Rebecca Salsman: Watching Chaos Turn Into Beauty: Looking Through the Eyes of a Student Editor

My experience as a student editor required 180 hours of work in 3 months and endless tasks I never thought I would perform. When I started the process I somehow thought it would be like proofing my college paper. I assumed I would be moving some commas and turning “to” into “too.” Turns out I was wrong. 

As the Senior Editor of Tidal Echoes, the University of Alaska Southeast’s Literary and Arts Journal, I have learned about every facet of writing. The journal accepts submissions from anyone living in Southeast Alaska and is made up of at least 25% student work. 
Two students and a faculty member edit the pieces to create a published journal. We received over 350 submissions this year, our highest number yet. That created a manuscript the size of a decent novel that had to be cut down to 120 pages including all of the front matter and biographies. It seemed daunting for 3 people and a small editorial board. 

Thankfully, I discovered through editing that writing is built from a community. Putting together the journal took so much more then our small group. When I first became an English major I was terrified by the thought of entering into a cutthroat profession. I envisioned something similar to the journalists in Spiderman always trying to outdo each other. But again, it turns out I was wrong. 

UAS staff and faculty sacrificed time and energy by reading anonymous copies of the journal and scoring them. There were several moments I was close to tears because I felt inadequate, but the writing staff from UAS never ceased to encourage me at the right moments. 

I could go on for a while about all the ways I have seen people help and share their love for writing. It wasn’t just people who loved writing that got involved in the journal. We had a gracious graphic designer that took the time to really care about details by turning pages of text into a completed book. Also, the company that printed our book, Alaska Litho, took this little old student into the printing room and explained the whole process in detail during an hour long tour. 

What have I taken away from my internship? Don’t be afraid to have company along the journey. Before becoming the Tidal Echoes editor I was a one-man show. No matter how big the task I was determined to finish it alone. I have learned that more brains brings more creativity. There are so many people out there who care about what I, and other writers, are creating. We need one another for stories, to build up our areas of our weakness, and to be involved in the community.

If I could urge writers, and others involved in the arts, to remember one thing it would be to create a neighborhood of like-minded people by being involved. All of the pieces in Tidal Echoes are beautiful. But as a whole, the journal has been taken from a few unrelated stories and moved into a collection of art that is unique to Southeast Alaska. Because people submitted, volunteers dedicated time, and the staff worked hard the journal became a community in itself, one voice with many unique tones and features.

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