Swarthmore’s Smaller Literary Mags Struggle to Publish

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The diverse, creative student literary scene at Swarthmore is certainly alive and well, yet several of Swarthmore’s literary publications have been struggling to continue publishing.

Diversity magazines Ourstory and Remappings, in particular, have seen a sharp decrease in the number of submissions over the last few years. This semester, editorial staff of both magazines are having trouble meeting page requirements. Remappings editor Meena Elanchenny ’10 believes smaller publications on campus may be shut out in the presence of multiple other journals. “The great variety of literary magazines at Swat provides several outlets for the student body to express themselves, but at the same time many of the submissions go to the larger literary magazines, leaving the smaller ones with few to no submissions.”

Small Craft Warnings, Swarthmore’s oldest and certainly largest literary magazine still in print, enjoys a healthy range of submissions each semester, receiving about 120 pieces and publishing up to 70. Sarah Peterson ’09, a member of Small Craft’s editorial board, says the magazine’s managing staff works really hard “not to just cram in whatever we have but really put together something that speaks on its own as a collection of literary work at Swat.”

Peterson echoed Elanchenny’s concern but also pointed out that SCW’s broader scope is able to draw more submissions.“I wouldn’t say the other magazines are exclusive, but they are looking for something in particular. At Small Craft, it’s not so much about a particular experience but about experimenting and putting yourself out there in new and creative ways; we’re more of a catch-all.”

Remappings editor Ailya Vajid ’09 similarly wonders whether students just aren’t as interested in writing creatively about the magazine’s central Asian/Asian diasporic theme. “Remappings is published only once a year, so you’d think we wouldn’t have trouble, but lack of submissions was a problem last year too. Are students too busy or not writing as much, or does Remappings cater to too small of an audience? In centering on a particular theme, we are closing ourselves off to a smaller population of writers.” Several urgent Reserved Students’ posts and workshops coordinated with SAO and Deshi have drawn only a few pieces from returning writers.

Among all of the College’s literary publications (including the BCC-sponsored Mjumbe and the all-female Scarlet Letters magazine), only ñ, TriCo’s Spanish language literature magazine, has seen continued interest. Spanish Department Head Aurora Camacho De Schmidt believes “the presence of Latino and Latin American students on campus who love poetry have kept [ñ] going strong. Students in the introductory course to Latin American literature also write poetry as part of their work, and often send it to Eñe.” The magazine, as a whole, achieves success by fostering what Camacho De Schmidt perceives as “a real space of convergence for a very lively tongue, the Spanish language.”

Vajid ultimately posits that there has been a change in the overall culture and demands of the student body. “Ourstory started as a race relations journal because that’s what students needed and asked for. It then developed into something more literary, and now, maybe Swarthmore no longer needs this outlet.”

Peterson suggested a different, less harsh alternative. “Would we be potentially better off with an aggregated review? I don’t know. To a degree, I like the diversity of ideas and outlets available right now, but often you fall into a position where you have to nag and beg people to write. Either way, it’s important to stress the value of expression, especially in a college community.”

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