Here's a question that's worth considering, if you're ever wondering about the process of R2 or why it is our magazine picks what it does. It's a confusing process to someone not intimately involved in the publication, so let me give you a little insight on what R2's process looks like. Treat this as a little update as to where we are at this point in the semester.
Step 1: Submit - Submit - Submit! The Solicitations Phase
As R2 is a university publication, we operate on the schedule of an academic year; we spend the fall semester preparing for the spring publication and distributing the previous edition of R2. Starting at our Open Mic Night in October, we are open for submissions and accept until mid December. The most important part of this for staff members is the solicitation process: making posters, doing announcements, popping up around campus handing out copies of last year's magazine, and anything else we can think of. As a result, R2 usually has a hefty number of submissions from which we choose.
Step 2: The Big Read
The Big Read is an annual event held on the first Friday of the spring semester and lasting for a number of hours. It's the biggest event of a staff member's time in R2, completely exhausting, and also one of the most exciting days of the year. Over winter break, our section editors, managing editors, and editor-in-chief have gotten to work sorting through some submission, but what makes it to the Big Read are a huge collection of pieces. There, each staff member sits around reading and thinking about what sort of place the pieces they're reading could have in the magazine, doing this until every piece has been read three times. From this process, we get a general opinion - any piece that was somewhat enjoyed by the three readers makes it to section meetings.
Step 3: The Fight Begins
The next step is section meetings: meetings conducted by section editors with the people that read and select for that particular section. Each staff member signs up to read the possible pieces we may publish and leaves comments, and then those comments and any further opinions are discussed in section meetings. And section meetings can go from complete agreement to complete dissent, where a few members of the staff just fell completely in love with this one piece that the other members just aren't getting. The problem is just that every piece that makes it this far is incredibly, incredibly good. And there are a few things we're considering when compiling the magazine: what would make the section fit together as a whole, how much we would potential ask of the writer to adjust (we don't want heavy edits, obviously), and how much the piece stands out and calls to readers. Since the reading experience is so subjective, it can be super hard to come to a decision! But it's in these decisions that our magazine begins to come together and be formed into a real publication.
That's where we are now - making selections and forming a complete magazine. It's a long process to distill the many incredible pieces that were submitted, but we're working hard to produce a magazine that functions as a cohesive unit to showcase some amazing voices on-campus.
Prepare for a follow-up post to this one to show the rest of the publication process! And if you submitted something and don't see it in the end result - don't be discouraged! There are a plethora of incredible voices and pieces in our submission pile that made it a super-long way down the process. It's always possible that a piece we just couldn't fit in one year turns into the standout piece in the next. Producing R2 is a process that's identical to life - timing matters, and art is never standstill.
Written by Erika S.
One of the most in-demand books from the bookshelf in my third grade classroom was a “choose your own adventure” book. It was a tattered baby-blue paperback and we passed it around from kid to kid. You chose a character at the beginning and then followed them through a haunted house story of some sort. The exact twists and turns of the story were chosen by you. Depending on how you chose, you were led to one of several possible endings.
To be entirely honest, this is an authorial recommendation, and an obligation to yourself: One Must Read something by Haruki Murakami in their lifetime. His writing is the type that stays with you days afterward, reminding you of that one really vivid image or strange character or confusing plot point you think might just be allegorical. While I was in Germany this summer, I spent a non-negligible amount of time in English bookstores looking for cheap copies of Murakami. I finally picked up a copy of Kafka on the Shore for about 6 Euros. I could tell by the back cover and the weight of the book in my hand that this was something I wanted to get something out of - and I did. It took me the entirety of fall semester to get through this book, but I was rewarded for my time.
There are a few reasons why I want to push Murakami's books into your life. His work is decked out in both Western and Eastern philosophy, playing out in symbols and conceits that double as rich allusions and explanations of thought. There are so many thoughts from so many reference points that the result is immensely complex and beautiful: see a scene in Kafka on the Shore when a man dressed as Colonel Sanders brings a character to a traditional shrine, quotes some Hegel, and bamfs out. This sort of scene brings me to my second point: Murakami's work is magical realism, and everybody needs to experience some magical realism. Maybe it won’t be your thing; at first, the book wasn’t my thing, either. I wasn’t sure what I understood and what I didn’t, what I was supposed to be confused about and what the semester’s stress was keeping me from getting. About halfway through the book, though, I accepted the absurd happenings of the story; there are fluid and rigid rules to the universe that Murakami plays with, and it’s effective in creating a vivid world ripe with otherworldliness and distance. He manages to keep the reader in his characters heads, exploring the uneven world through their eyes. I really valued the way the story threads started out incredibly separated from one another and then blended together – even the blending is somewhat unexpected.
Long story short, there’s a reason that Murakami is widely regarded for being incredible. His work – even in the translation we English-speakers get – is captivatingly beautiful, sensual, and musical. It’s worth reading. Even if magical realism, converging pairs of strange characters, and layered allusions aren’t your thing, I still recommend stepping into the confused existences that Murakami manages to paint in Kafka on the Shore. Hopefully, you’ll be swept away into the world that isn’t so different from our own, but is just a version painted by brushstrokes of a vitally other existence.
Written by Erika S.
The perspective shared in this blog post is that of the author and not of R2 as an organization. This editorial is covering an event and its meaning and is not meant to further a political platform.
About nine months ago, I purchased what I thought was a rather ironic t-shirt from an online vendor. It was the first political tshirt I’d ever bought, and for the record, it was not very political, and its irony only appears now. I don’t take a stance; all I could take was the opposite of one. IDK NOT TRUMP THO 2016, was the only political slogan I could bear to plaster onto my chest. It was the primaries at the time. Things obviously changed. Still, at the time, I got my absentee ballot and spent a long time in my dorm room with a pen not knowing what to fill out. What I filled out in the end was essentially worthless: it was a little streak of rebellion, a little streak of ink that went on to become 1% - maybe less - of the primary vote in my state. A stance of nothingness.
Today, the English Undergraduate Association at Rice hosted a "Resistance Read-In," an event where any member of the community could read a piece of writing - poetry or prose, original or not - that they thought represented or had come from a people that had not been heard, or a group that were not being listened to. Political stance of the event aside, the key here was being listened to. And it was about something hard: saying no when people either want you to say yes, or don't want you to say anything at all. “Our goal is to fill today with sounds of acceptance and solidarity,” read the signs on all side of Willy’s Statue.
As people walked through the Academic Quad today, passing between their classes as they normally would, there was a surprising amount of silence. Most of the people going about there day were forced to listen to the single voice – cutting and demanding attention, asking to be heard. There’s something about listening that’s hard on this campus. Maybe it’s just the fact that there’s a helicopter landing on a building nearby, churning through the clouds to suck all the words out of the air. Or maybe it’s just the fact that we just don’t try very hard.
The read-in asked for people to say no and for people to listen, but it’s not as those two things always go hand-in-hand. I’ve heard far too many voices saying no so loudly they won’t listen to people saying yes, either. In writing, we can say much, but only some of our voices carry. Some of them are closed in poetry books or wrapped up on the sites we never read. I would argue that some people in this country have gotten used to being invisible and never should have needed to – and if you feel silenced, shout. There’s no need to tear the helicopters out of the sky and smash their pieces on the ground, because if we say listen instead of no, if we make the space and say we're listening, voices will shine out - over the helicopters and over the passerby.
Today, there were a lot of incredible pieces read and a lot of incredible lessons learned. We heard all sorts of voices, some sad, some absolutely elated, and all of those voices are valid. It can be difficult for us to realize that sometimes. Today's read-in was important to a lot of people and an excellent event, because it reminded us of the incredible voices that are out there and the incredible power of the written word - that which makes the air around it still and the people around it listen. I ask you to consider a thought by Jose Marti, read clearly and confidently this morning: that "Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone."
Written by Erika S.
Brazos Bookstore, an independent bookstore located conveniently at the edge of Rice Village, has become my new happy place. From the outside, it looks nondescript, its darkened windows blending seamlessly into the beige strip mall walls. It could be a nail parlor, or a dry cleaner, or a secondhand grocery store. Opening the door, however, you are greeted with bright shelves piled high with books.
Just the aesthetic appeal of a sunlit room wallpapered with colorful book sides is enough to make my day, but Brazos has much more. It’s a small bookstore, only a single room, but it makes the most out of the space, keeping few duplicates on hand and cramming every surface with more books. The wide selection is supplemented by the handwritten staff recommendation cards dotting the walls. I can enter the store with no sense of direction, read a few blurbs, and come away with a new stack of books I want to read. The staff members themselves are some of the greatest resources Brazos has to offer. They are well read and extremely helpful. Each writes articles for the bookstore’s website, populating it with reviews and interviews. The Brazos Bookstore staff also host events for fellow literature lovers, from book clubs to signings to readings, including their upcoming hosting of Zadie Smith.
Overall, Brazos Bookstore is more than a store. It’s a place where a small community of Houston readers can gather to celebrate books, and I highly recommend making the trek out to Bissonnet Street to experience it.
Written by Emma E.
For more information on Brazos, visit their website: http://www.brazosbookstore.com/ or go visit them!
Another year and another semester have begun, bringing with them the usual battery of stress, mayhem, and occasional delight as we all transition into 2017. I personally believe that the best way to cushion such transitions is with a great book, and to that end I’d like to tell you guys about The Paper Menagerie.
Published in 2011 by author Ken Liu, this book generated a veritable storm of critical praise. It won two of the biggest awards in Science Fiction, the Hugo and the Nebula. I picked it up on a whim at my local bookstore this holiday (why is it that all of the really Earth-shattering books come to us by chance?) and it completely consumed my life in the best possible way.
The Paper Menagerie is a collection of fifteen short stories about life, science, and human connection. Like many great works of speculative fiction, it strikes out to the boundary dividing science and technology from spirituality and fantasy, blurring the distinctions to render a reality that is gritty, charming, often strange, and resoundingly human. Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a Sci-Fi fan, I can confidently say that there is something in these stories for you.
Although the collection as a whole is basically flawless, I had some stand-out favorites. There is pure hard-boiled goodness with a sharp techno-thriller twist in “The Regular”, which chronicles the efforts of a world-weary private investigator with a haunted past who will stop at nothing to bring justice to the victim of a brutal but publicly ignored murder. “State Change” switches gears to magic realism, portraying a society in which human beings carry their souls with them through life as physical objects that must be guarded and protected; in this harrowing world, a timid young woman seeks out warmth and companionship while straining to preserve her ice-cube soul. And in “The Waves," the ultimate fate of the human race is laid out poetically in an epic saga of deep-space exploration that challenges the meaning of human identity and love in the face of cosmic eternity.
It’s a truly beautiful collection that celebrates culture, history, science, and pretty much everything that makes life meaningful. If you do decide to pick up a copy of this wonderful book (I would offer up mine, but it’s already out on loan) feel free to hunt me down and tell me your favorites, too.
Written by Cara B.
Happy Holidays! With second semester just starting a few days ago, it feels like everything went from a calm and happy new year’s to the panic of the semester, and it can be easy to want to push things off...especially forming new habits. But starting from the very beginning is exactly how a trend in behavior becomes a routine. If you're interested in upping your writing game in 2017, here are a few tips and routines for you to consider getting into this year.
Maybe this is an obvious one, but it's challenging to find time to read for fun in college. I mean, you're already reading two novels a week for your two English classes, and there's your chemistry textbook, and there's those articles for sociology, and why would you want to read after that again? But reading really is the best way to get better at writing, and picking what you read feels like a little dash of freedom. But it has to be a routine. So, if you want to really read more books, treat it like a daily/weekly challenge: read 30 minutes of a novel, or 2 poems by a new poet, or one creative non-fiction essay.
2. Give yourself deadlines.
I’m one of those people who started making time for writing early in my life (good job, past self), but I still accomplish the most work (and sometimes the best work) when I set deadlines for myself that I treat like normal school deadlines. Add “Write 500 words about protagonist” or “Go to a coffee shop and write” to your to-do list, and then make sure you check it off! If you’re one of those people who have trouble meeting deadlines or goals you set for yourself, get your friends involved. (My roommate just got an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas, so I’ve been considering having Alexa yell at me about my deadlines, so there's a protip also.)
3. Engage with a new form.
This is a pretty easy one to do, because it can be a lot more fun and less of a routine than the other suggestions I've given. In my opinion, any sort of art can inform your writing, no matter what it is, and it gives you a better appreciation of what the written word can accomplish when you compare it with something else. If you’ve never read a graphic novel, go read one. If you’ve never listened to a podcast that tells a story, go listen to one. If you’ve never watched K-Drama, go watch one. It’s important to engage with the type of writing you want to be doing, but you can also learn a lot from the expectations and warping of expectations that happen in other forms of media.
4. Sharing is daring!
“When are we going to read your poetry?” asked your great-uncle from Oregon over break. If you’re like me, you’ve probably stuttered something along the lines of “Well you see I’m working on something but I don’t really like it and uh I’ll it’ll be uh yeah when I’m ready, when I polish it more, then you can read it.” Maybe you don’t have to share your precious soul-space with Great Uncle Freddy, but getting feedback from a friend, or a classmate, or your Tumblr followers can be extremely helpful, and everyone should practice doing it if you're serious about writing. It tells you what is working and what still has yet to work, which we as writers can't always see on our own. Plus, the more you share things by your own volition, the easier it gets when you have to.
There are lots of possible things you can do to better your writing life in 2017, and if these aren't doing it for you, there are so many people on the internet that are doing the same thing this blog post just did. Whatever your new year's writing resolution is, good luck!!
Written by Erika S.
I share my body with an angel / of light who sunbursts / on my horizons at dusk
- Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton