Students share submissions, look ahead at the literary journal’s future

GVL/Bo Anderson

Kathryn Willis

Bo Anderson

GVL/Bo Anderson Kathryn Willis

Stacy Sabaitis

Kathryn Willis, a senior at Grand Valley State University and editor-in-chief of fishladder, has been on the staff of the student literary magazine since her freshman year. And even though she will be leaving, Willis knows the magazine will continue to move in a positive direction.

The tenth edition of the student-produced journal was revealed during a reading and reception Friday night in Lake Ontario Hall. Attendees mingled, enjoyed appetizers and listened to readings by students who have work published in the 2013 edition.

“It’s gonna be really bittersweet to open the box and say goodbye because I, I really love fishladder, I really love it, and I know it’s in good hands,” Willis said. “I know it’s in good hands. We’ve made a lot of changes this year, which the adaptations, they’ll, like, they’ll only get better with time. They will only be more and more perfected as the years go by.”

This year, the staff worked on condensing the journal’s three websites into only two, created the first fishladder t-shirts, supported the Writing Across Campus event, and joined social media with a Facebook page.

Attendees waited, eagerly anticipating the final product’s reveal. Even Willis said she was excited to see the final product, even though she knew what it was going to look like.

“I mean, finally getting to touch the magazine when it comes out of the box…I of course, I know what’s in it, I’ve seen the cover, it’s not gonna be a surprise—but every other year it’s been a surprise, so that’s gonna be the best part,” Willis said.

Working on the magazine for four years, Willis said it has given her the skills she needs for graduate school and for a future career.

“Having the opportunity to work on a publication and getting involved in the editing process, I saw it as a really great opportunity to learn more…I guess I wasn’t really thinking about being more marketable for graduate schools at the time, it was just something really cool to do,” she said.

Each fall, fishladder receives submissions in categories including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photographs and art pieces. Staff readers and section editors then decide what pieces are the best for the new publication.

Caitlin Horrocks, associate professor of writing and faculty adviser for the magazine, encourages students to submit every year, even if their piece isn’t picked. Students shouldn’t be discouraged if their work doesn’t make it into the magazine, she said.

“We want everyone to submit, and we really enjoy reading everybody’s work, but we’re not able to publish everything,” Horrocks said.

While some students are hesitant to submit, Horrocks said rejection is normal for a writer.

“Plenty of the people who are published in the magazine have submitted other pieces that were not accepted and that is really part of life for any writer,” Horrocks said. “You revise a piece, you polish it, you send it out, you might hear yes, you might hear no, but sometimes you can learn from the no, too, and that may help you go back to the piece and make changes.”

During the unveiling, Erin Cole read her fiction piece, which was published in the new edition. This year was her first time submitting, and she encourages everyone to participate in the student publication.

“Well, obviously it’s good to try things on campus and support campus publications, but also it’s just important to reach out and try new things,” Cole said. “If you’re gonna be a writer, you need to submit.”

Even if a student’s piece doesn’t make it into the magazine, Willis said it isn’t because their work is bad.

“Grand Valley has an amazing talent pool, and it’s phenomenal that it is so difficult to choose what goes in the magazine. That’s something that I really love about it, like you can’t go wrong, you just can’t,” Willis said.

Copies of fishladder 2013 are free and can be picked up in the writing department office inside Lake Ontario Hall or at Campus Life Night next fall. For submission and staff position information for next year, go to

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