Colorado State has seven different graduate English programs. There are the MFA creative writing students who specialize in poetry and fiction. Then there are the MA students who specialize in nonfiction, literature, rhetoric and composition, English education, and TEFL/TESL.
The Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) is staffed by many of these students, allowing us to gain literary magazine experience while earning our degrees. From reading through submissions, to proofreading, copyediting, and formatting each issue, students get to follow each step of the publishing process.
Aside from the nonfiction students, the majority of those interested in interning at CLP tend to be MFA students. As an MA literature student, I’m a bit of an exception, and feel I have infiltrated the Center for Literary Publishing. But following my time at the NYU Summer Publishing Institute, I was eager to involve myself in the world of publishing at Colorado State.
While my NYU program mostly consisted of students interested in pursuing graduate degrees in publishing, the CLP is unique in that it primarily involves creative writing students. This has transformed the CLP into an environment of creativity and unfathomed potential, an environment I am lucky to have infiltrated.
During my time at the CLP, I not only get to see how the inside of a publishing house operates, but I also get to work alongside people producing content much like that submitted to the CLP for publication. I have learned just as much about the process of selecting a piece for publication as I have about the process that goes into making a publishable piece of work.
Through my interaction with creative writing students, I’ve also gotten to see how much of a role they play in hosting and introducing writers brought to campus through the Creative Writing Reading Series. By meeting with published authors, students are able to gain valuable insights and tips to apply to their own writing. It’s a powerful cycle of writers learning from other writers.
Though my graduate degree is not focusing on creative writing, I see the main project of creative writers and other English graduate students as being the same: that of creating content. At the end of each semester, I sit down to work on my research papers, fine-tuning my carefully crafted arguments and literary critiques. I jump between search engines, hoping to find a peer-reviewed article that doesn’t contradict my strategically plotted argument. I feel that oftentimes creative writing is chalked off as “easy,” as if the content always flows effortlessly from writers’ minds. But in my time working with the writers at the CLP, I’ve learned that their practice doesn’t differ much from my own arduous writing process.
In the same way that I sit down to sift through research, creative writers must mine their own experiences and influences. In the same way I draw from research and outside quotes, they return to the writers and poets who inspired them, learning about different classic and contemporary forms and techniques. As with any type of writing, it takes an eye for detail and a commitment to writing through a lack of inspiration or motivation. This process itself becomes a form of art.
I have found value in working with both creative and critical writers. While creative writers are generating the content critical readers critique, it’s important to understand where both types of content come from. But how does what I’ve learned relate back to the CLP?
While something I could not have anticipated, I have gained a different perspective on literature and creative writing. When I’m sifting through submissions for something I believe fits Colorado Review‘s needs, I now understand the intentions and different techniques creative writers use. This better informs my role as a reader, and what kinds of experiences, techniques, and other creative writing features these writers have taken into account.
Ultimately, all liberal arts involve some type of creativity, though that creativity can take on many different forms. The collaboration and space created through the CLP is important for both creative writers and other English graduate students.
I would like to beckon more MA students to consider the distinction between author and reader, and how the two might overlap. In fact, I think more non-MFA students should take the opportunity to infiltrate the CLP, to learn more about the process of publishing and the people behind the writing. Although, I’m not sure it can count as infiltration when they openly welcome you into that space.