I sent out the text message to the team after the delivery. “It’s here!”
Very soon, my small office of bookshelves and an oversized desk was flooded with six students whom I had been working with day and night, seven days a week, for the previous two months. They each showed their excitement differently. One stood still, but jumped up and down gently on her heels. Another student repeatedly ran out into the hallway, jogged in a quick circle, and then returned through the doorway. Yet still another student stood absolutely rigid, his mouth agape, not believing that the moment had finally arrived.
Then, I reached my hand into a cardboard box and revealed a book, their book, our book. I held it in my open palm as if it were a holy relic. The cover shimmered in the overhead light. The students spoke. “Wow.” “It’s better than I imagined!” The student who ran in circles chirped with joy.
I handed each of them a copy. The last student to receive one shook a little, as if in shock. He seemed to jump inside the book as he flipped through the pages, his head of curly brown hair shifting in the excitement. When he found his story he raised his head, his eyes beginning to well with tears behind his glasses. “I always dreamed of publishing my writing, and, here it is. It’s here.”
This is Horizons, Waubonsee’s literary magazine. Every year, students from the Creative Writing Club put in hundreds of hours of work soliciting submissions, reading through slush piles, copy editing, designing proofs, and coordinating marketing campaigns to make this moment possible. At first glance, the magazine is just a book, a collection of words like those we see every day, filled with student writing and artwork. But, it is really a community, a group of people finding their way with words and grit.
For many of the students, this book is the first tangible example of their art. It stands as proof that accomplishments are real and whets their appetites for future success. This year’s students have big plans. They are all writers, but there is also a future graphic designer, filmmaker, psychologist, and one even plans to open his own publishing house. Students who have experienced the ritual I describe here have gone on to start publications of their own, become librarians, pursue careers in writing, and develop international alumni relations in the Ivy League.
The experience of working together throughout the year in the Creative Writing Club – running writing contests and open mic fundraisers, holding write-ins, sharing creative work, and traveling to a national conference – creates a community that builds from year-to-year and that will continue for long after they leave Waubonsee.
Some of the students from this year’s magazine will move on to their next project in life next year. Some of them will stay on and become the roots that will sprout another magazine next spring.
Our students come to us chained to the burdens society and life have given them, but it is through work like this, where students not only see their own potential but create it with their very own hands, that they become free to mold their futures as they would craft them.
Once you have a copy of this year’s Horizons, or any issue, please read it, enjoy it, start a collection on your bookshelf.
Be sure to visit our website waubonsee.edu/horizons to keep up to date with events, read back issues, submit writing for consideration, and learn more about the Creative Writing Club that meets every Wednesday in the fall and spring semesters from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Student Life Office on the Sugar Grove Campus. I hope to see you there.
• Dan Portincaso, is an associate professor of English at Waubonsee Community College.