14 Dec 2013
Community Work Reflections
The work that I undertook this semester was at first a very intimidating prospect, even though I was working with one of the teacher's who helped shape me the most as both a writer and aspiring educator. Tom Zimmerman is the Director of the Washtenaw Community College Writing Center. Along with this, he also teaches English classes, goes to school at Eastern Michigan, and runs both the poetry club of WCC and its literary journals. His dedication to WCC is what made me want to work for him. I extended my ability as professional editor, having been an English tutor for four years, to help him craft the WCC's literary journals in whatever way I could help.
His faith in me as a writer and reader put a lot of pressure on me. There was not a tremendous amount of guidance in putting this zine together. Mostly, I learned through trial and error and the minimal amount of time that me and Tom spent together because of our busy schedules. He had faith in my ability to make a zine through every step of the processes. I had an idea from the get go about doing class room visits that were a little unorthodox. Since I've worked at WCC for four years, I've gotten to know the English staff quite well and I relied on them to get a majority of the submissions for the zine. So, I would go to the class like how most class visits start—I would introduce myself, the journals that WCC offers, the submission processes, the types of submissions taken, and then do read a poem or two of mine that had been published in back catalogs. Normally, this is where you would leave a class visit when patronizing for submissions, but in fact, I chose to stay (as long as the teacher approved of it). Since the classes I was visiting were mostly introductory creative writing classes, I would finish my bit and then stay for the rest of the class as students would present their work for a group critique. This gave me a chance to connect to the writers at WCC in a special way that isn't normally used when trying to get people to submit their writing for a publication. I connected with them, offered suggestions, and admired their work. I could tell I made an impact because as I was leaving the class, the many of the students thanked me for my thoughts on their work and also conversed about submitting something for WCC's publicaitons.
Another facet of the work that I did for Tom involved trying to get money allotted for both of the schools literary journal to be applied for a limited print copy of The Big Windows Review, which up until now, had been an entirely online journal. This involved setting up a meeting with the head of the English department, Kerry Krantz, and discussing with her whether or not the small amount needed for this print would be allocated. After meeting with her, she seemed happy to make a little room in the budget for the publication by offsetting the costs onto next year's publications—looks like it's back to e-journals. However, I was proud to advocate for a small journal and I was happy to see so many of the students at WCC get a chance to see their work in a smaller publication and have a chance to read it at an open mic. I saw many of the faces that I had seen earlier in the class visits and I knew that my approach in looking for submissions was at least some what successful.
In the spirit of learning, I also put together the entire zine myself (with some technical assistance from Tom). He instructed me to use Microsoft Publisher as the program for organization because it offers a level of control that is necessary when altering line breaks in longer submissions. This became apparently useful when dealing with some of the poems with very long lines. I felt strange cutting and splicing another writer's work (although it was not much different than the textual treatments we discussed in class) and I wondered if my stylistic choice on line breaks where noticeable or perhaps against the writer's wishes for how they want their work to appear. This part of my community participation also caused me the most frustration. The processes for aggregating the work and formatting it was very tedious. Also, copy editing can be a bit of pain when there are a lot of submissions. And of course, thanks to the many failures of technology, two hours of work was somehow obliterated off of the computer because of some kind of computer glitch and I had to start over from the very beginning. Although I was frustrated, I was under a deadline for getting the journal published so that it could be handed out at the reading. I worked over my frustration and delivered an even better zine to Tom than I could have ever hoped for.
After completing the zine, Tom took over and printed it for me through his connections with the school and delivered me a large stack of bright orange Big Windows Reviews. I felt so relieved to have it done and all within a few days of the reading. Now, I had to organize the open mic. As for a feature, I went with my brother Mike, author of The Ill Lad and The Odd Emcee, and upcoming singer/songwriter. I chose him because, well, I'm a broke college student and can't afford to pay someone to read. However, I knew that his performative style would draw a crowd and fill in seats for what might have been a smallish reading because of the nature of the publication. This was probably the most boring part of the whole experience. I don't really like setting up chairs, or microphones, or amps. And I really don't like having to put all of that away. However, the reading itself was a great way to cut loose and relax as most of my time commitment was completed by then. I read a short piece which I included in the book, Mike did a set of songs and poems, and all most everyone published in the Big Windows Review read a selection of their work.
In consideration with what my time here at Eastern has been like, and specifically the creative writing department, I found that this class, my volunteer work, and my group project have been a tremendously helpful experience in understanding where I fit in with the world of writing, teaching, reading and artistic expression. The work I did on this publication has shown me that I have a passion for putting work together in a creative way, which also coincides with my interest in the work we did with the textual treatment. I really have been craving for something other than just writing to express my fixation within writing and the community of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti. This experience, and the community collaborations class as a whole, has been a fascinating and enlightening experience in regards to expanding my ability as a writer and participant in the writing community. I believe that working on something as removed from the actual writing processes as being a editor for a journal has taught me that fullfilment in writing is a). an extension of being fulfilled in a communal sense and b). a collaborative effort that supports itself through cooperation and dedication.
This was also a great multimedia experience that I wasn't entirely prepared for. Having never constructed a document outside of Microsoft Word, learning how to organize text and images into a readable document was a very rewarding process. I'm now considering taking some visual art classes to supplement what I've learned so far about constructing images and text in a digestible format.
On a final note, I think that this has been a very positive experience for me and I would recommend this class to anyone who thinks they want to be in the writing community, but doesn't know where they fit. It provided me with a sense of fulfillment that has long been missing from both my personal writing and reading.