Students lead launch of 'Berg's first literary journal

English professor Dr. Barry Devine was looking for the perfect person to oversee the launch Heidelberg’s first-ever literary journal. There were a lot of decisions to be made: format, look, timeline, soliciting entries, article selection, editing, communication … and organizing all of that. He found his person in senior philosophy major Em Swain.

This past academic year, Em has taken on the project – the Rock Creek Review – as its managing editor. It’s been a ton of work, even fun, and soon, the first edition will be published. When final edits are complete, you’ll find it here

“I was looking for a project that primarily English students could work on to get them 400-level HYPE credit,” Barry says. “But I also wanted to introduce them to the publishing industry.”

Rock Creek Review is the brainchild of Barry and ’20 grad Danielle Lester and has been two years in the making. Em ran with it beginning in the fall semester.

“We came up with a rough outline, how we wanted it to look and a style guide,” Em says. Then came all of the legwork of soliciting entries. With Barry’s help, they researched websites and contacted English departments around the world to seek submissions. They were disappointed to receive exactly two. 

After initially settling on the theme “Art in Times of Turmoil” Pandemics, Pathogens, Politics,” they decided the theme may have been holding things back. “In a pandemic, no one wants to write about a pandemic,” Em surmises.

At that point, the team had two options: “Bag it, try to figure out what went wrong then try again or drop the theme, revise the deadline and see if we’d get more submissions,” Barry explains. The editorial team chose the latter and regrouped.

So they scrapped it and opened up entries to any papers submitted and written by undergrads. Bingo! About 20 submissions poured in. Em’s editorial team of senior psychology and English major Shaadia Flint, sophomore English major Melissa Risser and junior English and philosophy major Chayenne Powers then narrowed the entries to the top eight for inclusion in the inaugural edition, with each choosing their top two. There’s a good variety: meta papers, humorous papers, old topics and modern topics. 

After the selection and rigorous editing process, a new theme emerged: “House of Mirrors: Separation and Reflection.” Piecing it together was like a puzzle – a creative, fun puzzle! The team also enjoyed having a hand in a creation of a logo for the journal. They involved Nathan Cutietta’s communication students in designing the logo, ultimately choosing a design by sophomore sport management major Ethan White.

Now that publication is near, there’s time to reflect on the process. Even with its hiccups, it’s been rewarding, and Barry is one proud advisor.

“Looking at it from the outside, my biggest surprise – with Em as the managing editor – was that I didn’t have to intervene at all. I thought I would have to spend weeks and weekends making sure things got done, but Em had everything under control,” he says. 

“This truly is a publication organized and run and edited entirely by students. I did very little.”

For Em, taking on this project “opened a lot of doors for me” as they get ready to graduate in December and begin their job search.

“I have felt confident with being a leader in this way. It has been really exciting,” they say.

Going forward, next year’s team will tweak the process a bit and expand their connections, but Em hopes their successor “just has fun with it.”

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