Monday, January 23, 2017

Created by and for students, INK LIT MAG is an undergraduate literary review at the University of Iowa, dedicated to showcasing the work of first-year students and alumni of the Iowa Writer's Living Learning Community. Several undergraduate contributors will be reading from their work to celebrate the launch of INK LIT MAG No. 11, at Prairie Lights Bookstore on January 25th at 7pm. In advance of this reading, we wanted to sit down with two undergraduate students at the University of Iowa, Harrison Cook (managing editor of INK LIT) and Alex Chasteen (poetry editor at INK LIT), to ask a few quick questions about their role in publishing, and to prepare readers and listeners for the launch event. 

Thank you so much for speaking with us today! We wanted to ask a few question about the specific event, as well as about the process of submitting, editing and being published.

First off, who will participating in the reading? What can we expect from the reading?

Harrison Cook: We will have a wonderful mix of Alumni, from the Iowa Writer’s Living Learning Community, and fresh new literary voices, some of which Ink No.11 will be their first publication. Passerby’s or Ink Lit Launch attendees can expect student writers reading their prose and poetry, essays and plays, and more importantly the sharing of their stories. 

As editors, do you have any tips to give writers who are looking to submit their work to magazines? What are some of the gems of wisdom you can share?

Alex Chasteen: I have a big chip on my shoulder about workshopping for young, particularly freshman writers. For me, the types of pieces I tend to see over and over in workshop are the same types I reject as an editor. For a community publication like this -- exclusively first year students or alumni of the IWLLC -- the competing pieces are coming from the writers around you, so pay attention to those around you. Go to open mics, workshop, exchange pieces with English/Creative Writing major friends, and any other opportunities along those lines. The pieces I hear at open mic after open mic here in Iowa are different than the ones I hear over and over back home in California open mics, and once you start noticing trends, it’s a lot easier to see them in your own work and work on pieces that sound different and are about different things. Aside from that, reading past editions of the publication you’re submitting to is standard, as well as workshopping your piece thoroughly, and not concerning yourself too much with rejection. I don’t know if any of these are gems, but this is what I would advise someone looking to submit to Ink Lit, at least.

What have you learned as editors from working on Ink Lit? And is this something you would like to pursue in the future?

AC: This is definitely something I’d like to pursue in the future -- I’ve learned a lot just about how to run an effective magazine. I’ve run a very poorly managed magazine before, so this past semester has been all about learning how successful magazines are run in the collegiate world. I’ve learned a lot about how to advertise and solicit submissions on a campus, how to coordinate with varying levels of management within a staff, how the proofing process works -- the list goes on and on. More than anything this experience has gotten me excited to explore different roles in different types of publications and learn as much about editing and publishing as I can. I’m not sure what pursuing this in the future looks like quite yet, but I’m excited to find out.

Talk about one piece from the current Ink Lit 11 issue. What drew you to this work? Why did you choose it?

AC: I have a special fondness for the first piece in the magazine, a poem called “The Second Time I Dream About Holes Being Drilled Into My Hands.” It uses this very teenage oscillation between the unexplained/nightmarish and the suburban/familiar -- teenage not in a bad way, teenage meaning it speaks to a period of spaghettification, a strange place between two strange places. It helps that I have a soft spot for series of seemingly unrelated declarative statements (“Let the birds pick at me. You said the reason was already written. I am your inflatable tube man, jerked by every involuntary wind”). I was drawn in, I suppose, by the images first, then the way the logic of emotion and image associations can usurp the logic we know from syllogism. I chose it because I enjoyed it, because I was impressed by it, because I had not workshopped twenty poems before just like it, and because if I picked up a magazine and read a poem like this, I would want to keep reading.

As a contributor, how did it feel to be published? And what tips do you have for other writers at the beginning stages of their career?


Part One:

Back in the day, Freshman year 2014, Ink No. 7 was my first publication. That first publication was insanely gratifying, considering, at the time, I was grappling with what I wanted to pursue as a career, because beakers, molecules, and strenuous calculations just weren’t cutting it. A late night of number crunching for my math class the next morning, would be broken up with 15-minute poetry breaks, just so my own brain wouldn’t break. That is when I knew my passion for creative writing is unwavering.

Ink is a teaching magazine, that taught me my love for reading, writing, and publishing. It not only exposed me to new authors role models, literary voices, like minded crazy loving humans, but also showed me that writing, publishing, creativity can be a career and gives students the opportunity to contribute to the thriving local literary community that Iowa City is known for.

Flash forward, Junior year 2017, Ink has grown into my writer, publisher, literary family and is the same for many students. One of my pieces in Ink No. 11, 80 Milliseconds Pass, deals with how the body manifests, copes, and processes emotional violence. So, for that poem the publishing process was therapeutic in that it solidifies that whole experience, but in a way, that gave me and my words the agency they didn’t have at the time. 

Part Two:

In terms of tips that I can wholeheartedly speak too:

  1. Always carry around a notebook and a writing utensil. It doesn’t have to be a fancy vessel or a five-dollar pen, but it should get the job done.
  2. Always date your writing: your scribbles, your sketches and scenes.
  3. As a mentor told me, “Consider research and reading a form of writing, because you may not be physically writing your work down, but you are mentally writing it.”
  4. Talk to people, have experiences, make memories, live in the present.
  5. Find your author role model, your workshop cheerleader, and what topics make your passion catch fire.  

* * * *

Harrison Cook is a student at the University of Iowa studying Creative Writing, Publishing, and People. His poems, plays, and essays have appeared in several campus magazines. He also serves as a Managing Editor for Ink Lit Mag and a Drama Editor for Earthwords: Undergraduate Literary Magazine.

Alex Chasteen is a first year studying English, Creative Writing, and French. She served as the Editor in Chief of Ink Lit Mag for the fall semester and will serve as Poetry Editor for the spring. She is a guest blogger for the UI Honors blog, Note to Self, and is a staff writer for the Honors Newsletter. She is from Irvine, California.