Stony Brook University Needs a Literary Magazine

So, it’s now the fall semester of my junior year, and I have yet to build a resume.

I ran cross country for all of one semester before quitting via email to my coach (at least it wasn’t a text message, but still…shame on me), so I guess it’s safe to say that that’s out.

Right now, I’m ‘interning’ (JRN 288) at the Stony Brook Independent, although I must admit, the seven-story requirement is intimidating. But still…that’s at least something, right?

Case in point: I’ve been thinking more and more frequently about the law school applications that I’m sure I’ll learn to dread filling out in the alarmingly not-so-distant future, and I suppose that now is the time to cram in some decent extracurriculars if I want to at least create the illusion that I’m doing a little more here at Stony Brook than eating their food and breathing their air (though I think it’s fair to add that my near-obsessive patronage has probably led to a serious expansion of the S.A.C. chili budget).

Sometime over the summer, I began skimming through a PDF document of university club offerings in search of the one that I’ve wanted to join since I was a wee, doe-eyed, stereotypically confused little freshman still getting shut out of my team’s own lockerroom due to ignorance of the lock code. I was going to be a writer-no, the highest-ranking editor of-the Stony Brook University literary magazine. Now, if only I could find the thing…

The list was pretty exhaustive. Index finger hooked on the scroll ball, I hastily passed through the listings for the Asian American clubs and the honor societies, the ghost-hunting club and the rifle organization, the community service groups and the Greeks. Huh. Not there. Confident that I must have missed something, I went back and tried again (if at first you don’t succeed, scroll, scroll again).

Still nothing. Nothing at all. But…this couldn’t be true, right? I mean, is the S.B.U. student body really more concerned with ectoplasm analysis or protecting the Consitutional sanctity of the second amandment than contributing to a literary magazine? Come on.

This, for me, was a bit of a setback. I mean, the literary magazine was my designated resume-booster of choice. What was I going to do now? Work for a campus paper? Issue a stamp of termination on a proud two years of laziness and journalistic sacrilige (God forbid)? Honestly, it was a little like taking a drink of water and realizing half a second later that it was actually milk. It’s just not what I was expecting.

I mean, I thought that literary magazines were supposed to be a staple product of university media, and we don’t even have ONE? Hmm. I guess I don’t have to remind you what happens when you assume.

I don’t mean to sound childish, but Stony Brook Southampton has one (AND an M.F.A. program in Literature and Creative Writing)…and what do they have that we don’t?

Perhaps if they’re competent enough to refrain from constantly trying to write Southampton as ‘Southhampton,’ then they’re good enough writers to pull funding from the system. But, really.

I’m jealous. Really, legitimately jealous. I mean, the The Southampton Review is legitimate enough to warrant the $20 pricetag, and students working toward the M.F.A. get the opportunity to work with writers-REAL writers!-with novels, and poetry anthologies, and screenplays and prestige.  Oddly enough, the poet who wrote my freshman reader (Billy Collins, “Sailing Alone Around the Room”) is a professor there. I picked the book up at orientation along with a mesh backpack, (what are you supposed to do with your books when it rains?) a severe case of information overload, a red Seawolves baseball cap (that has since adorned one of the larger teddy bears in my room) and a decent amount of free food. I’ll admit I never actually finished the book, but hey…what a coincidence that the author is now working so close to this campus that I can practically poke him with a stick.

I guess this post might be just a little bit misleading. I mean, we do always have the Stony Brook Press, which typically runs an extensive end-of-the-semester literary supplement. But when I say ‘extensive,’ that’s precisely what I mean. Check out the archives. The seventh Volume 30 issue added 16 pages to the paper’s original content last year, feauturing original poems, short stories and photographs. Submissions range from thousand-word, dual-column short stories to haikus. Check out this one by Commodore Laudino. He wrote a full page of haikus for the issue (39 in all), including this amusing little assault on the efforts of our headset-wearing friend, Vince Offer (better known as the obnoxiously hilarious face of ShamWow).

“ShamWow commercial

On the tube. What a worthless

Piece of shit. Come on!”

Honestly, I probably couldn’t have said it better myself in seventeen-hundred syllables.

The point is that the 16 pages speaks volumes (if you’ll pardon the sad attempt at a pun) for the student demand for an outlet to showcase their work. I know for a fact that the writing talent in the journalism department is, in a word, deep.

A lot of people here have a pretty strong passion for writing. I mean, when I got to 110, that’s all I wanted to do, and I do mean that’s ALL. I didn’t want to interview people, I didn’t want-or need-the stress of deadlines, I didn’t want to be limited by the 5 W’s, and essentially, I wanted to punch the entire concept of hard news leads in the face.

I just wanted to write…on my own time. I wanted to be anecdotal and sarcastic, to have an opinion and ably provide it. I couldn’t even be bothered to read the news (even now, being forced to read the paper every day is kind of making me vaguely resent the New York Times…but only vaguely).

Long story short, I definitely didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I declared this as my major, but I do feel like even the few reporting classes that I’ve taken here so far have, in several ways, made me a better writer. I can express myself more clearly, I’m much better about comma placement, I can write within word limits (perhaps it’s best if you don’t judge me based on the length of this post) and I guess that reading the Times has actually exposed me to a lot of great writers (Dan Barry, anyone?).

Anyway, as much as we all love being here (partial sarcasm), I think it’s safe to say that some of us wouldn’t mind taking an occasional break from the journalism. A new literary magazine would give us the chance to (for once) tell our own stories…to create our own themes and plot and characters instead of steneographizing every last detail about something that’s already happened in the unforgiving real world of facts. The real world, put simply, is too blunt for my taste.

Meanwhile, our narrative voices are a little like Lady Gaga’s outfits…no two are even remotely alike, just as our life experiences are by no means generic. Leads and quotes are one thing, and obviously, they do serve a significant purpose within their specific realm-but a literary magazine would provide a platform for a group of students who, I would guess, would find it tremendously stimulating. Journalists are a generally resourceful and creative, if not a little neurotic, group of people. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the campus papers (ahem, read the Independent), but it would certainly be pretty interesting to see what my fellow J-schoolers could come up with outside of that box if given the proper outlet.



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1 Comment

  1. Start one.

    You have the option of standing around waiting for somebody to do it for you, or going out there and doing it. As a participant in NaNoWriMo, I discovered that a number of my fellow SBU peers are also participating. And they were willing to meet up just to write their novels together. You could definitely get enough interested people if you tried to start your own.

    Then, lobby the student government. Get signatures on petitions, get others to personally speak to the government members. Take, what it seems from this article you have so far failed to, some initiative. And I promise that if you do, I, a fellow journalism major at Stony Brook, will contribute to it.

    Hey, that sure beats complaining to nobody on your blog, right?


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