Writers undoubtedly write. However, in a field where nearly 90 percent of the manuscripts submitted for professional publication are rejected, very few actually get published. Akin to winning the lottery, professional publication is an odd mix of submitting the right thing at the right time, packaged just right for the right audience—all targets that shift from day to day.
Fortunately, SUU’s Kolob Canyon Review (KCR) gives Thunderbird writers and artists a slight advantage, by working through their first publication alongside experienced, published professors whose singular aim is to help their students succeed.
Featuring the creative work of these students, faculty and alumni, the KCR showcases the best Thunderbird-produced poetry, fiction and art annually in a peer-reviewed literary journal. As the semester draws to a close, so too does another production schedule for the annual publication, and the 2014’s best will be on display in a public reading Thursday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the Sterling Church Auditorium.
While peer-reviewed literary journals are not uncommon among universities across the nation, the experience is no less valuable to SUU’s own who become more familiar with the ins and outs of publication, from the call for entries to the printer’s final proof. Student produced with faculty oversight, the KCR allows many students an insider’s view into the publication world far beyond simply submitting their work for consideration. Students among the KCR staff review, edit, design and distribute the journal year after year.
“A lot of English majors go into the field with their degree,” said David Baxley, a senior English education major who served as this year’s KCR editor-in-chief. “The Kolob Canyon Review gives us [students] a chance to work on a real project of a professional caliber. We get first-hand experience in all that goes into publishing something.”
“There is a lot we are trying to get out of this,” explained Tristen Fagg, a senior sociology major who worked alongside Baxley as KCR submissions editor. “Publishing doesn’t have to wait until after graduation; if you are published before graduation, you’ve already taken your first step.”
Fagg said this year’s experience on the KCR staff has brought her closer to the professional goals she’s hoping to reach. “I’m already on my way, and I don’t have to stop and figure out where I’m heading because I’m already pointed in the right direction.”
To ensure a true-to-life experience, all KCR submissions—both writing and art—are made anonymous before they are presented to the selection committee. This ensures the faculty who have worked so closely with their students in their time at SUU are not swayed by anything beyond the merit of the piece submitted. As in real life, the work must stand alone.
“The idea of publication is huge,” said Wynne Summers, the faculty adviser to KCR for the past seven years. “The ultimate goal of a writer is that we write for ourselves, but we want our stories out and we want people to read them.”
Baxley said that in addition to giving those published in this year’s edition an opportunity to present their work in public and see their audience’s reactions firsthand, the April 17 reading will be somewhat of a “coming out party” for a revamped KCR.
“We really wanted to re-create the Kolob Canyon Review,” said Summers, who plays an integral role in the publication’s progression from year to year. “I wanted it to become more insightful, and I am really excited about what it has and can still become.”
While the KCR generally has a new theme guiding submissions each year, the committee and Summers decided to go without a theme in 2014.
“While these themes have worked great, they have narrowed our submissions a little bit,” Summers said. “If you didn’t write something that had to do with a specific topic, then you didn’t submit.”
The no-theme new strategy was successful; the KCR had a substantial increase in submissions this year. Baxley also thinks it gave students more of a voice.
“A lot of people said the theme was restrictive, so they didn’t submit at all,” Baxley explained.
While absent of a theme this year, Baxley discussed the idea of bringing back a theme in future editions, though not limiting the entire publication to a singular theme.
It is this freedom to come up with new ideas and work processes, according to Summers, that makes the KCR publication process the most beneficial to budding writers. “We give them ownership from the ground up.”
The process in completing a new edition of the Journal takes around six to seven months. In addition to helping produce the publication, Fagg and Baxley are both published in this year’s edition with two and four poems, respectively.
Meanwhile, submissions are now being accepted for the 2015 publication. Anyone can submit to have their work published in the KCR; it is not specific to art and English majors.