Heloise Wood and Kirran Shah take a look at York’s aspiring student publications
Student life is synonymous, some say, with opinionated rambling. You should be studying for your degree, but exercising your hidden creativity and proving your intellectual prowess in print seems so much more attractive. At university you suddenly feel passionate about things that meant nothing to you before, you are questioning material instead of repetitive rote learning. All this suppressed verbosity must find an outlet, particularly if your course has minimal hours. A student newspaper perhaps? A web blog? Student publications are certainly one way to encourage and nurture talent, and York University is currently overflowing with new literary journals.
The University literary journal Point Shirley once showed the early talent of Susan Fletcher, winner of the Whitbread First Novel award, but is no longer published. Looking to fill its place, there are a number of arts journals currently being established at York: Zahir, Word Salad and Art Chips, The York Journal. The fact that journals are being set up at all shows vision on the part of the editors: masterminding and funding such a concept takes some time and effort. However, one must consider if there is a substantial niche for all three publications? And what sets them apart?
Editors of the York Journal aim to establish an ‘informal literary magazine’, incorporating poetry, prose, short stories, and even political essays by students of York. Last year, the University of York withdrew the creative writing newspaper and the editor of the York Journal, Rachel Marsh, felt there was a gap in the creative niche of the University’s media alliances.
They aim to publish the York Journal once a year, so that it can circulate and become a symbol of each year’s literary and creative achievements. As an MA student studying English Literature, Rachel feels this is her opportunity to increase awareness of the creative side of as many students as possible. Her ambition for the Journal is to create an established forum for the publication of serious student writing. There are significant differences between the Journal and other publications that exist at the University, most notably the range of genres represented, including non-fiction alongside creative writing.
Formerly at Cambridge University, she assisted with the production of a creative magazine Mays and interviewed established writers such as Zadie Smith. With plenty of experience behind her, Rachel aims to create a platform for all forms of writer at the University of York. The York Journal looks to attract people hoping to pursue a career in writing, offering a way for them to practise presenting to publishers. Rachel is keen for the Journal to be open to all, and is hoping for a wide readership, extending beyond the university. This is surely an ambitious initiative but one that should be applauded.
David Hopkins of The Zahir, is aiming for an essay orientated journal but wants to have one or two creative pieces each issue. He sees The Zahir as providing “a forum for students’ considered opinions on books, the arts, music and politics, and to be a launch pad for York’s aspiring writers and critics.” Despite calling itself “the University of York’s literary magazine”, its first edition included essays on music and propaganda in the post-war era, and what modern British democracy has to learn from Lord Salisbury. The Zahir has certainly been successful in creating a professional looking publication.
Word Salad and Art Chips is designed to showcase purely the creative output of York students, through the publication of short stories, poetry and art. This publication takes perhaps a lighter approach than the York Journal or The Zahir, and “is intended to be an enjoyable, fun magazine, without pretension” according to Marie Prior, the secretary of Word Salad and Arts Chips. She also claims that “student journals are useful because they provide some measure of recognition for students’ non academic work.” I feel this has uncovered the genuine necessity for journals. Although, technically, we’re at university to obtain a degree, we all know that’s not just why we’re here. Amongst other things, we’re here to try things that we wouldn’t be able to try anywhere else. We want to discover where our passions and convictions really lie and writing for these student publications may help us with this discovery.
If you feel inspired to contribute to any of these publications, contact the following editors: