Outlets for many different interests exist on Northwestern’s campus, from sporting events and plays, to band and choir concerts or even art exhibits. However, what about writing outlets? How can students who’ve aspired to be writers throughout childhood show their skills? How many shorts stories or poems are whipped off for classes every semester, only to sit and rot on hard drives? NW’s literary journal, Spectrum allows students to share their fervor for writing with others.
Spectrum accepts works of short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and artwork of all kinds. Selected pieces are printed in a free anthology to be launched at an awards ceremony in the last two weeks of April. A professional author judges the accepted works and selects first through third place awards, which will receive comments from the judge in addition to monetary prizes.
This year’s judge is Kate Brauning, Sioux Center author of How We Fall, a young adult romance and mystery novel which came out in November 2014. Brauning also works as an editor with Entangled Publishing in addition to editing freelance.
While what she looks for in a piece varies depending on the type of writing, Brauning said, “It all boils down to giving the reader an experience through language or an idea or a character, transporting them to someone else’s life experience. The power of writing is being able to hand someone else an experience that they might have no other way to have themselves.”
The NW literary journal often encourages submissions from students in many different disciplines, not just the English department. For Brauning, that is an important component of a literary journal.
“I have writer friends who are engineers, I have a critique partner who’s getting a Ph.D. in physics,” Brauning said. “Those diverse backgrounds are part of what brings us new and different voices.”
This desire for diversity is not limited to receiving works from a wide range of majors. According to its website, one of Spectrum’s goals (and the origin of the name) is to showcase writers who “vividly reflect any aspect of God’s creation—the full spectrum.” That means no subject or style is off-limits, though “work that is gratuitously obscene or that has a message in clear contradiction with scripture will likely not be considered.”
This theme connects strongly with Brauning’s novel, How We Fall, which explores the culture surrounding taboos and how we react to them as a society.
“It’s important to me that writers tackle difficult and often dark topics because story is all about conflict. The Bible is all about conflict,” Brauning said. “A good story comes down to someone dealing with something difficult, and how they do or don’t deal with it, and how they can or can’t conquer it. The more difficult what they’re going through is, the more you see their character develop, and the more truth comes out of it.”
Brauning finds that the energy of literature stems from new writers.
“The industry really needs young writers and it will stagnate without them,” Brauning said. “We have John Green, we have Gillian Flynn. We need new voices, new angles on tough stories. And new writers are the people who are going to bring these new voices.”
The last day to online submit to Spectrum Feb. 2 and submission guidelines are available at nwcspectrum.com. Past editions of Spectrum are available for free in Kepp Hall.