Student learning heightens during SIUE’s River Bluff Review publishing process

Selected submissions published in the River Bluff Review will be read Jan. 28th at the MUC Bookstore. Cover photo by Adam Mason. Image Courtesy of Vogrin.

In a literary editing course where students select poems, stories and artwork for publication, they gain essential real world experience according to English professor Valerie Vogrin.

Last fall, 18 students started from nothing and met the 15-week deadline of the course, English 494, to produce the River Bluff Review, SIUE’s student literary magazine. A public reading of the journal will take place Wed., Jan. 28th at 4:30 p.m. in the MUC Bookstore. Free copies will be available at the reading and after the 28th outside the English Department office.

According to Vogrin, her students have a limited number of pages to work with and they decide what goes in and what does not go in. This year, 23 out of more than 150 submissions were accepted.

The process of voting and working to build consensus, she said, helps students develop communication skills and deal with conflict, as they make these decisions independent of her.

“I really appreciate that they have to learn how to navigate that strain. They have to learn to argue but not in an argumentative way—make a case—and then decide what’s important and which pieces they want to throw their support behind,” Vogrin said.

During evaluation of submissions, students look for a sense of purpose in the works, a cohesiveness within each piece and a real sensitivity to language according to Vogrin.

Another aspect of the students’ job as editors is editing and proofreading, which may include communicating with the writers to ensure the final written products are free of errors.

According to Vogrin, she gives her students a “crash course” or two-day training on InDesign to enable them to create a design for the cover and interior of the journal and to lay out the written works and artworks.

Vogrin said the students are fortunate to get numerous fine art submissions every year.

Adam Mason, an art major, for instance, has submitted the cover image, a close-up photograph of a rope,  and  Scott Baalman, another art major, submitted photographs of illuminated eggshells, which according to Vogrin “urge us to look at common items in a new way.”

In addition, another student art major Annie Dirks renders portraits of people out of numerous inked fingerprints.

Per usual, this year’s edition contains a wide variety of works, according to Vogrin, including a poem where a student wrote about her uncle who served in World War II and another in which the speaker laments the end of a relationship as she does laundry. Humorous pieces include a darkly comic story about a man standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles waiting for his turn as he bleeds to death; and a lighter one about an Easter dinner that involves family drama and sibling rivalry.

Vogrin said the course is a unique opportunity for those involved.

“It gives students a tangible product at the end– something they can not only be proud of but also put in their portfolio, take out to the work world and say they contributed to this,” Vogrin said. “And it would be a shame if students didn’t have that opportunity. I know it means a lot to them.”

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