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Bookmarked - Creative Writing Student Magazine

Bookmarked is an online literary magazine created for the creative writing students of the OCA, by creative writing students of the OCA.

"Our aim is to celebrate and share the creativity, diversity, talent and sheer hard work of our fellow students. We strive to publish three issues per academic year, each featuring a selection of the best work emerging from our creative writing department."

The first issue of the Creative Writing online magazine Bookmarked is live on the 24th of April!

There will be a special Bookmarked launch party on this date from 7-8pm BST. All the authors who are being published in this first issue will be reading extracts from their work, and of course the Bookmarked Editors will be there to keep things moving and answer any questions. Everyone is welcome!

There are currently 5 student editors - Juanita Ozamiz, Henri Poole-Birrel, Debbie Hudson, Anne Eckle and Sophie Scrivener.

We asked the team -

  • How Bookmarked came about?

  • Why did they decide to be involved?

  • What do they hope to gain from being involved?

  • Are there any challenges?

Debbie responded:

Bookmarked came about after a student expressed an interest in having a ‘creative writing showcase’ similar to the showcases put together of visual arts students’ work. There was a department call out for volunteers to help create a suitable platform and then take the lead on maintaining it. During the first meeting we discussed what form the platform should take. Should it be a blog that students can submit to? A forum? We decided an online literary magazine could make a good format as it’s not only more relevant to the subject than a standard showcase, but also gives students a chance to experience the typical ‘submission process’ in publishing and gain some confidence sending their work out. Writing is such a personal thing and it's scary letting people read and judge the weird and wonderful stuff that goes on in your brain, so it's good to have a place where students can get used to that.

I decided to be involved because the literary magazine I’d been working for had recently closed and I figured my experience there might come in handy for this platform. I also really missed reading submissions. My previous role was to read, rate and feed back on submitted pieces and it was not only enjoyable but also made me a better writer! I was gutted when the magazine closed. So, when the OCA creative writing platform was suggested I jumped at the chance to get involved and fill that void in my life!

I’m hoping to gain more experience working on the ‘inside’ of a literary magazine in a more hands-on and decision making way, rather than the small part I had in my old job (and to also fill that reading void, of course!). On the creative writing course we don’t get many chances to read each other’s work, outside of small workshops and snippets posted here and there on the forums, so I’m really just fascinated to be able to see the diversity and the talent of fellow students. I’ve also taken on the role of ‘website wizard’ because I’ve got a little bit of previous experience building websites, so I’m hoping to polish up all my html and design skills that have gotten a bit rusty.

I think as a group one of the biggest challenges we had is deciding how to determine which work we want to publish. Writing is such a subjective thing. Everyone has wildly different tastes. So how do you choose pieces fairly and objectively without leaning into your own biases? Thankfully Henri came up with a fantastic ‘scoring matrix’ that allows us to score more personal feelings such as the piece’s ‘creativity’ against the technical aspects like grammar, structure and pacing. So even if an editor doesn’t particularly enjoy or mesh with a piece, the scoring will still be high and put the work into the shortlist if the technical aspects are spot on. On a personal level my main challenge has been working my way around Wordpress (it's not something I've used a lot, before) and problem solving when the website's limitations won't allow me to structure a page in a way that's necessary for the piece of writing. For example, one of the pieces in the first issue is a film script, but scripts have a specific format that won't carry over well on a webpage, and I think it's important to maintain the integrity of a piece by altering it as little as possible when I'm putting it up on the site - every word on a page is in that spot for a specific reason, after all. So I mused for a while and eventually had a eureka moment where I realised I could screenshot the first page of the script, insert it onto the webpage as an image, then follow it with a link to the original document held in our Bookmarked gdrive. That way we don't have to alter any of the original work and everything stays true to the author's intention.

Here Henri tells us a little bit about the scoring matrix used;

What's a Scoring Matrix? This is how we respond to student submissions. The matrix is a simple four-by-four grid with individual scoring areas along the top for Creativity & Content (which we felt was a very subjective thing to rank!) and Technical Accuracy along the side.

Once we've individually chosen which scoring description fits the piece of work in both of these categories, we then see where it meets up in the grid. Once editors had decided on a score (from 0-6), we tallied up our scores and used an Excel spreadsheet to total the submissions, which is out of a possible total of 30 points. (A maximum of six points is possible for each piece, with five editors inputting scores– 5x6=30)

The design of the system allows for guidance when editors are unsure of how to score submissions, as well as allowing some freedom in terms of our personal response to the work. I'm a teacher and naturally find myself using all sorts of mind-numbing systems for scoring things.

The Scoring Matrix is inspired by a Risk Matrix, which is used to estimate the likelihood and severity of a risk. It also looks very pretty (including a range of colours from positive lime green if you score 6, and blackest black if you end up in the 0 box– which I also like to refer to as 'The Black Box of Death.' Fun fact: if submissions don't follow our formatting rules, they immediately wind up in The Black Box of Death, never to be seen again...)

Anne says;

I wanted to be involved in Bookmarked, because I really enjoy the sense of community I have found with the Creative Writing students (and tutors) and wanted to be even more a part of that. I also think it's really important for Creative Writing students to have an outlet for their creative works, a space where they can showcase what we all work really hard on. And of course I think it's a really interesting change of perspective for a writer to work as an editor. I really think that helps me with my own writing.

And finally Juanita adds;

Well, what to add that the rest of the team haven't already explained so well?

Perhaps simply to refer to that, and say how positive an experience it has been working as a team, and how much I think we have learnt from each other in putting together this first issue. Now we have got through the difficult stages of deciding how to call for submissions, how to select the submissons, setting up the website page and planning the launch party etc I hope we shall be able to go on producing issues regularly. Initially, we are planning to produce 3 issues per year, and also publish an anthology at some point.

We hope to see lots of people at the launch party on 24th April, a chance to hear the writers that appear in this first issue of Bookmarked reading extracts of their work and meet other OCA students.


Congratulations to all involved!

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