The Looking Glass Anthology recently released its fifth volume of poetry and short stories from the students of York, after six years of increasing success. Editor in Chief, Lois Ollerenshaw discusses the ins-and-outs of the editorial process from submissions to the finished piece.
So how does your job as Editor in Chief work and what’s your favourite part?
I oversee all aspects of the production of the anthology this year. I usually chair our weekly editorial meetings, where we discuss the creative writing pieces that have been submitted to us. Chairing the meeting consists of steering our conversations to get constructive feedback, which is then passed on to the authors. It’s also my job to make sure the society keeps growing and becoming more successful year on year, hence some new additions for this year such as our launch party, workshops with Inklings, our presence at Lit Soc’s Poetry & Pints, and an upcoming competition for York LGBT History month.
The best thing about this job is seeing people get interested in and excited about The Looking Glass, particularly when it’s because of something this year’s committee has done, because I’m really proud of everything we’ve already achieved.
How many people are there on the editorial team and how does editing the anthology work?
At this point we have around twenty regular editorial team members who come to our meetings. However this number isn’t fixed; it’s never too late to join The Looking Glass! Everyone on our mailing list receives a reading pack each week, containing an anonymous selection of some of the submissions we’ve had, which we then discuss separately at the meetings. If we decide not to include something in the anthology we always let the author know what kind of changes are likely to result in the piece being accepted, should they choose to redraft and resubmit the work to us. This initial stage of editing concludes at the end of spring term. After that the committee makes final decisions about the contents of the anthology, and we proofread!
How has the anthology developed with each edition?
As the years have gone on, the books have become much more polished and professional. Things that have helped with this include the introduction of ISBN numbers, and the high standard of our annual cover art competition. Speaking of which, the competition to design our cover is now open! Check out the post on our website for more details of that. Our membership has also been steadily growing so our editorial meetings have become larger and livelier!
How many submissions did you get for the latest edition?
For The Looking Glass Anthology Volume 5, which we launched at the beginning of autumn term, we had approximately 120 submissions.
So how do you choose what goes in to the anthology?
We discuss every piece of work in detail; we talk about what we liked, things we didn’t like so much, and what we think it might be about. This usually helps the editors to take a stance on the work. We don’t have a criterion as such, because we get such a variety of work, but we do notice things such as; interesting and appropriate titles, unique ideas, and work that has been revised and redrafted. At the end of the discussion we vote on whether the piece should be put on the shortlist (definitely going in the book), put on the longlist (perhaps going in the book), or not included in the anthology.
What are some of the common themes you see in submitted work?
Students write about an enormous range of things. We’ve had pieces about everything from post apocalyptic winters to mysterious chess players, and we welcome it all! If pushed for an answer I would say that love, in some capacity, is the theme we see most frequently.
What theme would get a writer noticed by the editorial team?
The more original the idea, the more excited the editorial team will get. But it’s not all about the theme; the expression is equally as important. Even the most clichéd idea can be expressed in inventive ways, and that would definitely catch the attention of our editors.
Do students play around with form a lot in their work?
We ask students to submit their work to us in editable formats, such as word documents, since we have to copy and paste the pieces into reading packs and, eventually, into the full manuscript. Perhaps this makes it difficult for writers to be too innovative with their forms because we don’t usually see writers playing with form. However, that’s not to say we wouldn’t welcome it or that it doesn’t happen! We’ve had a poem submitted already this year that has a butterfly theme running throughout it and the form reflects this, which is lovely.
How long are the poems that you publish?
We accept anything that’s under our word limits. These are 1500 words for poetry, 2000 words for drama, and 3000 words for prose.
Do you have a favourite piece from the most recent anthology?
There are too many fantastic and diverse pieces in Vol. 5 to pick a favourite! I remember being instantly intrigued by Jim Dee’s ‘Hallucinations in the Bath’, which compares having a bath to dropping acid. And ‘The Land’ by Alex Morden Osborne stands out for me as a darkly gripping piece of short prose.
How does the submissions process work and when is the deadline for students this year?
We accept any form of creative writing, but only from students at The University of York. So, the first step is to write a short form piece of fiction – poem, short story, drama, lyrics, or anything else you can think of. Then, check out the submissions information on our website to make sure your work adheres to our guidelines. And finally, send your work to our email address, [email protected]
We have two deadlines: if you would like feedback on your writing, submit by midnight on 21st February 2015 (end of week 7 Spring term). Our final deadline is midnight on 14th March 2015 (end of week 10 spring term), though submissions received between the first and second deadline will not receive feedback, just a yes or no.
Do you have any top tips for students to get their work noticed by the editorial team?
That’s a tough question. I think the best advice I can give is – redraft! We really notice when the punctuation is on point, the word choices are precise, and the rhythm is consistent; the whole piece will seem polished, and that shows us that you’ve taken the time to revise your work. Other than that, it’s all down to you!
The Looking Glass Anthology holds editorial meetings on Tuesdays at 6.30pm in the F.R.Leavis Room. You can find more submission guidelines and tips on their website, www.thelookingglass.org.uk.