. I was able to make closer friendships than I would have otherwise made. It’s easier to get to know someone when you’re constantly in close proximity. At a larger conference, I might not have seen the same people twice. This FUSE, I not only saw people constantly, but by the end of the conference we had interacted so much that I could consider us friends.

If you wish to start a FUSE chapter at your undergraduate institution, check out the FUSE National website for more information: http://www.fuse-national.com/.

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Written by Jennifer Rohrbach and Kelsey Styles

Lots of Important Stuff…READ THIS!!!

And just like that, you’re back on campus like you never even left…happy new school year everyone! On behalf of the whole Blue Route staff, I’d like to wish all our contributors and followers a successful start to the new semester! A lot of exciting things are happening on our tiny campus in the new future including a new submission period for our next issue (see details here) and best of all, the 2015 FUSE Conference (check it out here)! The blog staff will be bringing you all the latest updates of conference preparation/journal publication, so do not hesitate at all to contact us with any questions. And please, take literally 3 minutes to like us on Facebook (The Blue Route), follow us on Tumblr (wublueroute), and keep up to date with us on Twitter (wutheblueroute). And while you’re at it, go follow all the undergraduate literary journals you can find on social media! There are so many amazing things being created and discussed by students in these publications…they all deserve to be supported.

Happy New Year!!!

Written by Emma Irving

The FUSE Conference: Uniting Literary Journals Across the Nation

The gathering of undergraduate editors at the 2014 FUSE conference at Bennington College in Bennington, VT.

The gathering of undergraduate editors at the 2014 FUSE conference at Bennington College in Bennington, VT.

The FUSE conference, which took place at Bennington College in Vermont this November, was a unique opportunity to interact with like-minded people who aim to produce excellent literary journals. FUSE, or the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors, is a national organization that serves to connect student editors from schools across the nation, giving them the chance to share ideas, offer advice, and support each other in their endeavors.

The conference consisted of presentations by students, faculty, and guest speakers about editing, publishing, and other general concepts related to creating a literary journal with undergraduates. There was also time set aside for attendees to take a look at the various journals being represented, and to show their own.

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Autumn Heisler, editor-in-chief of Widener Ink (left) and Emily DeFreitas, editor-in-chief of The Blue Route (right) present on community outreach during the conference.

While there, I had the opportunity to take part in a presentation on community outreach, but more importantly, I was able to listen to the thoughts, ideas, and strategies of other literary journals. I came out of the event with a substantial list of things The Blue Route staff should consider doing in the future, and I suspect that editors from other schools did as well. As one of the speakers pointed out, the main competition for a literary journal isn’t other literary journals. In reality, we compete with the distractions of the electronic world around us as we attempt to reel in readers. Because of this, having a network through which we can promote each other, encourage readership, and improve the individual journals we’re producing is an extremely valuable thing.

Some of the ideas presented were not necessarily specific to literary journals alone. Some might be well applied to groups like Widener’s own English Club. Students talked about write-ins, open mics, and blind dates with books, all of which are fantastic ways to participate in the literary world, building a reading and writing community in person, not just online or on paper. This conference was meant to assist in building that community. Throughout the event it became clear that there are many ways to do that, and literary journals play an important role.

by Emily DeFreitas

Does your school have a literary journal? Are you interested in learning more about FUSE? Check out their website at http://www.fuse-national.com/

Collaboration at its Finest: A Review of Goddard College’s Literary Journal “Duende”:

Producing a literary journal is a task that requires not only great time and effort, but also a group of people dedicated to collaborating to create the best collection of poetry, prose, and other works possible. This idea of collaboration is one that the students in the Writing program at Goddard College latched onto to produce their first edition of the literary journal “Duende,” out last month, and the results are amazing.

Duende is a product of collaboration on a national level. Unlike most undergraduate literary journals, which are run by students from one campus, this journal’s staff are located all across the United States, from Oregon to Pennsylvania and everywhere in between. The staff only meets face to face once each semester; I can only imagine how tricky communicating about a complex piece of poetry is without that in-person dynamic!

A quote by Federico Garcia Lorca appears at the bottom of the artfully designed home page, explaining that duende “is a force…of a style that’s truly alive: meaning, it’s of the veins: meaning, it’s of the most ancient culture of immediate creation”. This simple philosophy of collecting and sharing works of art teeming with raw soul and passion made me eager to explore their first issue to see exactly the kinds of works desired by Duende’s editors.

Within the visual art category, I was most enthralled by Deanna Lee’s collection of hand-drawn pieces rooted in the exploration of the line. Lee shows that groupings of abstract lines can both evoke contrasting characteristics (weightlessness vs. heaviness, for example) while all maintaining a sense of life and action. I love the sense of movement in Lee’s work, and every time I look back at these three drawings, I feel as if they’ve moved somehow, shifted as my perspective on them shifts.

Switching to the prose section of the journal, another interesting aspect of Duende’s collaborative spirit is unveiled. Categories like “prose poem” and “hybrid prose”  are attached to these varying works. I love Duende’s philosophy that regardless of genre, good writing is good writing and needs to be shared. My favorite work in this prose section is Justin Torres’ flash-fiction piece. Beautiful diction juxtaposed against edgy, sometimes jolting scenes, Torres’ concise story needs to be read more than once in order to pick up on all the social and moral issues presented.

Duende tells that they are “especially interested in collaborations between two or more writers, or between writers and visual artists”, and my favorite piece in the poetry section involved both visual and written art. The prose-poem This is How We Dream and its accompanying artwork present an interesting pair of works to be compared and contrasted. Pairing pieces of art together is a tricky thing to do in order to emphasize the best parts of each work, but I find the contrasting colors of the visual art and the theme of dream versus reality in the poem to work incredibly well together.

Coming together for the sake of promoting written and visual art is the goal of most every literary journal produced by undergraduates, but Duende does it exceptionally well. Uniting students nationwide through Goddard College’s Writing program, combining genres of work to create bold new styles, and encouraging artists of various mediums to work together, Duende is a truly innovative journal that I cannot wait to hear more from.