Students in Gustavus Adolphus College English professor Baker Lawley’s January Interim Experience class wasted no time getting down to business. From the first day of the course on Monday, Jan. 4, the group would have just 20 class sessions to edit, publish, and launch the first issue of Razor Literary Magazine.
The course, “Digital Literature: Editing and Publishing an Online Literary Magazine,” introduced students to professional editing and publishing. The class read and evaluated submitted pieces, worked as an editorial board to decide which content would be published, and communicated with writers and artists throughout the acquisition, editorial, and marketing process. Students also studied the business side of the publishing industry, researched other literary journals, and worked together to create the website design for Razor.
“Getting hands-on experience in this course means the world,” sophomore Jenna Hagglund said. “The most important step to getting a job is gaining experience and I’ve learned so much about the publishing process and digital literature.”
Sophomore Evelyn Magner considers relationship management and compromise to be among the main lessons of the course. “In this class and in the ‘real world’ we learn from experience and are often reliant on others to achieve our goals. It’s an interesting contrast from other classes I’ve taken,” she said.
“I wanted to give students professional publishing experience,” said Lawley, who spent the summer doing background work and soliciting content in preparation for the January class.
Razor Literary Magazine is named after Chekhov’s Razor, the writing rule of thumb that encourages authors to cut the beginning off any piece and jump right into the action. Razor will dig into the creative process, publishing an accompaniment to each piece that explores the motivation of each author or artist and the work that went into their creation. The fact that Razor is a digital publication allows this insider’s view, called “Before the Razor,” to be produced as an essay, video, podcast, or other form of multimedia.
“We want to appeal to a fresh and cutting-edge audience who likes innovative literature. The web is the best way to do that,” Magner explained.
The class, which consists mostly of sophomores, quickly built camaraderie as they worked towards a common goal. “Not to say that there weren’t artistic clashes, but in the end we all committed ourselves to Razor’s unique mission and did our work in the magazine’s best interest,” Magner said.
Lawley is proud how far the class has come over the course of the month. “There’s been a great deal of discernment in everything from the literary choices for the magazine to the careers that students might seek in the future. They’ve grown a lot,” he said.
The course is one of six January Interim classes at Gustavus that focus on the digital humanities. The courses emphasize collaboration, are project-based, and explore how digital media shapes meaning and can be used to research and present to both academic and broad public audiences. The digital humanities courses are being offered thanks to a three-year, $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“People have asked me if majors like English are relevant in today’s society where technology and healthcare careers are growing so fast. Through this class I’ve learned so much about the digital aspect of things I’ve always loved: reading, writing, and designing,” Hagglund said. “Digital literature is a new take on an old topic.”
Razor Literary Magazine is available online at razorlitmag.com. Lawley plans to continue to offer hands-on courses and work with students to edit and publish the journal annually.
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