By Kendall Pack
Photo by Jonathunder
What is Scribendi? What an awful question to start an article with. But it’s the one that needs to be asked. So here we go.
Scribendi is a literary magazine published on campus. It contains work from undergraduate and graduate students at USU and publishes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, art and photography. This is its 19th year of publication, so I guess we should all know that it’s here.
Rather than boring you with the details of how it’s made (I don’t know) and where you can get it (the English department office in the Ray B. West building and online), I want to focus on why it’s made and who makes it the great magazine it is.
Kuniko Poole fully expects to put in some time as a copy writer after graduation. While writing for a living would be ideal, she realizes the difficulty of becoming a highly paid author. Whereas that might discourage others who write, Kuniko chooses to see it as a mountain worth climbing. “Publication” is the golden word for writers, and Scribendi offers the first step for budding writers in becoming published in widely recognized literary magazines.
Poole will be published in this year’s undergraduate nonfiction section. Currently a junior, Kuniko has submitted work in the past. But this is the first year she has had her worked accepted in Scribendi. Her story, “Rings,” began life as a project for a creative nonfiction class (Poole is majoring in Creative Writing). She said that she had the desire to write about a particularly trying experience in her life for some time and that this gave her the opportunity to do so. The result is a well-crafted story through Poole’s eyes at different stages of life and understanding.
“I’ve gone through some things in my life that I think most people are hesitant to talk about,” Poole says about her fiction work. “I want to talk about these situations that are taboo and uncomfortable in society.” Her writing is intensely personal and Poole bravely shows the reader the bare emotion and raw pain that springs from her experience.
Even with the publication in Scribendi, Kuniko says: “I’m still a little terrified by the process of sending my work out to people, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know. It’s a nice little cliche, but it works.” Of the positive aspects of being published in even a small magazine like Scribendi, she said, “It really helps you get out there. I never would have done that before college … I guess you feel like the story is — not even your baby — it’s you.”
Kuniko writes for many reasons (never ask a writer why they write, it’s an awful question and everyone becomes immediately uncomfortable…everyone), but to sum it up, she says that writing is “all about giving a voice to people who don’t have one.” That seems like a pretty good reason.
Professor Charles Waugh has been the contest director for Scribendi for the past few years. He acts in an advisory position for the most part, hiring interns for the year to put together the magazine and solicit funds from different departments on campus. Interns “make the contest happen,” Waugh said.
So then Waugh admits his own worthlessness. Basically he’s a glorified babysitter. Or, option two, he’s a fiction writing professor who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to literary magazines. Let’s go down that road. Waugh, as a professor and creative writer, has his eye on publication both for himself and for his students. That desire to see good work brought to a large number of people drives him to make Scribendi a magazine that people will want to read.
Beautiful stories gain nothing from being published in ugly literary magazines. The aesthetic of the publication is vital to its being read. It’s like Waugh says: “The elegant, balanced way the magazine is produced is a kind of beauty in and of itself.” The goal of any publication should be to create something that is pleasing to its reader. As simple as that concept seems, there are some ugly, diseased-looking publications out there. Rather than let the magazine just be a bunch of pages tied together with yarn (that is a bad idea, by the way), Charles seeks to do something great with Scribendi, stating that, ”When we make this magazine exist, we’ve created beauty in the world.”
Scribendi is an opportunity for writers to focus their creative energy around a deadline. Deadlines are seen by some as awful and by others as the worst thing. But they push people to accomplish something within a set time and thus helps them to concentrate their ideas into that project. But a deadline alone might make for sloppy work. That’s why Charles emphasizes the community aspect of the magazine. Writers know that their work will be read by peers, which helps them to not only work to finish a project, but to perfect it.
Josh and Jessica McDermott are twins (real life, swear on my sweet grandmother’s head, twins). Also, they are writers. This is, after all, not an article about twins and other creatures I once thought were mythological (vegans, unicorns). Joshua was published in last year’s issue of Scribendi in the undergraduate poetry section, while Jessica’s work was accepted for this year’s issue in both nonfiction and poetry.
The two have the opportunity to work together on their projects. A mutual history is probably pretty useful when writing nonfiction. But it’s more than that. “It’s like I get a pair of fresh eyes to look over something I’ve written,” Josh says. “And, better yet, it’s like they’re my own eyes. It’s like I can do twice the work. That’s an exaggeration, but we do have pretty similar tastes.” Jessica agrees that is a boon to have that connection. “We write on our own, but we help each other network, discuss revision in our writing,” she says. “Most of all, give each other a supporter who has an honest and sincere interest in the other’s work.”
Guys, we should all have twins.
Along with the help they get from one another, the two feel that some of their greatest supporters are the professors who attend Helicon West and teach writing courses. Both are involved in writing groups and present their work regularly at Helicon West. Josh also publishes a small collection of poetry from poets within USU’s writing community, allowing for further publication opportunities.
Writing is clearly an important part of their lives. “I write not only because I love it and can’t see myself doing anything else, but because it is important,” Jessica says. “It is important because it depicts life, connects people, speaks to us about ourselves, makes us feel emotion, and can even change the way we view the world.”
When asked why he writes, Josh says, “Probably because I’m good at it, and it seems like the only thing worth spending my time doing. It’s like the opposite of real work, which to me, is numbing. Writing is whatever the opposite of numbing is.”
I guess twins don’t say think the exact same things. Mind blown.
This year’s issue of Scribendi will go on sale and online on the 26th. In conjunction with that release, Helicon West will host the writers who were published, reading from their work. The readings will be at Citrus and Sage (130 N. 100 East in Logan) at 7 p.m. the same day the magazine goes on sale. Go to it. Just…go to it.