Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Stillwater Magazine continues to showcase the talent and diversity of Ithaca College students through original prose, poetry, nonfiction essays, art and photography with the launch of its online publication.
The Department of Writing’s annual literary and art magazine will host a virtual launch party of Issue No. 59 at 6 p.m. July 24 on Zoom. The magazine was originally planned to be physically published at the end of the spring semester, but the virtual celebration will still showcase the work of Ithaca College students — now adjusted to an online format because of the coronavirus pandemic.
When the magazine lost its printing funds through the Department of Writing after the college transitioned to remote learning in March, rising senior Jackson Short, co-editor in chief and managing editor of the magazine, said that publishing the latest issue of Stillwater Magazine completely online was the best option to ensure that the quality of the publication would remain intact.
“We were also aware that many of our contributors and staff would have graduated by the time we were able to see it in print,” Short said. “Going completely online seemed like a good financial option, but also a great opportunity to think through a new phase of Stillwater.”
When the coronavirus pandemic disrupted life on campus, the Stillwater editorial board went from collaborating in a single room to working remotely, a move that made them lose their sense of community, said Tara Eng ’20, co-editor in chief and creative director of Stillwater.
“I certainly took for granted how uplifting it was to be with other writers in the same space,” Eng said. “When we’re all in one room, there aren’t two people who think alike. … It’s amazing to me that so many minds can come together to shape and craft a shared vision. … We lost a lot of that when the college moved to remote instruction at the end of last semester.”
The virtual event will consist of readings from the writers and presentations from the visual artists. Rising junior Mae McDermott, deputy editor of the magazine, said that digital or in person, the aim of the magazine’s launch party is to celebrate the efforts of the staff and share meaningful art with the community.
“I’ve found that virtual events have limits, but they also have advantages, the primary one being that they are more shareable and accessible,” McDermott said. “That’s just what Stillwater hopes to achieve. We want to share things that matter, share the art that moves us and feels important emotionally, politically and creatively.”
The launch of Issue No. 59 will begin with a weeklong teaser on the magazine’s Facebook and Instagram from July 20 to 23 in which glimpses of the issue will be shared.
The over 20 pieces in this year’s publication had already been selected before the switch to online classes. Unlike if the magazine had been published physically, the online publication allows for the writers’ works to be published in their full length now that they are not limited by a page count.
Short said that the themes of Stillwater change every year, as the aesthetic of the book, layout and structure are designed around the submissions.
“I have said since freshman year that Stillwater is ‘still’ only in name,” Short said. “It’s actually a great reflection of all of the artistic ripples that occur on campus, reflecting the aesthetics, metaphors and rhythms that we are experiencing every day.”
This year’s theme is identity, something that Senior Nonfiction Editor Rebecca Brutus ’20 said that she hopes all readers will be able to relate to while reading the magazine.
“I’ve found that a lot of the work in this year’s Stillwater has to do with identity, how we quantify ourselves, how other people shape our perceptions of each other and what it means to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” Brutus said. “I think that the work in Stillwater’s upcoming issue will make readers feel comforted, nostalgic and a sense of togetherness. If nothing else, I hope readers remember that they are not alone.”
Meredith Nash ’20 said that the poem she submitted to the magazine grapples with issues she had when coming out to her father.
“My therapist told me to associate my feelings with colors,” she said. “Therefore they might be easier to understand or break down. So for each color, I started writing a poem or vignette about that feeling and what it reminded me of, the pain or ease I felt. It also just happens to be all the colors of the rainbow signifying pride for the underlying themes of queerness.”
Nash said that she was disappointed that there wouldn’t be a physical copy of the magazine published, especially because being published in Stillwater was a goal she had been working toward since freshman year.
“Sometimes, we put our worth as writers into who or what wants to publish us,” Nash said. “Frankly, since this was my last year, I was considering not submitting. But I did, and I got in. If anything, being a part of this edition of Stillwater has taught me to never give up. Don’t stop trying. Someone will notice your talent, bravery and creativity.”
For many seniors like Eng, her final year at the college ended abruptly. She said the virtual launch party creates a sense of closure for her.
“The launch party has always felt like a celebration of the work each and every one of us have put in as writers, artists, editors and students and to mark the end of another year,” she said.