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March 14, 2011 Create a Literary Magazine By Nancy Barile
Grades 6–8, 9–12

    Creating a literary magazine for your school teaches students the fundamentals of good writing and publishing and provides them with a place to see their writing in print. It gives them a sense of audience, which is crucial for young writers, and it can foster a community of young writers and give them status. Read on to see what else a literary magazine can do for your school and learn how to start one.

    The Benefits of a Literary Magazine 

    The literary magazine unifies themes and invites cross-curricular involvement and broad student participation. It encourages the inclusion of a variety of literary forms including nonfiction writing such as biographical portraits, feature articles, and lyrics accompanied by musical scores, as well as translations of literature into English, poems, and dramatic scripts. It's also a place to showcase writing in languages other than English. At Revere High School, our literary magazine, Crossroads, has featured the voices of our culturally diverse school, including writing in English, Arabic, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Albanian, Italian, Spanish, Hindi, Russian, French-Creole, Vietnamese, and Khmer. This is a wonderful opportunity to engage English language learners and help them feel at home.

    In compliance with the Common Core Standards, the literary magazine allows students to apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate writing, and use different writing process elements appropriately. The Standards state that students need frequent opportunities to write about different topics and for different audiences and purposes. This opportunity enables students to understand the varying demands of different writing tasks and to recognize how to adapt tone, style, and content to the particular task at hand.

    The literary magazine provides opportunities for all students to extend learning beyond the normal course offerings and the school campus. A truly exemplary literary magazine necessitates effective curricular coordination and articulation between and among all academic areas. Finally, students receive feedback from a variety of sources other than their classroom teacher.

    The production of the literary magazine requires a great deal of student responsibility and accountability. It encourages independence and provides that critical real-world connection to what we do in the English classroom, which often seems detached from daily practicalities. The teacher-advisor and a staff of students are responsible for selecting manuscripts, editing them, and laying out and designing the magazine. So in addition to improving writing, editing, and proofreading skills, students learn the concepts of design and computer skills. They must set goals, make decisions, and succeed at creating a product that is important to them.

    One goal of the literary magazine is to exhibit imaginative use of language, including the appropriate use of imagery, figurative language (e.g., alliteration, metaphor, simile, personification), irony, and symbolism. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser can help students fine-tune their metaphors. Extraordinary Poetry Writing encourages students' creativity, and How to Write Poetry has great tips for writing poetry. All writing of all ability levels is considered for publication. And although we sometimes have quite a few "I love him; he doesn't love me" or "I love her; she doesn't know I exist" poems, these poems do speak to many teens.


    Producing a Literary Magazine

    I started Crossroads, my school's literary magazine, two years after I began teaching high school, and I funded it with a grant. The literary magazine is a fairly inexpensive venture, usually only involving the teacher stipend and the cost of printing. Crossroads takes about $1,500 to produce. With today's technology, all it takes is a call for submissions — I prefer the submissions to be emailed to me or another member of the team — and editing and layout. Including artwork within the magazine can also be done thanks to the high quality output of today's copy machines. You could produce a good literary magazine in about a month. The biggest challenge is making sure that everyone hears the call for submissions so that the magazine features many and varied pieces. If producing a hard copy of the magazine proves too expensive, you can make your literary magazine an "ezine." See Extraordinary Blogs and Ezines for more info.

    The National Council of Teachers of English has a Program to Recognize Excellence in Student Literary Magazines. The Program’s mission is to encourage all schools to develop literary magazines, seeking excellence in writing and schoolwide participation in production. Participation in the program serves as an inducement for improving the quality of school literary magazines. Judges evaluate and rank middle school, junior high, and high school literary magazines. 

    A literary magazine is a fairly inexpensive way to provide students with a voice, as well as an audience for their writing. In these times of standardized testing, the literary magazine provides a great opportunity for students to write creatively and explore topics outside of the classroom.

    ~ Nancy


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