Interview with Professor Alison Powell

The OAR started as a group of student volunteers lead by Professor Alison Powell. She was integral in creating and directing everyone to a path where we, as mostly inexperienced undergrads, could edit, produce, and run a literary magazine. For the last blog post of the semester I wanted to go back and speak with Professor Powell’s about her thoughts on the OAR’s journey so far.  Many thanks to Professor Powell for her guidance and support in starting this journal.

-Bethany Olson

What made you decide to start, or to work on, the inception of a literary journal?

There are actually few undergraduate literary journals which have a national focus; that is, there are few journals which publish students at institutions other than their own. It seemed to me that undergraduates across the country would appreciate having a journal in which to showcase their work; and at the same time, the project gives our own students an opportunity to try their hand at editing, layout, all the things that go along with publishing. 

What has been the biggest challenge getting things started?

Just figuring out where to begin! We had a blast getting the first issue out, but it was admittedly a chaotic experience – learning how to generate submissions, get the word out about our journal, figure out how to lay out a magazine with poetry, short fiction, and visual art – that was all quite a steep learning curve!

What has been the most rewarding for you?

Working with the students, without a doubt. All the students who worked on the journal impressed me with their commitment, ambition, and the passion they brought to the table.

What are your hopes for the future of the OAR?

Literary journals have a tendency to sink or swim within the first few years. I want OAR to continue as a long running project, and would love to have us continue to generate international submissions. In our first issue we have a poem by a student at Hong Kong Baptist University!

What does having a literary journal mean for the future of OU? How will this affect the wiring program and English department? 

Next year students who work on the journal will do so as part of a 300 level Special Topics class, available in the English Department and open to majors and nonmajors. This is our attempt to institutionalize the journal, and make sure it’s a regular offering every year; the class will also learn about the history of literature that has appeared in literary journals, and consider the unique issues and challenges that arise in literary journal publishing. Next year it will be taught by Prof. Jeff Chapman.

The OAR started, and remains, a student run voluntary organization. How was the experience of working with student volunteers? 

Amazing! The undergrad volunteers were so positive and upbeat, and game for anything – I was really so impressed with them.

Which magazines would you recommend to people who are new to literary journals?

Students who are interested in publishing their own work should look to OAR’s website, www.oaklandartsreview.com, for a list of journals that publish undergraduate writers (we publish no more than one OU student per issue). But in terms of national magazines, that publish writers from all backgrounds / ages, some great ones are Paris Review, Tin House, Ploughshares, Granta, and The Kenyon Review. But there are tons out there – those are just a few!

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