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MSU-Billings literary magazine gets new life
MSU-Billings literary magazine gets new life

After a year's hiatus, Montana State University-Billings' student literary magazine, The Rook, is back in action.

Headed by Editor-in-chief Amber Harris — who graduated from MSU-B in December — the 60-plus page magazine features poetry, short stories and art from MSU-B students.

"We had some setbacks with forming an editing board and I guess funding as well," Harris said. "This edition has submissions accepted from both this year and last year."

A new aspect of The Rook this year is the Web site, www.msubillings.edu/the rook, where all the pieces featured in the magazine can be viewed online. The Web site was set up by Matthew Senn, who did the layout for the magazine as well.

"My job prior to going back to school was webmastering for a place in Spokane," Senn said. "So the book — the whole thing is online. It gives the school and the book a little bit more exposure, as well as the writers. That's the most important thing. We're trying to market them online."

As well, The Rook is now open to submissions from alumni of MSU-B, not just current students.

The reason, according to Harris, is "to open up the pool to get a wider range of submissions. There's faculty and staff at the school that graduated from MSU-B, so that only seemed fair."

After last year's delayed publication, this year's editorial board — which also includes Michael Sarabia, Alison Colgan and Abram Graham — went before the MSU-B Senate to plead their case.

"We had to go to the Senate with all the setbacks," Harris said. "It was hard, none of us had done it before. Once we explained the setbacks, they were very supportive. We're building a legacy for future editing boards and that's what the Senate likes to see."

Previous editors had to learn about running a literary magazine as they went. This year's staff hopes to help in the process.

Making the transition more convenient is the return of all the editors except Harris. Graham will be stepping up to bat as the new editor-in-chief. He was in charge of deciding the order of the pieces in the journal.

While previous years featured the writers in alphabetical order and much of the art in the middle of the book, the editors chose a theme-oriented flow for this edition.

"I laid it out by subject matter and art," Graham said. "I didn't want to separate submissions from this year and last year. They're all just submissions."

With an acceptance limit of four pieces per person, the editors found they often had to pick the strongest submissions from a group. In past years, many authors and artists had four pieces in The Rook, but this year, there are more artists with less featured work.

"We were very conscious of having the editing board not be over-represented as it perhaps had been in past years," Harris said. "We wanted the school to respect The Rook as a fair publication."

With all submissions anonymous, the editors have "been really lucky — we got submissions from all majors," according to Graham, rather than just from a few writers and artists.

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Since all submissions are sent in on the whim of the contributors, the editors are never sure what type of work the magazine will feature.

"That's kind of the fun thing," Harris said. "We don't have a set idea of what we're going to run in the next issue. We're pretty much open-minded about subject matter and style."

Next year, the editorial board plans to have a reading period between October and February. Any MSU-B student or alumni can submit during that time.

"We're trying to get The Rook more exposed so people want to join instead of having to seek them out," Harris said. "It's important to get new blood in and give them the experience."

The Rook faced an additional change this year, with its cover price rising from $4 to $5, at the request of the MSU-B Senate. Graham points out, "It is a double issue," and that "even at $5, we're still nonprofit."

Harris doesn't think the price increase has done any damage.

"I don't think it's made the slightest difference," she said. "Those that are interested in the arts and the campus will pay $5 or $3."

The Rook is available at Hastings, Barjon's and MSU-B Book Depot.

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