In the final few weeks of May, the Fairfield University “Publishing Practicum” course made their finishing touches on the annual literary journal, “Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose”.

Starting in January 2023, four Fairfield upperclassmen composed a book from conception to publication in the ENGL 4952 three-credit course. The course description reads: “students apply material learned in ENGL 3140 (World of Publishing) as they serve in a senior editorial role as a Managing Editor in the preparation of the University’s national literary magazine, Dogwood.”

Sonya Huber, an editor of Dogwood and Professor of English at Fairfield University, explained that the publication has “run a contest since it began” and works to publish writers all around the world. This current publication marks its 22nd year.

In past years, writers would submit their works the “old fashioned way”—through paper and envelope—but now use a paid database called Submittable. For the writers who are interested in competing for the Dogwood $1,000 contest, submissions cost $12. However, general submissions are free.

“We usually get about 700 submissions a year,” Huber shared.

Fairfield students screen the submissions in the fall course “World of Publishing.” In groups, each student is assigned 20 stories, to which they will narrow it down to four—the other group members will do the same. Out of all of the student’s top picks, they work together to then select the best material and are then named Assistant Editors.

Following the selections, the spring course, “Publishing Practicum,” will do the rest.

Student editors in this classroom, also referred to as Associate Editors, copy-edit their assigned pieces for minor mistakes and collaborate with their authors by sending them a first and second proof analysis back to them.

Huber then touched upon something special that happened for the first time this year. “We had a mom who wrote an essay about the death of her teenage daughter, and because the essay was so meaningful to her, she wanted to talk on the phone with her student editor.”

She continued, “The woman ended up sending the student editor a CD of songs that the daughter had written and the mom had performed. So, in so many cases, there is this beautiful relationship that gets formed,” Huber shared.

After edits are completed, the students will then transfer the pieces onto Adobe InDesign, a layout software. The journal this year is over 100 pages and most notably features work from incarcerated writers and artwork from a Bridgeport resident—two qualities that Huber wants to include more of in future publications.

“We published our first work by an incarcerated writer last year. It was amazing, so we’re trying to expand our outreach to incarnated writers.” Huber added, “I would also really like to figure out a way to devote a section of the journal to Bridgeport writers.” 

In addition to the editing and designing skills from this course, Huber notes the other important skill students take away from the practicum: writing. She explained, “I’ve seen from course evaluations that students really love the chance to just get real creative writing from their selections.” 

“We end up talking a lot about what makes a piece strongest—and I love to see that happen for students,” she finished.

For those who are seeking to be published or be the publisher, Huber recommends getting involved in any literary journal scene whether or not it’s a campus journal or unpaid publications that are looking for volunteer editors.

Reading this kind of work will always “sharpen your vision,” she notes. “For example, you will never start a story with someone hitting the alarm clock again because we get probably 20 stories that start like that every semester.”Dogwood’s most recent publication appeared in physical form this summer, showcasing the hard work of Fairfield students and talented writers. Copies were distributed to all of the editors and writers, but readers can also purchase their own 2023 copy for only $10. To buy a one-time book or sign up for an $8 annual subscription, visit their website.

About The Author

-- Senior I Executive Editor I English Creative Writing & Digital Journalism --

Brooke is a senior English Creative Writing and Digital Journalism major, with minors in Film, Television & Media and Editing & Publishing. She plans to pursue a career in screenwriting after graduation.

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