Other Student Publications Hit Newsstands
By Lichen Forster
The following is parts of a conversation between the Editor-in-Chief (EiC) of the Kanilehua Art and Literary Magazine Evangeline Lemieux, EiC of Hohonu (the academic journal) Kit Neikirk, and EiC of Ke Kalahea Lichen Forster. All three publications make up the student publications of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, and whereas Ke Kalahea publishes monthly, Kanilehua and Hohonu release a new edition once a year at the end of the spring semester. Lemieux and Neikirk joined Forster on Ke Kalahea’s University Radio Hilo talk show called KK, We Gotchu on February 23. KK, We Gotchu is held every Wednesday at 3pm on 101.1 FM.
Forster: How long are your publications? Are they living up to past years---what changes have you seen?
Lemieux: We had kind of a diminished submission rate this year. Not as much ultimately, we just found ourselves having to push harder towards the end of the submission period to make it happen, so it's going to be slightly shorter than the average magazine. It's also going to be physically smaller; it's going to be book size, with the same thickness or a bit thicker but book size instead of magazine size. We wanted pieces to stand out on the page and take up a lot of space.
Neikirk: Yeah, kind of a similar thing---we've had slightly less submissions but also one of my goals was I wanted a shorter magazine than previous years. I wanted a very short journal that had a lot of high quality pieces. I wanted to go for quality over quantity this year, so in addition to having less submissions than years prior, this is the most selective we've been.
Forster: Are there any themes emerging in the submissions you’ve seen?
Lemieux: I think that there are always themes in student writing, by virtue of it being student writing. Last year, we had a fair amount of either pandemic or isolation related things, but ultimately, most writing centers around personal growth in one way or another. So we see stories about personal growth and poems about either personal growth or emotions, scenes, memory, and more sensory stuff. And then on artwork, honestly, it's all over the place. People send in all kinds of stuff, and that's what makes it so cool is that there's not like no piece of art that you receive is like, "Oh yeah, it's one of those kinds of pieces of art" like nope, they're all completely unique.
Neikirk: We've noticed a big uptick in the number of science related things; in the past it used to be very heavily leaning towards the English side and maybe social sciences, but now this is becoming more of an even split between biology and English. That has been one of my big initiatives I've taken, because I'm obviously a biology major, and I feel like most science majors might want to avoid writing, but impact factors are how you get jobs. Impact factors are publications in high impact journals. Anyway, as far as actual preparedness for a career, you need to be a good writer in STEM fields. I've been happy to see a big increase in the number linked to those fields recently.
Forster: What do you both look for when you're choosing which pieces to publish? How are you selective in that way?
Lemieux: Well, it depends on what kind of art it is. For short stories, or flash fiction, or any narrative with a plot, we look for engaging the reader consistently throughout the piece, a good grasp of grammar, semantics and structure, compelling narrative, good character development: all of those kinds of things, as well as just on a basic sentence to sentence level, you know, is it good? There's a bunch of different categories on the rubric and somewhere hiding in all of those categories is the question of is it good? That's the same for the art piece, like the closest we can get on the rubric is saying, "Does it move or inspire you to some kind of emotion?" That category, numerically, doesn't weigh much more than other categories, but if a piece is right on the edge, it comes down to whether or not it gives you the moving, inspiring sort of feeling. And that can be inspiration towards any kind of emotion because not all art is supposed to make you happy or make you feel hopeful, some of it is supposed to make you sad, or not just sad, but feel something complex or laugh maybe. So, I think that intention is part of it too. Poetry is the hardest thing to grade because it is thought by some to be entirely subjective, but that is not an opinion that everybody shares…We all have to compromise and with our different tastes and our different abilities to rate things.
Neikirk: I have no say in the decision process of what gets you in. My editors grade on four tenents: the first being content, which is self explanatory. Everybody's going to be different on how they judge those, but for me content is the biggest one. If the paper is a mess grammatically but it has amazing research or it gives me that feeling of like, "Wow, the way you use words is how I aspire to, what you are saying, what insight you are gleaning, what process you're elucidating...it takes my breath away." I'm kind of biased. That's my own personal bias, because content is the one thing we can't fix. Otherwise, outside of content, we guide on structure. This includes having a thesis; basic things...every paragraph you write in an academic paper, you should know what the paragraph will be about. More or less just based on the first sentence, the first sentence isn't there for attention. And the last sentence isn’t in there to decide that you also like pizza; structure has purpose, sentences have meanings. Good writing can get buried down in tedium as sentences repeatedly follow the same exact eight word structure or sentences bog themselves down with frivolous details as they go on endless tangents that make the actual message unclear. The next tenant is grammar: do you know what a comma is? Do you know what a period is…do you know if "e.g" or "i.e." should be used? Or better yet, don't use parentheses: stuff like that. And then finally, critical analysis: this kind of ties things together. It's asking, "What makes this paper special?" Is it actually something college level? Because you can have a paper that has good enough content, sure it's saying something, it has great grammar but it's boring and beyond being boring—it's not that level of critical thinking, it's not rising to that next level.
Forster: What kind of common things have you seen that have caused you to reject or seriously edit pieces?
Lemieux: If you don't know what the story is about...like you get to the end and you're like, "I don't know what I just read. It didn't make me think anything, or I'm not sure about it." [Another thing is] grammar errors that go beyond the fixable, because there are some grammar errors that are just grammar errors. And then there are grammar errors that are idea errors, so you have to get into the whole thing and break it apart and put it back together. And I believe that every story deserves that, [but] we don't have time to do that for every story. For art, that's completely up to the discretion of the people that are judging the artwork, it's really different every time.
Neikirk: Even if everyone in your class is writing about the same thing, don't be like, "Oh, well, other people would have done it." Ultimately, if you would have told a good story, that shouldn't matter. Most of my editors view grammar and spelling and the kind of technical aspects of writing mistakes very leniently. So if you're paranoid, you know, "Oh, no, I'm not the best at writing, I don't know all of the rules about commas, I don't know the difference between an em and en dash..." Don't worry; that's why we are here, that's our job: to help guide you through these issues. What we can't guide you through is if your entire article is taken from Wikipedia exclusively. If you use one source for the whole thing, and not at any point bring any of your own critical analysis [or] connected to something out. Stuff like that are just fundamental issues with the content that in most cases I don't think can get far.
At print time, the 2021-2022 issue of Kanilehua is on newsstands, with Hohonu’s issue arriving shortly.