Feature Story

April 28, 2015

Journal Feature: The Blueshift

By Theresa Kurzawa in Feature Story, Interviews, LRR

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tyler Tsay, the editor-in-chief, of the profound new literary journal The Blueshift Journal. This journal features young, relatively undiscovered writers and artists, hoping that great art will provide an ethereal closeness between humans. Tsay is only a senior in high school himself and yet he has managed to create a beautiful web-based literary journal featuring the works of young literary enthusiasts around the globe.

As a young editor myself, I was quickly captivated by the tenacity and wholesome ambition of Tsay. I asked him questions about how the journal functions (considering many of the other editors are scattered across the US) as well as his aspirations for the future. Tsay is one of those special human beings who retains the optimism of art and literature, when so many of us have long given up hope for the future.

 

The Blueshift Journal

  •  How does the journal fund itself? Does it rely mostly on donations and profits from fundraising?
We originally raised $1,500 for the journal itself, and since then have been running off that.  We have limited donations via Tip Jar submissions, where authors/artists submit for a donation fee of $3.00 (of which we make about $2), and through the donation tab on our website, theblueshiftjournal.com.  However, as a small, online press, we generally do not have to worry too much about funding.  By issue 4, we might need to start fundraising again, but in the meantime, we’re in a good place.
  • What sort of circulation does your journal have?
Our audience is mainly young.  About 70% of our readers are around the ages of 17-35 for both male and female.  However, we publish all ages, have published all ages, and never see age as a factor for our issues.  Our staff is young, and the journal itself is young, so we obviously attract a younger crowd.  Eventually, we will start to move away from that, as both our staff and the journal itself mature.
  • What is the biggest challenge for the journal? Were there any major obstacles in the way?
 
There were plenty of obstacles, mainly being that there’s not really a how-to on starting a literary magazine.  I think starting out was the hardest part.  For the first three weeks of our start, we were actually The Copper Context on an advertisement-ridden Google website.  Obviously, that has changed a lot.  Getting the issue itself was much more difficult than we imagined, since Claire (managing), Lily (exec), and I were in separate parts of the world (I think Claire was in Greece, Lily was in the forests of Maine, and I was somewhere all around in the US).  But we’ve really worked out the kinks for this next issue.  We switched over the Submittable, brought on a Layout Manager and more Interns, and we’re definitely getting the hang of things.
  • What are the biggest challenges for the editors?
If you’re referring to the upper management (Claire, Lily, and I), I would say that it’s hard to keep everything together when we’re at three separate schools in three separate locations trying to create an issue.  But that’s always a challenge.
In terms of the actual editors and readers, I think that the biggest challenge is probably the fact that very few of us have met each other in person.  We’re going to try to organize get-togethers, but sometimes, I can feel that it’s hard to interact when we haven’t yet put the faces to the names to the people to the voices.  In order to combat this, we offer our staff a position back every issue (unless something drastic changes, or they have to leave for undisclosed reasons), so that they can see the magazine grow with them, and get to know each other along the way.  I think we’ve truly gotten close as a staff.  It’s my favorite part of the whole thing that I never really anticipated.
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  • What does an editor like most and least about being an editor?
I know that as an editor, I’ve grown so much as a writer being exposed to the incredible array of submissions we receive, both good and bad.  Albeit, I haven’t written much in the past few years, only privately.  But I know that editing is one of the best ways to improve your writing.  You learn what works, what doesn’t, what styles appeal to you, what don’t.  There’s a bridge between exposing yourself and copying, of course, but if you are mindful of the gap, you can grow a lot.
The biggest challenge is going against the flow of other readers and editors.  I don’t encourage controversy, but I especially work hard to make sure that if five readers like a piece and one doesn’t, that one reader doesn’t feel pressured into liking the piece.  Because we’re all online and comments/votes by all readers are posted online through Submittable and are visible to all readers, that can be a challenge sometimes.  We’ve gotten more comfortable with each other, though, so I think that we’re more ok with arguing against each other if need be.
  • Where do you see your journal in 10 years?
I don’t think I even know where I want to be in 10 years, much less the journal.  At this point, I see a very clear cut path for my role at the journal through college.  To be honest, I’m in this because of art for art’s sake.  As long as we can keep discovering and publishing good art, I see no reason to change our trajectory.
  • Would you consider aesthetic more important than the content of the magazine, vice versa, or are both equally important to the magazine?
The content shapes the aesthetic, so I think that both are equally important.  As I said above, art for art’s sake.  We want to find good work.  We rarely happen to have a bias, or a certain theme or trajectory in mind.  I think there’s definitely a style of writing we like.  We have always played with the idea of perspective and loneliness.  But we’re out there to discover good writing and good art, so I would probably choose content over aesthetic if I had to go for one.
  • What kind of feedback do you get from your readers? Mostly positive or mostly negative?
We’ve been getting great feedback!  We actually just had a review published by The Review Review, giving us 4/5 stars for our first issue.  We’re shooting for that 5 for next issue, of course :)

Tsay’s optimism shines through with every piece printed in the journal, allowing the works of others to bring us all closer as one, feeling, thinking thing. The journal’s ultimate goal is human connection and I can say for certain that in reading the works published in issues one and two, I have never felt closer to a group of young strangers in my life. I look forward to see what new adventures through the human mind await in their next issue.
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April 20, 2015

A Reflection on Journalism and Feature Writing

By shannonhearn in Feature Story, LRR

There are many different types of story-telling and, while we deal closely with the literary here, a close friend of ours is journalism: the art of reporting and relaying the stories of those around us. In particular, feature writing in journalism. More often than not, when journalists report on a story, an underlying message, lesson, or theme courses through the veins of the story itself (not unlike literature based stories). Therefore, because the stories journalists tell are true, getting the facts of the story is essential to the hearing and the believing of the story and of the message. Quite recently, a reporter failed to do this when covering an incredibly sensitive topic. Some are calling it the worst case of journalism in 2014, others are calling it a devastation to victims of sexual assault and to those working against rape and rape culture.

The article “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Erdely  was published in Rolling Stone magazine in December of last year. In a swiftly evolving series of events, the story unravelled due to large gaps in Erdely’s reporting. In wake of this, the Columbia School of Journalism (an outside resource with no bias) was asked by Rolling Stone to survey the damage. The school investigated and got down to the nitty gritty details of what the magazine did wrong. The result: “Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report” a lengthy article that pores over every step Erdely and her superiors took while selecting and investigating the story, editing the work, and publishing the final document. In the Columbia School of Journalism’s words their analysis and publication became, “An anatomy of a journalistic failure.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 12.40.20 PM

Photo appeared in the article “Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia School of Journalism Report” published on the Rolling Stone website.

For me, as a literary student, the story written by Erdely was intensely horrifying and gripping; however, as a journalism student reading the report, the gaps and failures were glaringly obvious. Reading the report in its entirety succeeded in pointing out some very essential aspects to the journalistic method of story-telling. Please read the full report in the link provided above.

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April 9, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Mika Caldera

By Theresa Kurzawa in Feature Story, Interviews, LRR, Uncategorized

Mika Caldera is an art student at the University of Connecticut who’s piece “Empathy” has previously been featured on the Long River Review Blog. I’m here to go a bit more in depth about the artist, her artwork, and her future projects. I sat down with Mika at the art building to discuss her work with the plan of not having a plan. I figured spontaneity, asking questions from the heart and blurting out whatever nonsense comes to mind first, would reflect a new light on her work.

IMG_2354 (edit) IMG_9581

(Mika Caldera’s “Empathy”)

I walked into her studio at the art building to find her diligently working on a new project. I had spent a while studying her project “Empathy”, examining the words and images and trying to put myself in her mind. Mika is sitting there, cutting up thick paper into 4×4 squares. Each square has the words “I am” written on them in various fonts. Blurting out the first thing that comes to my head, I ask: “Why words?” Mika shrugs her shoulders, not looking up or pausing in her work, and admits: “I have no clue.” She goes on to explain that she likes the way that words can communicate and define feelings. As a writer, this obsession with words makes sense to me.

IMG_2374 (edit)

(Mika at work)

I go on to ask her a question that I, as a wordsmith, cannot quite wrap my head around: “Why did you choose these images to accompany these words? They’re all very current event-type images.”

Mika says, “I was trying to make sure I got pictures from every aspect of life, different cultures, societies, and social classes. I wanted to cover as much of a worldly audience as possible.” What Mika is trying to say with her “Empathy” piece is that emotions are global, universal. They do not belong solely to the poor or the rich, the white or the black, the first world or the third world. Emotions, words, and language belong to everybody. She is fascinated by the way words can be used to explain these intense feelings of anguish, empathy, terror, and so on.

I mention: “That’s very poetic of you.” When I say that, she seems surprised and replied: “No one has ever described that about my work before.” Modest, poetic, and intelligent, Mika’s work is something that she does because she needs to communicate something. She doesn’t do it for fame, or glory, and I can tell that much by the way she responds to my compliment. She creates art because she has something to say and she wants to make sure everybody hears it.

Mika goes on to say that: “I’m fascinated by the way [writers] are able to take words and create something.”

I laugh a little and respond with: “Well, words are just words until you make something out of it.”

Mika becomes very excited here and says: “Oh that’s actually beautiful, I like that. Can you write that down on my table of nonsense?” I look down and on the desk there is what appears to be brown packaging paper but it is covered with various drawings and quotes and other little tidbits.

IMG_2372

(A sample of Mika’s Desk)

Fascinated, I ask her about the drawings on her desk. She goes: “People come in and sit down as lot so I put down this paper and let them scribble on it. Then I collect it. I have three of them already.” I asked her what she planned on doing with it and was met with a shrug and “I don’t know yet” as an answer.

As we chat about classes and other casual topics, I can’t help but watch her as she slides her blade across the graphing outline to cut pieces of paper into equal squares. She continuously pastes on the words “I am” onto these squares, almost as if doing it were second nature to her. Cut, paste, cut, paste, cut paste. Finally, I get up the nerve to ask her: “What are you working on right now?”

She goes on to explain to me that this project is one of her prospective Senior Project ideas. She claims that, at a loss for a senior art project, she is “purging ideas” from her mind in hopes something great will come out. “I’m going to make these cards and mass produce about 100 or 200 of them,” she explains, “I’m going to make these little boxes and put them in categories. One of them is going to be culture, one is going to be emotion, one is identity, and then I’m going to go to a public space and hopefully someone will fill them out for me.”

She goes on: “Not everyone is the same, so some people may be drawn to one font as opposed to another.”

IMG_2373

(Mika’s Current Project)

This prompts the question: “So what do you think about people?”

Mika replies: “I don’t get people. They’re the biggest mystery to me. I don’t get how there are people who are generous and kind and will bend over backwards to help you. Then there are people who kill, and destroy and commit genocide and I’m like ‘what in the world?! How is this possible!?’. Like, how can these people be the same species? They have the same organs, you know, the same everything, but how can they be so different?”

The conversation steers towards us both preferring animals to people, and we come to the conclusion that I would be a cat if I had to be an animal.

I ask her about future projects she has in mind and she holds up several little handwoven books.

IMG_2377  IMG_2378

(Mika’s Future Project)

She tells me that these books are something she wants to pass around to a bunch of people and have them write in them whatever they want, similar to her table of nonsense but more mobile. Then she will collect the books and see that has been written inside. She doesn’t know what she plans on doing after they are collected but, knowing her, I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful.

We finish off with one last question: “What do you think about the future?”

Mika replies: “I guess I’m like, I guess I’m a pessimist. You can’t help but notice the bad things. But, you know, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

We leave off ambiguously, with an uncertain future, but Mika’s work relies on people, both the good and the bad. I’m sure no matter what the future will bring, but I know Mika will be able to turn it into great art.

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March 21, 2015

Artist in the Spotlight: Erika Back

By sofiafilan in Feature Story, Interviews, LRR

This week I’d like to put artist, Erika Back in the Long River Review spotlight. Erika is a senior Design major here at UConn, currently working on her senior project. I had the privilege of seeing her work a few weeks ago when the editors of the Long River Review met with art students from the senior year Design Course.

While studying art at UConn, Erika has taken a particular interest in conceptual art. She values an artist’s ability to create his or her own artistic interpretation of an abstract idea, and this fascination has influenced Erika’s senior project. Erika links conceptual art forms to education reform, and her artwork reflects the idea that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to education. She believes that our current education system denies students the opportunity to discover their innate gifts and perspectives on the world. Instead, students are taught one answer to problems and forget how to look for new solutions. Erika’s project finds a way to re-introduce creative and lateral thinking, and a real passion for learning.

Erika is originally from Toronto, Ontario in Canada, but has spent most of her life in North Haven, CT. She has gone through several types of education systems, both traditional and non-traditional. When Erika was enrolled in a non-traditional education program, she was given the opportunity to explore and research topics of her own choice. Erika studied at an art school in London last winter, and noticed that the way projects were presented in the classroom was similar to her non-traditional elementary school education. She started to think that if she had not switched to the traditional education system, she would have been much further in her own education. Non-traditional education systems allowed Erika to pursue her own interests, instead of being told what subjects to learn. Her senior project focuses on the experiences she has had in the classroom, and the need for students to play and explore in order to discover their full academic potential. The experiences Erika has had in multiple education systems, and her own interest in how people learn and think, has inspired her senior project.

Check out some work from her senior project!

IMG_4378IMG_4373 IMG_4379 IMG_4370

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