The Oakland Review publishes the best undergraduate writing on our campus. Or so we claim.
Every spring, The Oakland Review, or OR, publishes a journal of undergraduate prose, poetry, and art. The journal has a spine and usually a matte cover with a neat photograph. Our staff distributes it throughout campus, and we hope that people pick it up, read it, and take note of the insert that encourages people to submit next year.
Now, our staff does not boast any math or statistics majors. We don’t track the type of people who submit. We read submissions blindly, which means there are no names on any of the pieces we read.
And yet, we have a sense that the best work isn’t being submitted. Most of our board members are writing majors, and take workshops with some of this university’s most gifted writers. But we’re not seeing those amazing poems or stories or personal essays being submitted to the journal.
Granted, we get some outstanding work. I don’t want to discount anything that OR has published. But I know there’s more out there. I know because I’ve been taking creative writing classes since my freshman year and working on the journal for the same amount of time. There are a lot of great writers on our campus. And they aren’t submitting. I’m not sure why. I can only hazard a few guesses.
Perhaps people see the journal as judgmental — which I can’t argue with, as it is our job to judge the work. Perhaps people are afraid to submit, fearing rejection — another point I can’t argue with, as we have to reject something. Perhaps people aren’t aware of the journal — a legitimate claim, considering our marketing is often limited to art and writing departments.
I just made the perfect case for why students wouldn’t submit. But here’s the catch: The staff is a diverse group of people that’s devoted to creating a literary community at a school that is most prominently known for its technology and fine arts. But we can’t do this unless we receive fantastic work.
In addition to the community that our staff creates, the journal itself creates a community. The names of writers sit in a column on one of the first pages — and while some of the writers have never met each other, there’s something wonderful about the community that’s created within the journal’s pages.
So the next time our submission deadline comes around (usually in mid-February), gather up your courage, dismiss the idea of rejection, and send us your best work.