The Writer’s Toolkit for Getting Unstuck

Typewriters, laptops, and notebooks all have two things in common: they serve writers and they can smell fear.

You’re trucking along, writing like a pro, and then chapter six rolls around and suddenly you have the urge to clean the apartment from top to bottom. In fact, every little task you’ve been ignoring suddenly seems like a great idea because for some reason, you’ve lost the ability to put one word after another. This quasi-productivity is accompanied by feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and internal stagnation. You’re afraid to even say those fated words, “writer’s block,” because they feel like a life sentence.

Honey, have a tissue. We’ve all been there. And while some writers look at writer’s block as that virus the doctor can’t give you anything for and tells you to let run its course, I beg to differ. When your car won’t start, you don’t sit in the driver’s seat and wait for it to start on its own; you get under the hood and see what’s going on. Try these five strategies for beating writer’s block that don’t involve tearfully cooking all the food in your pantry:

1.     Change your thinking.

Inspiration isn’t some magical well that arbitrarily decides whether or not to allow you to write; it’s a pump you have to prime. Writing is a choice.

Oh, I know. Sometimes the story chooses you and sometimes your characters wake you up in the middle of the night, but those are just quirks of being a writer. A temporary lack of inspiration is not a cosmic sign you should stop. You’ve got a good thing going. You just have to believe that until you feel it again.

If you’re panicking about the deadline, remember that Mozart wrote the prelude to Don Giovanni the night before it premiered. Block out your inner drill sergeant and give yourself a break. You’ll get it done, and forcing it isn’t going to help.

 

2.     Take care of you.

If you feel so stuck that you don’t know what to do, take a break. Walk away, watch Netflix, talk to a human being, and take care of your basic needs. Try to do something active; many writers I know think better when they’ve gotten their blood pumping. I like long walks for the fresh air and change of scenery, so I’d start with that. Please don’t kill yourself by overachieving.

Many of us burn the midnight oil when we’re on a roll, but an exhausted writer is an invitation for an editor’s red pen. If you’ve been awake for the past 36 hours, for the love of God, get some rest.

3.     Circumvent the problem.

So you’re back at your computer, having just completed step 2. If you skipped step 2, go back, you cheater. I’ll wait.

Now you’re ready to try again, but that stupid blinking cursor is already mocking you. My friends, it’s simple logic: if what you’re doing isn’t getting you anywhere, it’s time to try something else. If you’ve been staring at the same page for over twenty minutes and felt nothing but fear, stop. Scroll up and find the last place you really felt good about what you were doing and were feeling the momentum. What changed between there and here?

When I hit this point, it almost always means I’ve lost my sense of direction. Some writers can just throw stuff on the page until magic happens, but if you’re reading this list, chances are that isn’t working for you. Open a new document – or turn to a new page, whatever it is you do – and free-write. Journal. Talk to yourself about how you’re feeling and what you think is missing. You’ll be surprised what you tell yourself.

If you’re more of a visual person and your stories play in your head like a movie, make a playlist for your story and either lay on the floor or do a mindless task until the movie starts up again. We all like to turn up the movie soundtracks and be melodramatic, so sit back and let your characters just play. Chances are you’ll stumble across a nugget of gold.

4.     Taunt your muse.

If you’re still stuck, work on something else. Come on, you’re a writer; I know you’ve got too many irons in the fire at once like the rest of us. So dig out that story you haven’t touched since last November or dust off your poetry-writing skills. Chances are, using a different part of your brain will allow the part you’ve been using to relax, and eventually the ideas will start flowing again.

That, or the characters who’ve been defying you will come back because they’re jealous of the attention you’re giving another story. Either way, it’s a win.

5.     Give it time.

Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you have to be in the zone all the time. Nobody could function like that, so let yourself be more than just a writer. Go out and live, then come back and channel your thoughts on the page. Your writing is on “pause,” not “stop.” When the inspiration hits you like lightning, you’ll be ready. So just throw a notebook in your bag, relax, and let it come.

That’s it. Dry your eyes, little writer. Soon you’ll be trucking along like before, but now you have the tools you need if you ever get stuck again.

Happy writing, and if your characters can’t behave, may they at least give you an interesting story to tell.

 

Speaking of writing, don’t forget to submit your poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction, photography, and visual arts to sequel@simpson.edu. Sequel 2017-2018 is accepting submissions until November 15th!

 

--Gina Reiman, '18

5 Simple Steps to Writing a Novel – Start Yours Today!

Similar to the startup of a fun and innovative business, writing a novel takes proper execution and planning to be successful.

Developing a general outline for your story can prove to be as difficult as actually writing your novel, but following this easy-flowing guide you can make it a little easier, and a lot more fun.

#1: Develop a Plan

Planning and outlining may seem tedious at first, but a solid storyline with notable themes and motifs can help keep you on track. The first step to novel writing is developing a plan.

Your plan can include what your novel will actually feature, the general motives and purpose of your writing, and what themes and morals you wish to portray. The original plan can concentrate on the basics, such as brainstorming a few central topics.

As you develop your plan, you can determine whom you are writing for what mediums you use to publish. Composing a list of notes, scribbles, doodles, and half-done works to establish and develop ideas is a fun way to get the ball rolling.

#2: Pick your Genre and Find your Voice

Establishing the genre of your novel can help you decide on the general direction of your characters and target audience.

Decide what category you want your novel to be in, there are tons to choose from. Romance, horror, erotica, etc. Just write whatever floats your boat! Once you decide on your genre, begin contemplating the length of your novel and how you want to create a narrative voice. Some novels are told from multiple perspectives, each chapter or section outlining a different point of view. Some are omniscient, while others are from the perspective of a naive eight-year-old. No matter the narrative voice you choose, you will develop a sense of self for the character while you discover your own sense of self, interests and disinterests, through this process.

#3: Establish your Characters and Plot

The third step in becoming a novelist is establishing your characters and plot. This step is critical to maintaining a decent timeline between characters and the events that take place throughout your work.

It may sound intimidating to write out all your ideas,,but there are a variety of ways to create an outline. You can try bullet pointing all of your ideas, summarize section by section before diving in fully, or write short essay versions of your intended work. Every one of us is different, and the way they track and develop on ideas is as well. Finding your fit takes a little practice, but if none of these seem to work for you, there are plenty of printable outlines across the Internet.

Characters can be divided into main, secondary, and tertiary categories. Creating your main focus is like creating a new friend –or enemy, depending on your novel. Many people differ in organization strategies.

As a wannabe novelist myself, I like to establish a set of main characters, and elaborate deeper on a separate “author pages.” What do they look like or sound like? Who are they now, and how have they changed? What do their parents do for work?  How did they get to their current city? Are they religious? What are their talents? Creating main characters is like a dating profile..only you get to call the shots (bye-bye, gross Tinder messages).

#4: Set your Setting

Now that you know who is involved and whose profiles you need to develop throughout the story, it becomes much easier to place them in a setting. Where you will set the stage for your story comes in at number four on our list. !!!! Edit Here.

A science fiction novel featured in rural Indianola, Iowa might not make as much sense as setting it the fiery pits of Mordor… and they probably wouldn’t have become the classics they are today. Take time period, language, technology, religion, and cultural preferences into account. It will help keep your work authentic and interesting.

#5: Explore your Options

Finally, explore your options! Research, study, and investigate potential story lines. How might your character develop over a few hundred pages? Inspiration for fun and exciting plot twists can come from anywhere. Read your favorite book, and then find a new one. Determine what good writing is, in your opinion, and try to discover what makes it so good. How does your favorite author keep you on the edge of your seat?

Or research something you overheard on the bus. Did she say, “Osteogenesis imperfecta?” What even is that? Be inquisitive to strangers and friends alike. The world is your oyster, and there is so much knowledge to discover.

There are no limits where your imagination can take you in the fictional world you create. Write, learn, and discover today.

 

Are you a Simpson College student, faculty, or alum? Do you write fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry or take photos or create visual art? 

Submit your work to Sequel 2017-2018 by November 15th! Email your submissions to sequel@simpson.edu.

 

--Niki Dean, '18

Find Your Passion and Get Paid to Pursue It

We are five weeks into the semester and midterms are already almost upon us. Where has the time gone? It feels as though it was only yesterday we were leaving our homes and moving back to Simpson, readjusting to the by-now familiar routine of classes, homework, and extracurriculars.

Before we know it, it will be Thanksgiving Break, and then we will be studying harder than ever to pass our finals. Time flies by when you are not paying close attention.

It seems as though every school year becomes more and more challenging. You advance in your classes, eventually mastering more difficult material, and consequently, you receive more demanding workloads. It is all part of the grand plan to prepare us for “the real world.”

But along with the increasingly difficult and demanding workloads comes the unwelcome feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed.

There is a lot of pressure on college students nowadays. So much is expected of us from so many aspects of our lives.

Each of us is involved in so many activities; it can be difficult to balance out our schedules so we have enough time for classes, homework, internships and/or jobs, and to maintain any form of a social life.

One of the most important things students learn in college is how to manage our time. Ironically, it is not something we learn in a class, but rather something we have to figure out on our own—and we usually have to go about it the hard way.

We learn how to prioritize the more important things and we resign ourselves to making sacrifices whenever and wherever possible, if only to stay on top of things.

Between juggling classes, work, and extracurricular activities, it can be extremely difficult to find free time to relax and destress.

As we have all found out at one point or another in college, there are good weeks and bad weeks. During the good weeks, we have very little in the way of homework. Everything is easy to manage and we finish things up within a few hours.

But in the bad weeks, we are overwhelmed with the amount of work we have to manage. We feel as though we are drowning in our workload, fighting to reach the surface but always being pulled down before we get there.

We do not pay oodles of money to sit around in a dorm room watching Netflix all day. Well, hopefully none of us do (as satisfying as it would be).

We pay those tuition bills so we can learn how to do what we love for the rest of our lives.

People may tell you that it is impractical and unrealistic to hope to find a job doing what you love. If everyone had their dream job, we would not call it working.

These people will tell you it is a myth; the dream job does not exist, except inside your head. But that is the real myth.

Anything you are passionate about can lead you to your dream job, even if that passion is writing or singing. The best advice anyone can ever receive is this: Do what you love, and do not ever let anyone take it away from you.

My passion is reading. When I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed—especially during midterms and finals—the one thing that will always soothe me is reading.

Reading allows me to escape from my everyday life and whatever problems I am struggling with for a few hours. It takes me away to a world where my problems do not exist. I am transported to a place where I am a mere spectator in another person’s life—even a fictional life. When I pick up a book, a sense of calm washes over me; I know that soon I will be lost in a world of someone else’s imagination and I will forget my own worries and difficulties.

In a way, I am lucky that reading is my passion. It has helped me to discover my own dream job: editing. As an editor, I would be following my passion for the rest of my life.

I will be paid to read, and I will be helping others follow their passion of writing and sharing their talents for the rest of the world to read and discover.

Of course, there is more to editing than just reading through an author’s work and marking up the pages with a red pen. There are specific types of editing, such as developmental editing and copyediting. The type of editing that is used will depend on how developed an author’s writing is.

For example, if there are changes that need to be made to the plot and overall structure, developmental editing will be the necessary editing process. If the writing is completely finished and almost ready for publication, it may simply need some proofreading before it is sent to a publisher.

Even though editors do not have the most “stable” and predictable salaries in the world, that instability does not discourage me from following my true passion. I am sure that many would choose to take a different, more stable path.

But I would ask those people to answer me this: Would you rather make a ton of money doing something you hate or take a little less money to do something you love?

The choice is yours. What is your passion, and will you pursue it?

 

--Hannah Hummel, '18

 

Submit your poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, photography, and art to the 2017-2018 edition of Sequel by November 15th, 2017! Email your submissions to Sequel@Simpson.Edu or use the Form here

The Myth of High Art

I’m often asked how my English major and Marketing minor work together. Sometimes the question is meant to ask how they complement each other in the job market, but when I’m asked this in an academic sense, the question seems to really be how I can study both “high” art and “low” art. 

The distinction between the two goes back to the pretentiousness about the arts developed during the Reformation; I can picture Alexander Pope and his contemporaries making sure there was a distinction between their poetry and the chicken scratch of the common man. There is much debate over whether these terms should apply in academia today, especially in literature and film (think Stephen King and Steven Spielberg), where a lot of “popular” art (the new term for “low”) has gained artistic acceptance. Yet, there is no such redemptive acceptance for the lowest of the low art: advertising.

Advertising is considered a “low” form of art for more reasons than something like a Tarantino movie is considered “low.” Defining art is a fool’s errand, but a generally accepted component of art is that it doesn’t have the primary goal of selling a good or service to the public. Praising capitalism already means rejecting “high” art status. When Madison Avenue made advertising into the behemoth we know it as today, with catchy jingles and celebrity endorsements, it left behind any façade at artistic goals. Advertising is considered “art” only by dictionary definition; it is an intricate part of the soulless machine artists have rejected for centuries.

All of that is said implicitly when people ask me why I would combine the study of literature with the study of how to get products between The Man and the masses. Most marketing professors I’ve known would defend the job, saying there is artistic advertising copy (note the emotionally- and politically-charged ads that ran during this year’s Super Bowl). My professors would say artistic ads justify the advertisers’ artistic credential—and the existence of their souls. I have to disagree with this argument, regardless of the quality of some of those ads. The Budweisers and Apples of the world run those ads because they don’t always need to get information about their product out to the public; they already have all the public awareness they could ask for. Other companies have to try to get us to buy their stuff, and not everyone is going to respond to an art director’s attempts at avant-garde ads that don’t even show the product in question.

Rather, I see advertising’s redemption as a necessary evil (not the business as a whole—I could write a book on the sexism and stereotyping the industry indulges in...) that allows creative minds to find outlets in which to share their work. We continually romanticize the starving artist—the college grad working for minimum wage while finishing the next Great American Novel that will catapult him to fame and literary fortune. But we—we being actual starving college art students—know that such an idealistic dream doesn’t really exist. In order for an artist to take his or her art to a point of real success—whether the art is poetry or painting or whatever—he or she has to approach the sale of art as a business.

We all know from Hollywood that the public sale of art is a competitive business. While I’m an artist—a writer—and I would like as much as the next college artist to fund my everyday life by the sale of my art, I know that with the competition as fierce as it is, I need a leg up. My advertising major is that leg up. And deeply intertwined with advertising is editing. It isn’t enough—anymore at least—to write creative books and make a living at it. With a knowledge of advertising and the editing skills I have learned in the SC Publications class, I feel confident to graduate and find my place the competitive world of public-sale art.

--Jake Van Baale, '17

 

End of Semester Doom

It’s that time of year again: the almost-end-of-semester time of year when students gulp copious amounts of caffeine and fight to catch up with essays and class readings. Each new assignment at this point in the semester is met with groans and eye rolls. These are the only signs that we haven’t died…yet. And at this point in the semester, I have inevitably hit my every-year writer’s block wall.

For those who do not write daily, this may be surprising. Writer’s block is a real thing. It is a cruel curse thrust upon students who least expect it, like me.

Even if the assignment has been in the works for several months, the due date creeps towards me and all I manage to do is doodle or rant about everything else I’d rather be doing.

Writer’s block seems incurably bleak. When it hit me this time, I began to type random words that bled into gibberish. Coffee won’t help you at this point, I remind myself as I open a blank document in Word. I stare at the document.  Its emptiness mocks me. A counselor once asked if I put off starting assignments because I’m afraid they’ll turn into crap. I said yes, refusing to add that I’m so afraid of writing something bad that I end up writing nothing at all, which in turn, makes everything worse.

So how can one cope with writer’s block and prevent it from expanding into a hyperventilating panic attack? I’m glad you asked. I start by closing my laptop. I start by writing, on paper with pen, what the assignment is across the top of the page. I jot down pieces of ideas—anything that comes to mind. I cross out everything that sounds completely ridiculous.

I then begin a new list about why I want to write about this specific topic, besides I just want to get this assignment over with. When I have a solid idea (or something close to it), I break into a happy dance or tears. I transfer that idea on the word document. I religiously save what I’ve done. I take a deep breath. Eventually, my writer’s block steps aside and lets me pass—and pass my classes.

Writer’s block is a difficult thing for everyone who writes: students, poets, novelists, etc. I hear there is even a form of it that plagues artists (painter’s block? Photographer’s block?). All that matters is what we eventually get on the page—that we do everything we can to move beyond the block and continue, day after difficult day, to write, paint, and take photos.

Something I’ve learned from writer’s block, I can always edit. Writing is a constant process; it’s not just writing from the introduction to the conclusion, and turning it in with your eyes closed. Writing means getting your ideas down and letting go of the worry that your words will turn into a giant blob of garbage. Editing means taking that might-be-a-pile-of-garbage and turning it into something you’re proud of.

If your writer’s block is enabling you to do anything productive and you need a break, read the new Sequel online at scpublications.com!

 

--Shelby Minnmann, '18

The "journey inward": Crafting the Unconscious

Pape'ete, Tahiti (January 2016)

Pape'ete, Tahiti (January 2016)

The anthology Twentieth-Century American Poetry describes the goal of Deep Image School poets’ collective as “the journey inward, the recognition of ‘one’s very self’ through the unknown ‘interior universe’ of primal archetypes” (Gioia 780-781). I came across this quote while working on my senior project and realized I had grown to incorporate these ideas into my poems. It started with something as mundane as journaling.

When I was required to journal for a class, which I often was in my humanities degree, I had to resist the urge to announce my displeasure. Journaling, to me, was always more of a chore than an enjoyable activity; meticulously scribbling down the events of the day seemed to be a waste of valuable time, and, frankly, I struggled to avoid sounding like those cringe-worthy “Dear Diary” entries everyone wrote as a kid. If you’re as critical about your writing as I am with my own, perhaps you can sympathize. I really didn’t understand the purpose behind journaling and felt embarrassed reading my jumbled thoughts.

My opinion on the subject didn't change much when I traveled to Ireland for a May Term trip my sophomore year. I wanted to keep an account of my days, well aware that I’d want to look back on all my experiences and relive them through my words. Despite this desire, I dreaded the monotony of recordkeeping, and this mindset carried over into my trip. It probably didn’t help that by the time I was back in my hostel bunk every night, exhausted from walking—or getting lost in—the streets of Dublin, the last thing I wanted to do was recount the details of the day until my hand ached and I’d grown sick of reviewing them.

Then again, when I knew I was going to spend a semester abroad in Tahiti, French Polynesia, I thought about that hand-cramping devil and dreaded it. This time, however, I knew how often I would crack open my journal and read. Whenever I felt nostalgic about Ireland, I’d pull out my little notebook and feel, for a second time, my all-caps excitement for the food at McSwiggan’s or the seal colony in the Aran Islands. But even knowing this, I put off purchasing another journal for my Tahiti trip for so long that I forgot about it until I was two minutes from the airport for my departure.

Tahiti was truly the game-changer for me. I didn’t journal every single day, but I made sure to get to it as often as I could. It became part of my routine. To be honest, the hours I spent curled up on my bed in the corner of my room, with pen to paper as the light disappeared from my open window, are now some of my fondest memories.

In my journal, I gave up on writing anything other than my unedited opinion because I wanted to be able to go back and read the words that expressed exactly how I felt in each moment. I also knew that if I ever wanted to use those ideas for creative work, I would have the time and opportunity in the future to edit and refigure them. I read my Tahiti entries quite a few times before this semester, my last semester of college, began, but amid the production of poems for my senior project, I realized how essential those memories are for creating meaningful images.

My senior portfolio is inspired by my travels and the work of the Deep Image and Surrealist poets. I analyzed a few poems by Mark Strand and was somewhat familiar with the Deep Image School prior to the start of my senior project, so I chose to pursue surrealism in addition, in order to challenge myself to branch out of my writing comfort zone.

My research began with the French poets—specifically André Breton who led the Surrealism movement. A quote that popped up in numerous texts comes from his “Le Manifeste du Surréalisme” (“The Manifesto of Surrealism”). Breton says the aim of surrealist poetry is “to express—verbally…the actual functioning of thought.” Twentieth-Century American Poetry explains that Breton’s manifesto “focused on seeing the world anew through chance-based techniques, particularly automatic writing and free association; probing the mysterious realm of the unconscious to tap the raw power of the imagination” (qtd. in Gioia 778). Automatic writing—writing that is unfiltered and from the unconscious—has been a controversial topic, particularly when debating whether or not it can be considered poetry.

Seeking out the unconscious is such a critical part of surrealism, so I decided to take up the practice of automatic writing. I’ve found that it’s still difficult to let myself move further into a realm void of preconceived poetic visions in order to document everything that comes to mind for a set period of time. It’s a step beyond the difficulties of journaling, but it has so far brought about ever-changing material from which I can pull and edit fragments and create new poems.

As both a contributor and editor for Sequel, Simpson’s annually published literary arts journal, I find it beneficial to promote writing exercises such as automatic writing. But it’s also beneficial to teach the ways in which poets can shape and edit that inspiration into a carefully crafted poem. While it might be frustrating to slog through words you’ve thrown out onto the page in a matter of minutes, stepping away from it for a while and returning to it later on can change your perspective and offer new creative avenues for your exploration. It’s not always easy to access the unconscious when you want that ideal first draft, but opening the door and allowing those images and emotions to feed your motivation lets you form those meaningful parts of yourself and your memories into original works of art.

The practices of journaling and automatic writing have helped me find a way into myself. Through these methods and the practice of editing my own work and putting it up for review by my SC Publications peers, I’ve been able to thrive as a humanities major.

 

*Gioia, Dana, David Mason, and Meg Schoerke, editors. Twentieth-Century American Poetry. McGraw-Hill, 2004.  

 

--Sidney Griffith, '17

Recognizing Representations

In recent years, Disability Studies has exploded as a field in critical theory. Disability Studies seeks to bring to light what society desires to push to the side. Similar to Feminism, Disability Studies analyzes the ways in which people with disabilities are represented in media, film, and literature. Disability Studies recognizes and attempts to communicate how problematic these representations are.

According to Disability Studies, representations of people with disabilities tend to fall into one of two categories: the inspirational “supercrip” or the tragic story of lost potential.

The “supercrip” category follows success stories of people with disabilities who overcome the odds stacked against them when becoming a teacher or athlete or "insert-occupation-here." These are sensational stories that provide a sensational feeling to an audience wanting to hear about all the sensational things people are capable of doing.

The other representation is the tragic tale. These are the Million Dollar Baby stories—the stories where the person could have achieved so much if not for the unfortunate hand of cards the universe dealt them.

What most people don’t realize is how detrimental these representations are and how it hinders efforts to work toward an inclusive society. People with disabilities are shown to be superheroes-in-waiting or asking for a pity party. When readers or movie-goers have had no exposure to Disability Studies or communities of people with disabilities, they base their understanding of them on what they have seen and heard. Considering this, it’s unsurprising how oblivious people are to the existence of ableism.

In its simplest form, ableism is the belief that people who are able-bodied are superior to people with disabilities. This belief persists because of the aforementioned dichotomous representations provided by media, film, and literature.

There are so many things in our daily lives that we don't even realize are ableist. From “short bus” jokes to policies that limit accessibility to buildings and education, ableism is the sliver under everyone’s skin that goes unnoticed until it becomes dangerous. Thanks to Disability Studies, there has been activism within disability rights groups and communities to make people more aware of ableism and its effects.

One of the first major pushes from the disability rights movement regarding representation followed the release of Million Dollar Baby in 2004. The movie follows a budding boxer who becomes paralyzed in an accident. She requests assisted suicide from her coach because she “can’t be like this, Frankie.” Needless to say, disability rights activists were pissed, and they had every right to be. Characters with disabilities committing suicide is a common plot line in movies and literature. Perhaps screen writers and authors intend to show how committed a person like Maggie was to their life before the accident, but in reality, the suicides of these characters sends the message that people with disabilities don’t need to feel bad about dying.

If that wasn’t enough, the ways we talk about disabilities are equally problematic. Simple descriptions like “confined to a wheelchair” or “suffering from x-y-z condition” are as inaccurate as they are harmful. Language like this has the power to shape how people think about living with a disability. Being "confined to a wheelchair" has a vastly different connotation from "using a wheelchair." In reality, wheelchairs provide greatly increased mobility. A person who uses a wheelchair would be confined without one, not the other way around. Similarly, "suffering from MS" is different than "having MS." The language we use has very real consequences for people living with disabilities; the ways in which people approach a man using a wheelchair, or treat a deaf woman are impacted by what they know and how they understand disabilities.

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, disability rights activists have been trying to push for media who report on people with disabilities to reframe the way the general population conceptualizes disabilities and the people who have them. Making minor changes in phrasing, such as changing “confined to a wheelchair” to “uses a wheelchair,” shifts the images generated in the minds of readers and leads to greater changes in the social atmosphere of American society. This is why it is of utmost importance to shift the language used in order to deliver accurate portrayals of people with disabilities. With it, we can all work to dispel the myths of disabilities, as well as the people living with them, and break down the pervasive ableism that exists in our society.

As writers, publishers, playwrights, and poets, it is our responsibility to provide truthful accounts of people’s lives. Why should the lives of people with disabilities be any different?

-- Kat McCaffery, ‘17

Struggles Turned Tall Tales, or: "Why We Tell Our Stories"

I grew up in a family of storytellers. As a child, my mom would tell me stories about her childhood after we’d recited our Hail Mary’s. Each time, she would begin with the words, “I grew up in a big, white house on 22nd Street with my mom and dad, and all my brothers and sisters…”

The stories enthralled me. I couldn’t believe one family could hold so much history in its veins. It wasn’t just a bedtime story, either. At every family gathering—every bonfire and costume party (yes, costume party)—I heard my aunts and uncles talk about the past. It was a Matya tradition; they could tell the same story a hundred times, and it would never stop sounding fantastical.

My family is loud and full of gestures and expression. They like music, old movies, and poker. They love parties. I’ll never forget the night everyone drank too much beer and decided to project an old Elvis concert onto the side of our farm garage. Near the end, while everyone was singing along in tone-deaf, shouting voices, my Uncle Mark snuck off. He reappeared ten minutes later on top of the garage roof, dressed like Elvis—wig included—dancing along to the finale.

That was not an isolated incident of hilarious grandiosity, but I would be remiss to say that the Matya family is grandiose in anything but the imagination.

My family grew up poor. When my mom and her siblings moved to Rock Island, IL, they settled in The Manor Courts—one of the roughest projects in an already rough city—before they got their “legendary” home on 22nd Street. My grandma and grandpa couldn’t afford to feed the family at first, so they enlisted help from some cousins in the area in the form of peanut butter and jelly. To this day, they all have mixed feelings about smooshed sandwiches in paper sacks.

My family collected pop bottles for change, got in neighborhood fist fights for my mom’s stolen shoes (the only pair she could have that year), and came home to meals of stale bread and gravy.

They grew up dependent. Uncle Bill spent more time raising his siblings than my grandparents did. To this day, my mother has never heard “I love you” from her parents. My grandma is still alive and kicking, but that’s irrelevant.

Ours is a family of storytellers. We take the struggles, the hunger, and the less-than-normal, and we romanticize it all. We turn it all into stories that are full of color and one-liners to mask our often stark reality.

I didn’t realize that my family wasn’t quite like others until I got to college. I understood my family as idols of the Rock Island ghetto. I didn’t understand how much of a toll their struggles took on them until I started listening as an outsider—as one of the first in the family to move away and go to college. I know now that storytelling is how we take our struggles and turn them on their heads. It’s easier to cope when you turn everything difficult in your life into a bedtime story.

It’s been my dream for years to write down all of the stories I’ve heard around the bonfires since I was little. They’re stories about digging in alleys for bottles and getting scolded by nuns for strategically placing whoopee cushions.

My parents always told me they had no clue where I acquired my ability to write. My grandma can barely spell. We have letters from generations back, and even the infamous Bertha Regan only wrote her correspondence in fragments.

In the past few years I’ve felt reluctant to admit it, but I am a Matya at heart. I turn up the stove too high when I cook because I’m impatient; I think bread and gravy may as well be manna from the heavens; and I have more social anxiety than you can shake a stick at.

But most of all, I’m a Matya because I can tell stories about my family like I’m reeling in a big fish.

My Matya-ness is what makes me a good storyteller. It is also what stokes my fire for helping other people write their own stories and do those stories justice.  My work in Simpson College Publications gives me the professional experience to live fully into my identity as a Matya storyteller in my career. It also gives me the experience necessary to assist other writers as they continue to tell their stories—stories that only exist because the writer is a Smith, or a Bates, or an Atwell, or a Johnson. We all have stories; writing, editing, and publishing—the skills I am learning in SC Publications—allow us to share them.

-- Virginia Atwell, '17

Ambiguity in Publications

Write ambiguous

melodies. I will listen

and sing harmony.

Haiku is an unrhymed Japanese poetic form. The entirety of the poem is contained by a total of 17 syllables, arranged in three lines of five, seven, and five, respectively. You probably know that. What you probably don’t know is that haiku is actually a segment of a Japanese form already in use. The term “haiku” is derived from the first part of “haikai” (a humorous form of renga, a linked-verse poem) and the second part of the word “hokku” (the first stanza of a renga).

The reason the haiku you may have written in school was about trees or flowers is not because your teacher was a romantic; the romantic theme is consistent with Japanese tradition. In a renga, the hokku served as exposition to the longer poem, often including details regarding setting. Haiku was not referred to as such until the 19th century, when it no longer served a purpose at the beginning of a poem but was recognized as its own form. Now, even the earlier form is referred to as haiku, giving it one of the longest histories of poetic forms.

When I was writing on the Simpsonian staff, my good friend and mentor wrote a daily haiku. I remember wishing I could do that. A year later, he became my classmate in my first college level poetry writing class. We exchanged poems outside of class and gave each other feedback over the course of the semester. For a while, I challenged myself to write a daily haiku as well. It seemed like a meaningful exercise, and I was excited at the thought of looking back after several months and recalling days based on the poetry I’d written to reflect them.

I’m in the midst of writing a collection of poetry for my senior project. I’ve started a poetry blog to help guide my writing process, document what I learn, and publish a few of my poems. My roommate is one of the few loyal followers of my site. This semester, he’s taking a course in Japanese culture and language, focused on gaining understanding of Japanese culture and how it relates to modern industry. We began discussing one of his assigned texts, The Japanese Mind, Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture. He’d just read a chapter titled, “Aimai,” the Japanese word for ambiguity. The book cited haiku as one way in which ambiguity is embodied in Japanese culture. I borrowed the book for a weekend and was fascinated by what I found.

Aimai can be defined broadly as a situation in which there is more than one intended meaning. While the Japanese may not be conscious of its prominence in their culture, aimai is foundational to their verbal and physical communication. In fact, to express oneself ambiguously and indirectly is an expectation of Japanese culture. Some communication occurs without any verbal communication and, as a result, their words come to hold broader meaning.

The Japanese think that it is impolite to speak openly on the assumption that their partner knows nothing. They like and value aimai because they think that it is unnecessary to speak clearly as long as their partner is knowledgeable. To express oneself distinctly carries the assumption that one’s partner knows nothing, so clear expression can be considered impolite. (Morimoto quoted in The Japanese Mind, 22)

This aspect of Japanese culture is reflected in haiku. By limiting the syllables, poets are challenged to include as much detail as possible in a very small space, increasing the necessity for more versatile word choice and, ultimately, leaving much to the reader’s imagination.

I still write haiku from time to time. My girlfriend embarked on a photography project at the beginning of the year in which she illustrates one of my haiku every week using her Instax camera, thus reconnecting haiku with its introductory roots: using modern technology to create a multimedia experience of setting.

This depth of meaning is inherent to the Haiku poetry form, but the idea that words constructed in a particular pattern can mean different things to different people—that words connected in a form can inspire, challenge, and instruct readers—is why it’s so critical that we publish the creative work of the Simpson College community in Sequel. Sequel connects artists with those who appreciate art; it is as much for the poet, photographer, artist, and writer as for the enjoyment of the observer. My poetry has been published in past editions of Sequel, and having the opportunity and the space to publish my work, and now the opportunity to work on the Sequel editing staff, is invaluable to me as a Simpson College student and as a poet.

*The submission window for the 2016-2017 edition of Sequel is now closed, but look for submissions to open next year. All current students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Simpson College are invited to submit their art to Sequel.

*Read The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture. Edited by Roger J. Davies, Osamu Ikeno. Tuttle Publishing: Singapore, 2002. See also, Morimoto, T. Nihongo omote to ura. [pretense and truth in the Japanese language]. Tokyo: Iwatanimishinsho.

--Ethan Zierke, '17

Content or Convenience: Which Do We Value More?

            From the day I learned to read, I wanted to be an author. I wrote an embarrassing amount of stories when I was younger, but many of them were merely first chapters with which I was never satisfied. I would grow bored of the plot and switch to a completely different storyline. When I hit third grade, I decided maybe illustrating was the route to go. Drawing seemed a little easier than writing at the time—likely because I didn’t have the patience to write a novel as an eight-year-old—but I still wanted to be involved in the realization of a story. Eventually my aspirations turned to publishing. I figured I could still be surrounded by books and enjoy reading them, but I wouldn’t have to suffer the pressure of writing one myself. My younger self thought this plan was foolproof; I would be living the dream: reading whatever I wanted and getting paid for it.

            Although I had an affinity for mysteries and complex, determined characters, I found myself reaching for books with intriguing covers (exactly what literary professionals tell you not to do) or by popular authors I heard about from friends. For a while, I stopped seeking out stories because it was more convenient to already have a title in mind when I popped into Barnes & Noble. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was just another victim of efficient marketing strategies. I’d fallen for them unwittingly, and I wasn’t too pleased.

            Even today I’m almost offended by the popular books. A plentiful chunk of these are written by ghostwriters for celebrities—namely YouTubers. While I’m sure the majority of ghostwriters do a fantastic job with what they’re given, it’s a deceptive concept. Regardless of who writes these books, the content is often not worthy of the promotion it receives; it becomes less about the story and more about the person whose name graces the cover. The same goes for novels that become films. A dramatic cover with well-known actors and actresses draws in a specific fan base. It also suggests that books adapted for the screen have more compelling, accessible plots. The spotlight continues to be set on stories that are popular and easy to find.

            Accordingly, it seems that accessibility has become more important than ever with the onset of new technology and social media. Now that publishing has advanced, it’s more and more common to see authors self-publishing. Websites such as Wattpad offer authors the opportunity to publish stories online—even publishing chapters one at a time for the public to read as the author is in the midst of the writing process. Wattpad, which can also be accessed by an app, is constantly expanding in audience because it’s free, and it’s easier to read online than it is to go to the local library or bookstore. Just as news has been shortened and simplified for media users, literature unfortunately seems to be utilizing similar techniques. I have the terrifying notion that before long content will become less important than convenience.

            As someone who has admired the efforts of independent publishing houses/companies to promote authentic work, it’s difficult for me to watch easily accessible stories take control of the world’s attention. This is especially true in the wake of recent events and with current global issues at the forefront of our minds. Stories with meaningful messages need to be shared. The provision of lackluster novels and memoirs draws attention away from stories of genuine importance—ones that make us think.

            The weight, nevertheless, doesn’t rest solely on fiction or biography. Non-fiction works can raise awareness to issues, such as the rapid rate of climate change and declination of natural resources. Recently I read a book called Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geo-Politics of Food Scarcity by Lester R. Brown. The statistics and studies shocked me in a completely necessary way, and the devastating part is that this book was published in 2012, meaning the statistics have likely grown worse. The content was upsetting, but I believe those moments—the moments when you’re horrified at some truth you learn in a book—are critical in life. Books such as this inspire action; they make people want to change their lives in order to better the world around them.

            If we belong to a society that wants to have all the information, why do we spend time validating works that don’t hold intellectual integrity? We want to be moved and inspired, yet we read stories, poetry, and news only insofar as it’s convenient. Time and money take priority over quality content; when life moves in fast-forward, we are less motivated to open ourselves to something that requires deep, often difficult reflection. There’s no quick fix to the effects of consumerism, yet we can recognize that publishing companies and websites cater to our interests.

            If we change our interests, they will have to produce the kinds of stories we want to see. If we choose to read stories that will truly have an impact on our lives, we’ll forge a new path toward a more aware, pensive, and understanding planet every time we walk into a bookstore.

--Sidney Griffith, '17

 

Embracing the Art of Education

If your childhood experience has anything in common with mine, you probably spent your elementary school art classes drawing pictures of your shoes, painting watercolor flowers, and desperately searching for ways to make a self-portrait resemble any trace of yourself. That art class was my first appointment as a creator—a dismal one, I admit. The meaning of the word “art” –a universe of multiple media and modes of expression—was reduced to a drawing of my shoe. When the shoe drawings looked more like twice-baked potatoes, I coped by telling myself that art wasn’t for me. I treated art class as an opportunity to goof around. It was my break from “real” work.

Much to my own relief, my understanding of the scope of art has dramatically expanded beyond shoe drawings. I would even venture to label myself a kind of artist, but creating never really felt like anything more than a side project.

In high school, I discovered poetry. I recognized the art in what I was reading and writing, but it felt more like a hobby than a lifestyle and it seemed like less than what was expected of me. So I kept the poems in my journal, and after I graduated, I left home to study environmental science here at Simpson. The final grade I received in freshman biology determined that a future in science would NOT be my reality, and I spent my second year of college kicking around some kind of plan for my future. I didn’t have a whole lot of momentum in any direction, but I knew I loved to read and write. I’m a firm believer in gut instinct, coffee shops, weird music, and goodwill sweaters, so declaring an English major at the end of my sophomore year surprised nobody but me.

I have learned a few things since then, but my most recent discovery is the importance of creating. As a student majoring in English, an interdisciplinary field by nature, I am lucky enough to experience creative opportunities more than others. Becoming a better English student requires transcending our own expectations and innovating our educational experiences. We try to understand our own abilities as thinkers, writers, and artists so we can build on them and better understand our peers. We ditch our egos and expend all of our energy on a paper…only to lead it to the slaughter of class-wide critique. We challenge one another’s ways of thinking and ask the questions everyone else is scared to address. 2016 has been a tumultuous year and the nature of discourse in this country is polarizing. Nobody is better equipped to take this on than the creators; our area of choice is gray for a reason. We don’t claim to have the right answers, but we have the means to express ideas uniquely and communicate in a way a greater number of people can understand. Toni Morrison’s statement in her essay titled, “No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear,” rings true 12 years later: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work.”

That is what college should be about: finding a community, collecting the necessary resources to engage with that community, and eventually improving the world as a result of our contribution to it, regardless of the challenges we may face as a result of that pursuit. My favorite poet, W.H. Auden, is quoted saying, “Art is born of humiliation.”

Next semester will be my last as an undergraduate student at Simpson College. Like all seniors, I’ll be charged with the task of completing a senior project. I’ve already decided to take on a creative project for which I will immerse myself in the consumption and creation of poetry. At the end of the semester I hope to be left with a meaningful series I can submit for publication.

I want to take my place among the creators. The idea of creative writing makes a lot of English majors squirm, but I have never felt more liberated. For the first time, I’ll be held academically responsible for my favorite hobby. What once felt like a break from real work, a guilty indulgence, will be the culmination of my undergraduate career.

Too many students in my generation view their college experience as a means to an end—a necessary and sometimes inconvenient period of time we have to endure in order to one day secure a decent job to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. My poetry may not solve major world problems, and I certainly don’t anticipate receiving any large checks with my name on it when I leave here, but the experience of creating something original gives me an opportunity to connect with myself and influence minds the way many writers have influenced mine.

In October, Bob Dylan became the first musician ever to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1978, when asked what was real to him, Dylan responded, “Art is the perpetual motion of illusion. The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?”

Real work doesn’t have to be the work that you hate. I’m setting out to create something I never thought I could and I hope I leave the world a little better for it.

--Ethan Zierke, '17

Fake It ‘til You Make It: Editors and Speechwriters in 2016 Politics

Now that the horror of the election season media takeover is done, I thought I’d throw my thoughts into the pit of despair known as the 2016 election coverage. Instead of focusing on the events of the campaigns themselves, I want to focus on the way the media has covered the election as a whole and how we as readers and watchers have consumed that coverage. More than possibly any election in American history, the media we consume has affected the course of this election. As this slog of an election season has shown us, the words we hear have power over us… and it's not just the words: there is power in the way those words are said.

A common lament of contemporary culture is that no one pays attention to important events. We always hear that “people these days” only pay attention to their television shows and Snapchat. The past 18 months have shown these claims to be wrong. It has certainly been an unreal, overdramatic election straight out of TV shows like House of Cards, but we’ve all been paying attention. In fact, a common narrative throughout has been that even the most dissatisfied members of the electorate are now involved, on both sides. There have been countless discussions about what made this year’s election different than every other before it; I’m most interested in one aspect that is not often discussed: the effect, or lack of, that speechwriters have on political thought.

People like political speechwriters and other “behind-the-scenes” campaign members are seen as doing their jobs right when they don’t attract attention. Presidents are given full credit for their speeches; no one is congratulating speechwriters on stirring speeches given at the national conventions this year. If the media is asking who wrote a political speech, it’s because the speech has offended, or was plagiarized—as we’ve seen this year.

Speechwriting has been an essential part of elections for decades. It is commonly noted that Ronald Reagan went from “just” a successful politician to a force to be reckoned with after he agreed to work with Peggy Noonan, who authored several of his most memorable speeches including his national address after the Challenger explosion. Jon Favreau, who became Barack Obama’s Director of Speechwriting, would work with Obama personally during the campaign to discuss writing theory and what groups of people they need to reach out to.

Politicians, and their speechwriters, have always been mindful of the words they use to convey meanings. Using the right words can shift the way the media will react and how people will think about the issues being discussed. But using wrong words can draw attention too…maybe even more so. Reagan and Obama are examples of what using the right words will do. The idea of wrong words brings me back to the present.

It’s been a good year for fans of wrong words. Every election involves mudslinging and at least some degree of speaking negatively of the other party’s plans, but we left behind the typical measure a long time ago. Choosing to read off the cuff at all times, with a few scribbled notes at most, our favorite angry Cheeto has become the embodiment of America’s id. His initial campaign announcement was certainly not scripted. No one would have agreed it was a good idea at the time to say what followed about Mexicans…or any of the rest of what he said, to be honest. But as we all saw from the outcome of the election, the American majority seems to respond to those wrong words with a “Hell yeah!” …

Does this mean speechwriting is a pointless, unnecessary job? After all, this election proved that politicians could get a long way without them. Maybe the first statement out of our mouths is the best one, and changing that or making it more appealing turns it false somehow.  But this isn’t honesty either; I could write whatever I wanted, but if I gave a speech I would be necessarily concerned about the accuracy of my information. Also, your first thought isn’t always “true,” and as we have seen in this election season, some first thoughts often lack empathy, sympathy, and common decency. We all need our words and ideas to be edited. If we reject logic and empathy, we start to consider illogical plans, like building giant walls, as ways to solve our problems.  

Everyone needs an editor: a second voice to offer comments and criticism.

Don’t get me wrong. The oversized Oompa Loompa has a speechwriter now; you don’t get to be a party nominee—and elected President of the United States—without one assigned to you. Everyone, including the President, needs an editor—or at least a speechwriter—who knows that editing is necessary in order to check for factual accuracy and keeping the public informed. The country is about to discover what happens when a man who has ignored information not in sync with his rhetoric is in charge. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing, leaving the power of the executive branch in the hands of his staff. The next presidential speechwriter will have more power than any of his or her predecessors.  I can only hope that that speechwriter will know the value of editing, empathy, and common decency… 

Without those values, all we have are the wrong words—words of fear, of hate, and of ignorance.

--Jake Van Baale, '17

The Power of Publications

Every good Millennial knows of the power social media holds. Everything, from current events to social attitudes, is affected by what we see. With the emergence of social media platforms, we connect with people from all different backgrounds, countries, and cultures. Many of us are used to having the ability to connect with so many people, but rarely do we stop to think about the effects of communication and what drives it.

Numerous studies have occurred since social media and its use exploded. Many sources say it is detrimental to our physical or mental health or claim we have stopped connecting with people in real life. What really intrigues me is how easily people forget that media has been around for centuries. In one way or another, there have always been ways of sharing information across the world. Newspapers, religious texts, and even statues and other forms of art have operated as forms of communication. Audiences have changed throughout history, but the effects of sharing information have stayed the same.

When information is shared, there is an instant in which everything is up in the air. There is no interpretation and no reciprocation. A poster on a wall accomplishes nothing until it is seen. A statue has no value until someone gives it context. A newspaper is just words on paper. Until it has an audience, a message means nothing.

Who receives the message is just as important as the message itself. Effectively communicating an idea requires connecting with the proper audience. For instance, trying to convince the NRA that rifles are unnecessary is pointless. Knowing who receives the message affects how they receive the message, if they receive it at all. A middle aged audience member will interpret the social practices of modern day dating differently than a six-year-old. Audiences are separated by age, gender, academic achievement, economic class, race or ethnicity, sexuality, occupation, and more. Understanding who the intended audience is can show what the message itself is intended for.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to determine is which messages are easily found and which are hidden. Currently, stories on racial tensions and violence are everywhere. People are writing about the social situations that have led to the conflict, and news stories about the conflict are broadcast on a nearly daily basis. People continuously share articles about their experiences growing up identifying as one race or another. But no one will tell you that one of the largest prison strikes in history is occurring all across the country. Major news outlets have failed to report the protest over inadequate health care, living conditions, and forced labor. I haven’t seen a single video on Facebook or blurb on Twitter since the demonstration started in early September.

So why, with all of the power of media, has this issue gone almost unnoticed? The short answer: our culture doesn’t care about “convicts.” We are conditioned to ignore the problems of “guilty prisoners.” We live in a society that privileges certain demographics. Cultural values also play a part in the absence in media coverage of the protest. In the land of opportunity, we have little sympathy for those who have thrown their opportunities away—or so the courts tell us. We listen to the news, but rarely do we search for it. We assume what is given to us in a thirty-minute news cast is the entirety of what is happening in the world, and that allows for other “less important” events to slip through the cracks.

Oddly enough, what we think is important and respond to derives from conditioned behavior. Depictions of political landscapes, local and international conflicts, and social behavior are shaped by what we see. The more we see same-sex couples getting married, the more we think marriage equality is normal. The less we see conditions of prisoners, the less we care about them. Through simple conditioning, we come to understand how we fit into the world. We absorb the values of our culture and ascribe to certain ideas and beliefs based on what we are conditioned to think. This has been done throughout history, albeit differently as time has gone by. Julius Caesar used statues as a way to show his success. Napoleon had paintings made of his military prowess. Captain America was used as a conduit to fight the Nazis in the 40’s. Even now, movies and stories are used to shape how we think about the conflict in the Middle East, racial violence, and privilege.

So what does this mean for us, a group of nine students at Simpson College, learning about editing and publishing? It means we need to recognize our power as the “shapers of the message.” It means we need to seek to give voice to the overlooked happenings in our world. It means we need to talk about the protests over the prison system and the Dakota Access Pipeline and give less media attention to Trump’s latest stupid remark.

The power of media no longer lies with the conglomerates who own the newspapers and control the televised broadcasts. The power of media, thanks to social media, lies with us. As we are trained as editors, we are trained in the power of media to keep the status quo constant, to cause harm, or to work for the good of the many—rather than the good of the few.

--Kat McCaffery, '17        

SC Publications: Practical Skills for the Humanities Major

Every liberal arts student gets asked the same question come the Thanksgiving holiday:

“So, what are you going to do with that?”

When I declared my major, I fielded that same question from every single family member who locked eyes with me over the turkey. I think I answered with something different every time. Eventually, I settled with a chipper “beats me.”

It’s hard to major in the humanities when every listicle about college says to skip straight to the moneymakers. Disciplines like English, philosophy, and religion are frequently dismissed as useless, unless you’re looking for a quirky edge when applying for law school. If there was a dollar for every time a humanities student was asked about their future teaching careers, we could pay off our student loans.

I majored in the humanities because, well, it’s what I’m good at. I enjoy writing, reading, and asking big questions. I chose to major in the humanities without a specific career track in mind. I thought I would figure it out as I went. I’d be a teacher, or a writer—or maybe I’d win the lottery. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I found out I could actually get employed with my decidedly non-STEM skill set.

During the fall, my philosophy professor and advisor asked if I would like to get involved with a small group of students who peer reviewed submissions for Janus Head. Constitutionally incapable of saying no, I joined the group. The first submission sent out to the group baffled me. It was philosophical content that was way over my head, but it was riddled grammar mistakes I had learned to correct in middle school. The group met and vigorously argued over whether we should accept the paper. We were undergraduates weighing in on graduate-level work. It was fun, it was engaging, and it played directly into my studies.

I have been a part of the Janus Head team for two years. I’m now the senior member of the peer review group headed to my first review meeting of the year. My skill set has grown considerably; I’ve added marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and even political field organization to my resume. I owe most of my job opportunities to Janus Head. Who isn’t curious about an undergraduate who reviews for a philosophy journal?

When that same philosophy professor pulled me aside to ask about my interest in Simpson College Humanities Publications—a class on editing and publications—I agreed to sign up. I initially assumed the class was a course about editing and publishing—you know, exactly what it sounded like. In a pleasantly surprising turn of events, the class turned out to be more than that.

The class is designed to compile, edit, workshop, market, and publish two Simpson College staples: Sequel and Janus Head. It isn’t an overview of editing and design or a course for potential employment for humanities students. It’s an opportunity to gain practical experience working on two very different publications with a professional editor. The opportunity is a long time coming for Simpson students.

Sequel is a publication of creative works by Simpson students including poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and visual arts. The course intends to market a cover design contest, a reading event, and encourage more acquisitions than ever before. Since Sequel is specific to Simpson College, editors plan to meet with writers to provide the best possible product while fostering relationships between creative minds on campus.

Janus Head is a philosophical publication specializing in works regarding phenomenology, art, and continental philosophy, among others. The journal has been irregularly published in the past, but with the help of more Simpson students and an editing team we are on track to publish multiple volumes by the end of May of 2017. Submissions are generally acquired from graduate and post-graduate students from around the world. Simpson students will peer review the submissions, edit accepted work, and help publish upcoming volumes.

While growing pains are bound to happen as this class runs through its first semester, it’s encouraging to see an opportunity for students that hasn’t been widely available before. Gaining the experience editing, designing, publishing, and marketing for creative publications gives humanities students an option to utilize a liberal arts degree in a career-minded way. More importantly, it shows that humanities students do have marketable skills— even if we aren’t engineering geniuses or business mavens.

Critical thinking and asking big questions will always matter to me as a humanities student. Learning to instill those abilities into something tangible matters to me as a senior ready to enter into the work force.

Next time my friends and family ask the inevitable, “What kind of jobs do you even apply to with that degree?” I will have a much more practical answer to give.

--Virginia Atwell, '17