Monday, January 30, 2006

My Story: Logos

While I was in my second year at Montreat College, one of my best friends was the editor of the school literary magazine, called Logos. Like most such college magazines, Logos was a collection of student-written poems, prose, and photography; published once a year by the college's student body.

My friend had asked me to join her on the staff, selecting pieces to be included in the publication, and I was asked to be her successor as editor the following year. I spent quite a bit of time with her in the editing office learning how to use the editing software to do layouts, and was able to meet with the company that was to print the magazine before the final draft was sent to them for publication before Spring Break.

There was a time when the words "Spring Break" would strike fear into my heart. The year just prior to this, I had contracted "walking pneumonia" while touring with a small singing group during Spring Break, and I had to call my parents to come pick me up from Tennessee to spend the rest of Spring Break recuperating from home. By the end of that week, a blizzard had struck, stranding my fellow singers in a church in another part of Tennessee while I (now recovered) had to stay in Kentucky a few extra days, unable to return to college because of the road conditions. As it turned out, I was able to meet up with my singing group halfway back to the college, after the roads had (mostly) cleared up, only to have our bus break down some 15 miles from the campus, requiring someone from our college town to come and rescue us, getting us the rest of the way home.

But as bad as that Spring Break was, the Logos year's Spring Break was even worse.

On the Friday before we were to return to class, my editor friend suffered from a brain aneurysm. By the following morning, she had passed away, almost one month to the day before she would have turned 21. I arrived back to campus the following evening to find another friend, who had been waiting for my return, coming to me to tell me the news.

Needless to say, I was devastated. One of my other friends told me a couple of months later, after I had laughed at a particularly funny joke he had told, that he was glad to see me smile, because he was afraid for a while that I might never smile again.

With my editor friend gone, I found myself fulfilling the duties of Logos editor a bit sooner than I had expected. About a week after I got back from Spring Break, I received word from the publishing company that the fonts used for the magazine layout were printing illegibly, and that they needed me to provide them with a new computer file with different fonts by the next day.

By this time, I had already been involved in drama, and was required to be in rehearsal until about 11:00 pm that night. All I could do was make sure I had a key to the office and start the necessary font work after rehearsal was over, pulling an "all-nighter." Having arranged for this, I arrived in the office fairly late at night, put my stuff in the computer room, and went downstairs to go to the bathroom. Upon my return, I found that I had locked myself out of the office!

In a state of near-panic, I had to wake up the Resident Director of one of the dormitories to ask for a key, which he was kind enough to provide. I got back into the office, finished my font rework (making sure to include a "special thanks" to the RD while doing so!), and got to my dorm room to sleep for just a couple of hours before getting up for classes the next day. I delivered the new file on disk to the publisher the next day (this was a few years before sending such files by e-mail was practical), and the magazine finally came out after only a slight delay.

After that "crash course" in magazine editing, I figured I was ready for my proper tenure as editor the following year. Unfortunately, that year provided completely different challenges.

One such challenge was a decision I made to promote artistic integrity by adopting what I called the "e.e. cummings" rule. By this, I meant that I could not assume that apparent typographical errors or misspellings were not the original intention of the artist. While in most cases, I was able to obtain permission from each artist to make whatever grammatical changes I saw fit, this created a bit of extra work compared to what would have been the case if I had simply made the changes on my own. Still, I considered it important that the artists be given the benefit of the doubt.

Another problem was far more controversial. I adopted the position that it would be unfair of me to arbitrarily refuse to print a piece that I found distasteful if the rest of my committee voted to include it. This resulted in the near-publication of a particular sestina (a kind of poem with a peculiar structure) with fairly explicit sexual references (we referred to it as the "sextina"). One of my staff (a particularly conservative elderly woman) resigned from the magazine in protest, and the "sextina" was ultimately removed from the magazine by decree of the faculty sponsor, necessitating me to find a substitute poem to insert on the now-vacant page, and informing the publisher of the late change.

This was done in short order, but I soon got a call from the publisher that, because of the particularly dark pictures that were included in that year's magazine, the ink was taking far longer to dry than normal, and that the magazines would not be shipped until the very end of the school year--after many students would have already gone home!

Through circumstances which are best left for another post to explain, I happened to be Student Body President that year, in addition to being the literary magazine editor (remember, this was a very small school of only about 400 students!). Because of quite a few budgetary crises, I had been reluctant to spend very much Student Government money that year, and ironically found the end of year looming with a budget surplus in the Student Government funds. Although I concede that there was definitely a "conflict of interest" here, the end of the year had already come, and so I decided to use that surplus to fund postage to mail the finally completed magazines to all students who could not pick up the magazine while still at school.

That year had been a bad one for student publications. The aforementioned budget cuts had caused the yearbook to cease publication that year, and the student newspaper also ceased to be published by the student body (although a similar paper, published and formally run by the English department, did begin publication). This meant that Logos was the only student publication to be published that year, a fact of which I am still proud, despite some minor guilt over the admitted conflict of interests.

Ironically, although I still have copies of Logos from before and since that year, I do not possess a copy of the magazine for which I myself was the editor. The few extra copies that remained after I mailed out copies to the entire student body were given to family members. Although I have seen my edition of Logos while visiting my grandparents, I do not have the heart to take it from them. I certainly don't need a copy to remember that time.

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