Magnolia Debuts First Digital-Only Edition

by Tim Fox

The common thinking about COVID-19 is that it has forced a “new” world on us, but in many ways, it’s sped up a world that was already on its way.

Magnolia, Maryville University’s annual student-produced art and literary publication, is a perfect example.

Months before COVID-19, Germaine Murray, PhD, professor of English, the publication’s faculty adviser, had launched an initiative to develop an online version of Magnolia.

“We wanted to provide a forum for works that are impossible to produce in print,” Murray said. “Online, we can share performances, music, films, animation, sound files, interior design plans and more. Many students prefer the print version, and we plan to keep it in the future, but the online publication provides opportunities for both our artists on campus and our students who lead creative lives.”

Murray’s vision paid off. When COVID-19 hit in the spring, the publication’s nine-person staff couldn’t complete the face-to-face work of reviewing 50–60 submissions, meeting with printers and laying out a print edition. As a result, the Spring 2020 issue will be Magnolia’s first-ever all-digital publication.

“Our graphic designers, led by Anna Kane, and the magazine’s editors, Jayne Macke and Kayla Danielson, selected the platform,” Murray said. “It was not easy. The students had to compare a variety of platforms for ease of functionality and other issues. Ultimately, they selected Wix, because it makes it easy to hand off as the staff changes every year. The entire process was highly professionalized. Our printer for the physical magazine, Modern Litho, often comments on the students’ professionalism and publication knowledge.”

In addition to designing the site, Kane contributed original artwork for the magazine’s cover and landing page while reviewing the photography, art and music submissions. Danielson and Macke shared responsibilities with staff members for the writing submissions. Everything Magnolia publishes is 100% student, alumni or faculty produced.

“Peter Henderson, artist-in-residence and associate professor of music, submitted a wonderful musical score,” Kane said. “He obviously wouldn’t have been able to do that with a print publication.”

Macke, who hopes to be editor-in-chief for the 2021 Magnolia, will have a poem in this year’s online-only publication. She also writes short stories that merge fantasy and realism, and she dreams of publishing a novel someday. But she also values the hands-on experience she has gained in her first two years of working on Magnolia.

“It will be very helpful as I pursue a dream career that combines writing and editing with time to focus on my personal writing,” she said. “I would love to continue working on projects similar to what I have done with Magnolia that involve the publication process.”

Danielson already plans to build on her Magnolia experience when she begins graduate work in English literature at the University of Missouri-St. Louis this fall.

“My time at Magnolia helped me learn how to work with publishers and graphic design teams,” Danielson said. “I am so grateful that Maryville provides this opportunity to work with people from different academic areas to create something magical, regardless of the format.”

Click here to view the first-ever digital-only edition of Magnolia.

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