Tucked away in a small office in the University Center Annex, UNCP students Leona Howell and Chelsey Parsons put in long nights this spring to produce the 14th annual edition of The Aurochs, UNC Pembroke’s award-winning student literary magazine.
Howell is the editor-in-chief, and Parsons is the art editor. In a recent interview, shortly before sending The Aurochs to the printer, Howell buzzed around the office while Parsons sat in front of two laptop computers beneath a whiteboard with a long list of art, poems, fiction and non-fiction that she is flowing into the magazine. Howell said it’s been a learning experience and an adventure.
The adventure happened one night “about 12:30 (a.m.), the fire alarm went off,” Howell said. With smoke in the air, it was not a false alarm.
Throwing caution to the wind, they “grabbed everything we could think of, the laptops, papers, everything, and ran,” Howell said. “We probably broke the basic rule, but I had visions of the magazine going up in smoke.”
The fire turned out to be minor and the only damage was a lingering foul odor. With their back-up files backed up, they pushed on.
Editing and designing the collected works was a yearlong labor of love. In September, Howell was publicizing the journal to prospective writers at the Student Involvement Fair. Months later, they remain excited and talked about several new features in volume 14.
“This year, because we are going four-color throughout the magazine, we’ve had to cut down on pages. It’s been a lot of work. In the past we’ve just put each genre of work into their own category, with all the artwork, and thus the color, in one of these sections. This time we’re not limited to that,” Howell said. “Instead of putting the art and photography all in one section, we are able to place it throughout the magazine. It was difficult to match art with poems and shorts stories, but it turned out really well.
“We’re kicking it up a couple of notches this year,” Howell said. Parsons designed page corners and Howell popped out key pieces of text to draw readers into the stories. Flash fiction is popular this year, she said.
The editors chose a print by senior art major Kayla Seedig for the cover. Selecting cover art was one of many difficult editorial issues.
For Parsons, the experience has been important. She is a senior whose marketable skills will be important as she seeks a job in the near future.
“I am a digital design major, so I knew (Adobe) Photoshop,” she said of the sophisticated software. “For a publication, we use (Adobe) InDesign that I have been learning as we go. It’s been a really good thing, because I can say I have new skills.”
Learning experiences in higher education usually come with faculty guidance, and English professor Dr. Karen Helgeson has been faculty advisor to The Aurochs since its founding. Under her guidance, the publication has won 23 state and national awards since 2009.
“Dr. Helgeson has been great,” Howell said. “She is always with us, even late at night. We collaborate with her on everything.”
Howell, a history major, became aware of Aurochs early in her college career. “I had a piece accepted for the 2012 edition, but it didn’t get published because they ran out of space,” she said. “They ran it the next year. I had a short story and two poems as well in that edition.
“I took the Literary Magazine Production class last year, receiving great training from Dr. Helgeson,” Howell said. “I was inspired to apply for the position and interviewed with the Student Publication Board. The next thing you know, I am the editor. I will be editor again next year too. I’m excited.”
Before that, Howell will have one more big thrill. “When I hold the published edition in my hands, it will be like holding the Holy Grail. It’s the culmination of a year’s work.”