I don't remember the original reason I registered for Ivory Tower last spring. I remember that there were only two seats open when I found the class, and after reading the description, I was excited. I had ambitions to be an editor someday and this class offered me a window into the field of editing experience. It was a nice way to dip my toes into the pool of publishing.
Now the first semester of the class is almost over, I find myself looking back on everything my classmates and I have learned. We have each had individual experiences on our committees, learning different things and connecting with different people. I can't speak for all my classmates, but for me, the most influential experiences Ivory Tower has given me have been listening to other people's stories.
The first person we met was Shannon Wolkerstorfer. She visited our class to talk about her experience working as the CLA Development Officer for the university. Her experience writing and accepting grants was valuable, as Lyly Nguyen and I were responsible for writing the grants for Ivory Tower. She told us that grants should be very clear about their motives and specific about budget. Grammar is also an important part that a lot of people overlook. She also reminded us how important deadlines are. These were helpful tips. Currently, our grants have been submitted and we are waiting to hear back.
In October, not long after Shannon visited, the Twin Cities Book Fair took place. Lyly, Lauryn Heineman, and I took shifts at the Ivory Tower table answering questions and handing out bookmarks. However, that was the quiet part of my afternoon since not many undergraduate students were there. When I wasn't at the Ivory Tower table, I wandered between the tables of various publishers and authors. This was priceless time for me to network, ask about internships, and seek advice from professionals. I talked to more people than I can name, but a few stood out to me.
There were two friendly women at the Paper Darts table whom I remember very well. They had both previously been members of Ivory Tower and were very happy to give me advice. They told me that making connections with other people was key, whether they're students or professionals. They said they wouldn't have started Paper Darts without first having been a part of Ivory Tower, and many of their current friendships started because of Ivory Tower. "We're actually going to a former classmate's wedding right after this!" one of them told me, laughing.
A month later, Laurie Hertzel, the Book Reviews Editor of Minneapolis Star Tribune, came to talk to our class. She was funny, friendly, and happy to answer our questions. She told us about her experiences getting into the field of journalism. Now, as some background, I'd like to mention that no women in my family work. I'm the first woman to go to college and seek a career. I haven't met very many passionate, professional, career-oriented women. Because of this, it was inspiring to hear her talk about the sexism she faced at a young age as she began working in journalism. It was encouraging to hear her talk about the adventures she had, the people she met, and the success she has had. As a young woman with few role models, I thought she was very inspiring.
Now it's the last month of the semester and it's almost time for winter break. This will be the busiest time for our magazine as we rush to read all the submissions that came in close to our deadline and accept the best of all of them. The path ahead of us is busy, but exciting. It's thanks to the people I've met (including my wonderful classmates) that I'm more excited than ever to move forward with Ivory Tower and continue pursuing my dream of being an editor.December 7th, 2013
All right, I'm coming clean: I am a nerd. I suppose as an English major, I'm already a nerd of a sort. I may not wear short-sleeved dress shirts or inch-thick glasses, and for all I know Schrodinger's cat is a tabby that likes tuna, but I will make the argument that Victorian Lit and Brit Lit II are completely different classes even though the reading lists are half-identical. You may say this is more pretention than nerdiness, but let's face it: in college academics, the terms are hardly separable.
But getting excited about intertextuality and all that good English-stuff is not the type of nerdiness I am confessing. No, I am also a nerd of a sort that can be understood by anyone in any field: I am a nerd of jargon. For me, one of the best parts of learning a new subject is learning its vocabulary. It is so satisfying to finally give a name to something that I previously didn't understand or couldn't quite put my finger on. Phenomena I experience every day fit into patterns, theories, explanations, and with these come the terms that describe them so perfectly. True, jargon is difficult to work around and tedious to learn, but just think: Somebody came up with a word to describe a particular process or object, designed a specific series of letters to contour perfectly to a specific image. It's splendid.
So of course, I love learning the jargon of the publishing field as we develop this year's Ivory Tower. I had a taste of it in high school when I took a writing class that focused on getting published--unsolicited mss, SASE, query letter--but being on the Ivory Tower staff has propped open a whole new dictionary for me. I find myself now evaluating the color of a page (the ratio of text to white space); considering the caliper of cover stock (the thickness of the paper that makes the cover of the journal); and writing stet on manuscripts ("let it stand;" an editing mark to overturn a previous editing mark). There is even more to come--it's only November, and we still have six more months to develop our lexicon (and our literary magazine) before we have our final product.
I am lost in terminology, and I love it.November 17th, 2013
The text, of course, can and should stand alone, but when reading we cannot ignore that we are experiencing literature through a visual medium. Font alone plays an important part in transferring the message of a text. Do I choose a serious and straight Arial, or do I want a playful Georgia? Many of these styles inside the book often affect the reception. I've read one or two novels in which the ink used to print the text was actually blue or green--continuing a color theme from the cover of the book. At the 2013 Twin Cities Book Festival, I met a New York press called sunnyoutside that painstakingly screen printed and letterpressed tiny poetry booklets. Why? Because the poems couldn't exist in any other format--they would have lost all of their magic. The press carefully read, digested, brainstormed, and handmade the booklets, even though it required much extra work. Their dedication to the presentation process and creation gave the text character to match the content.
Let's look at an example of this process, thinking specifically about the cover. For my debut Harlequin romance Seaside Tenderness (due out this spring), in which playboy millionaire Brad comes to terms with the untimely death of his young bride and opens his heart to his fiery new neighbor, I might pick one of the following images to adorn my work:
1. Fabio, by the seashore, wears a half-unbuttoned white dress shirt, with his arms around a slender red-head, both locked in a passionate embrace
2. Some sort of modern art by a guy in a turtleneck (who assures me this brush stroke "represents" the ocean and that stroke "conveys" the innermost feelings of the heart)
3. Text only
Is the first not a picture-perfect representation of the depth and beauty and humanity and passion I am sure my novel portrays? What sensual and unparalleled majesty! A potential reader might say, "Yes! This is the life I want to live. Clearly this book is the epitome of romantic escapism, and at $5.99 I am practically stealing it!" This image makes it very clear what the text endeavors to achieve. It makes a clear promise, almost a contract, with its reader.
A more vague option allows the readers to decide for themselves. The art is open to interpretation. It perhaps prepares the reader to expect something deeper and more sophisticated from the piece. "The title must be a red herring. There is something deep, hidden underneath that ocean of clichés, or maybe it is making a commentary on romance novels in general. Is it satire? I think it could be satire," conjectures the reader.
The third option offers something more abstract--or is it more concrete?--than the others. An all black or all white cover. A title. An author. (And perhaps a tag: Will new love mend his broken heart?) The reader muses, "Surely this book has been misshelved. This is a serious academic text. Look at how cleanly, concisely, and straight-forwardly it is presented. Alternatively, it is possible that the author and publisher do not care enough about the book to bother with detailed presentation, in which case I need not bother either."
This metaphor, I hope, has put you in the shoes of the Ivory Tower staff as we begin making plans for the newest issue. In addition to the cover, elements such as font, color, size and length must be chosen carefully to best convey not only the textual content of the magazine but also who we are as an undergraduate production. Our goal is to appeal to both the contributors and readers of the magazine by showcasing the pieces in an attractive and thoughtful way. This week we are discussing potential book designs as well as reviewing our first set of submissions, and we can't wait to update you as the whole magazine starts to come together.
Happy reading!November 11th, 2013
The Ivory Tower is inspired by a belief in the necessity of artistic expression and its power to enlighten, challenge, and captivate. We strive to expose and promote original work by undergraduate writers and artists across the University of Minnesota campus.