Middle Schoolers Plan to Restart Literary Magazine


Left to Right: Ismini Vasiloglou, Reese Gyovai, Emma Stamps Image Credit: Tina McCormick

Finally, after six years, a literary magazine will be returning to the Middle School. The Westminster Middle School last had a creative writing magazine in 2016. However, it was not the faculty of the school who had the inspiration to restart it, but a group of current 8th graders. 8th grader Ismini Vasiloglou first came up with the idea for the restart after observing that the Middle School places more attention on STEM-related programs than programs with creative writing. “I noticed that there was a lot of focus on math and science at this school and there is not a lot of focus on creative writing,” Vasiloglou states, “and I just wanted to make a safe place for people to share their love of writing.”

Although restarting the magazine is exciting, what happened to the old Middle School magazine, Cat-a-Log? In 2016, the Middle School administration and English Department decided to move the magazine online, dooming the readership to steadily decline. English teacher Lauren Davis, the faculty sponsor for the new literary magazine, saw the downfall of the Cat-a-Log as a situation where the students forgot about the magazine’s release since they didn’t have a physical copy of the magazine. “I think it was sort of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind sort of situation. Where we use to [print the magazines] at the Cat-a-log, it was sort of a big fun day when the magazines would come in from the publisher and we passed them out to everyone,” Davis explains. “When we didn’t have that tangible magazine, it sort of just kind of died off, and then of course with COVID it was just put on a back-burner.” 

The new creative writing magazine will not pick up in the same place that the Cat-a-Log ended, as the staff has decided to only use Cat-a-Log as a reference from the past. For instance, the new literary magazine might not even have one major component of the Cat-a-Log—visual artwork made by students. At this point, the 8th graders and Davis have been leaning towards only having writing in the magazine, whereas the Cat-a-Log had a mix of visual artwork and creative writing pieces. However, Davis also knows that students with a passion for visual art do not have anywhere in our Middle School to get their work seen. “The art is certainly interesting to look and it’s a great outlet for art students as well,” Davis comments. “So I would not be opposed to having art this year. I think it just kind of depends on what we feel capable of in our first year back at it.”

The magazine wants to feature writing with a wide range of representation from all grades in the Middle School, as well as possibly having a spotlight section for faculty works. The magazine is open to accepting any appropriate submissions, with the only limit being the length of the piece. “Anything and everything students have written is welcome. I think that obviously, the only thing we will be bound by is the length of submissions,” Davis starts. “I don’t think we will be likely to have a collection of super long pieces in the magazine and that will only be because we want to give as many students as want a spot in the magazine, a place to share their work.”

Starting a publication takes more than just collecting submissions; to create a magazine the staff also needs a layout, an editing process, and more. Luckily, the Middle School students who have restarted the magazine have already met or are planning to meet with staff from the Upper School literary magazines—Evolutions and Embryo. Davis notes that the Upper School students’ tips will help the magazine much more than the Cat-a-Log’s old faculty sponsors because they also have a student perspective. “I think that more than any faculty sponsor, the Upper School students can do an even better job with our 8th-grade students and anyone else who wants to join, to give them just the student perspective which is a little bit more relevant than the faculty perspective,” Davis explains. Thankfully for the Upper School students, the Middle Schoolers and Davis, who are working on the magazine, meet every other Monday morning at 7:15 before any classes start.

Currently, in these magazine meetings, the editors are in the planning stages of making the creative writing magazine, yet already the staff anticipates that restarting the publication will take until the end of the school year for the first issue to be released. Davis explained that creating a literary magazine is a long process because members creating the publication have to advertise for the magazine, take in submissions, create the layout of the magazine, send the final version off to the printer, get copies of the magazine back, and give the Middle Schoolers time to thoroughly enjoy reading the literary magazine. She also adds that the process will take even longer because the staff can only meet before school to work on the creative writing magazine. “It really did take the whole school year, given that we don’t meet during club times, you know we are meeting outside of school hours and so it takes some time,” Davis states. “And I think we are going to feel accomplished if we can just get the one magazine out in the spring.”

Already students have expressed interest in submitting their works to the magazine, including 7th grader Ansley Fiftal, even though their works would not be seen until the spring semester of the ‘22-’23 school year. Davis is also excited for the students who will get to see their writing in print and have their voices heard outside of a class assignment. “And there is something exciting in seeing your name in print and getting a chance to just have your voice heard, outside of the school, you know a class assignment,” Davis says. “So I could not be more thrilled that it’s going again.”

(Disclosure: story writer Emma Stamps is one of the students behind the restart effort.)