In literary fashion, Sheepshead students dress up to address the competition

Above: Poetry staffers dressed up as literary journals: (from l-r) Verse Wisconsin, Poetry Magazine, Atticus Review, and The Paris Review.

“Excuse me, are you The Paris Review?” asks a poet hoping to publish her work.

“Yes, but you’ll have to work harder to get to know me. I’m historic and impressive,” replies The Paris Review, dressed in a suit, tie, and hat.

“Hey! Hey! Come submit to me!” shouts the neon-sweatered poetry journal Verse Wisconsin. “I’ll find a place for you!”

As part of an assignment in Associate Prof. Rebecca Meacham’s English 324: Practicum in Literary Publishing course, students recently presented their findings on “the competition” — arts journals of national repute. At the same time, staffers also produce an issue of UWGB’s journal of the arts, Sheepshead Review. Every semester, students delve into Meacham’s assignment, “The Aesthetic Project,” to evaluate how arts journals attract contributors, promote events, connect with artists, and sell issues.

“Many students have never even seen a journal before they do this project,” Meacham says. “Once they interact with other magazines, they turn a critical eye on Sheepshead Review, deciding what we could do, what we should do — and what we definitely should not do.”

Over the years, “The Aesthetic Project” assignment has spurred editors to develop Sheepshead Review into a full-color, 160-page magazine featuring dynamic design elements, interviews, and occasional special sections. Since its founding in the 1970s, the journal has won the prestigious ADDY award for design, garnered praise in New Pages review of literary magazines, and attracted contributors from Israel, New Zealand, and all over the U.S.

Every aspect of the journal and the “Practicum” course is student-directed — and intended to build professional skills.

For the Fall 2013 “Aesthetic Project,” students will conduct a semester-long assessment of other journals, following Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, websites, and blogs, as well as reading print and electronic copies of issues.

Already, staffers have proposed redesigns of Sheepshead Review’s website.

Current Editor in Chief Beth Heidtke is thrilled by the enthusiasm, as is Meacham.

“Every semester, students are invigorated by this project. Our layout editor wants to change the journal’s paper and size,” Meacham says. “And we now have a team of Social Media editors on Twitter and Facebook, who are planning a Sheepshead Tumblr and blog.”

In fact, the power of first impressions — and networking — became clear when a student group chose to dress up as their assigned journals — and Meacham tweeted the picture to the journals’ editors.

“What a fun idea! We’re guessing Atticus is represented by the second lady from the right?” tweeted @Atticus Books.

“We’re definitely the hat/tie wearing individual on the right!” replied @Paris Review.

Story and photo submitted by Associate Professor Rebecca Meacham.