Literary reviews showcase high school talents in words, images

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:45 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 29, 2014
This year's Hickman Review had its official debut May 9 during an event at Orr Street Studios.

*CORRECTION: The name of the new publication at Battle High School is the Battle Literature and Art Review. An earlier version of this article had an incomplete title.

COLUMBIA — For Rayna Sims, a member of the Hickman Review, joy is opening the box of finished magazines and seeing them for the first time.

"I’m just really proud of being a part of the staff and having it all be student-run,"  Sims said. "We all work really hard on it, and we stay late nights."

At Hickman, Battle and Rock Bridge high schools, literary reviews offer artists and writers the chance to showcase their abilities and the student staff an opportunity to develop their creative skills. The end product is a magazine that helps recognize the talents of high school students.

"I’m just really proud that we can share this with the community and feel like we’re stepping out into the world rather than just staying in high school," Hickman senior Olivia Eastman said. "We aren’t just critiquing it in class; this is the real deal, and everyone is getting to experience it."

The Hickman Review was founded in 1988 and has won national awards from the National Council of Teachers of English. Submissions are accepted in January from the student body, and the magazine is published in May.

A variety of student work is accepted, including visual art, prose and even musical compositions. Recognizing a wide range of work is especially important to the Hickman Review staff. Almost 300 visual art and literary pieces were submitted this year, with about 25 percent making it into the final magazine, Sims said.

"At Hickman, we have a large variety of people," Eastman said. "There are a lot of different art styles and literary styles that we want to show."

Each piece that makes it into the magazine is selected through a blind review process to reduce bias and pick the best work to showcase.

"We take it really seriously, and we pick a staff that can effectively judge the submissions," editor-in-chief Lisa Simms said.

For Hickman students, being selected for the magazine carries some prestige.

"A lot of people come up to me and they are just really grateful because it’s nice to get recognized and everyone in the whole school can see it," Simms said. "It’s a really big deal for them."

At Battle, a review is born

*The Battle Literature and Art Review is one of many firsts at Battle High School, which is wrapping up its first year. The review was started by junior Devin Smith, who worked on the Hickman Review and wanted a literature review for Battle, as well.

To get the word out, Smith approached art and English classes and asked students to submit work.

"We wanted something, so we asked for everything," Smith said.

Despite being new, the Battle Literature and Art Review received more than 100 submissions of art and poetry. The review even features a student's critique and analysis of a French poem.

Like Hickman, the Battle review staff chose the featured pieces through a blind review process and selected 40 works for the 48-page magazine.

At Rock Bridge, variety reigns

At Rock Bridge, Folio, the school's literary arts magazine, publishes in May. Folio is similar to the Hickman and Battle reviews in that visual and literature submissions are accepted and then pared down by an editorial team.

In addition to Folio, Rock Bridge has Perspectives on the Precipice, an arts research magazine. The booklet contains 14 visual arts pieces and student-authored narrations of how these pieces tell the stories of the lives of high school seniors.

This year, Rock Bridge also published In Depth, a keepsake booklet that allowed students featured in the school's first art show to select a piece to showcase. This new publication was open only to advanced art students in the senior class.

Each publication hopes to recognize the varied talents of its students. Folio also launched a project this year that started a haiku contest on Instagram.

"We've been exploring more digital formats to showcase the creative and literary arts," Folio sponsor Kathryn Fishman-Weaver said.

Behind the scenes

The staff members of the Hickman Review, Battle Literature Review, Folio and Perspectives put countless hours into creating their schools' literary magazines.

The activities are extracurricular, so students spend time outside of school selecting the pieces and designing each page to be perfect.

"I'm most proud of the layout and design of it," Smith said of Battle's review. "We pay attention to every single detail."

Battle has a staff of seven and Hickman a staff of 12 who divide up and lay out each page of the magazines.

The Battle Literature and Art Review will be distributed with the first 100 copies going for free to help promote it and the second hundred at a modest price, which was still being decided. The Hickman Review is available for sale during lunch for $8. 

At Rock Bridge, Folio and Perspectives are both staffed by about five students each and are worked on after school. They are designed completely by Rock Bridge students.

Hickman and Battle have debut parties to honor those selected for the reviews and celebrate the hard work that went into the publications.

The Hickman Review had its debut party May 9 at Orr Street Studios. The Battle Literature and Art Review is planning its party for the end of the school year at the school. The event will be open to everyone.

Smith plans to continue the review next year and hopes it will gain momentum as students learn more about it.

At the core of these reviews is a desire for creative expression and growth.

"We’re all artists and writers, which is why we’re on the staff. But through the process of creating the magazine and critiquing the submissions, we all grow as artists and writers," Hickman senior Joanna Zou said. "We see all this great work, and it’s one of the best ways to improve your own art and writing."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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