by Claire "The Bee's Knees" Hunt, Creative Nonfiction team and marketing team member
I don’t pretend to know why we all write – mostly because I’m not even sure why I write. It’s just something I’ve felt drawn to doing since I was a kid and it’s something I feel like I need to do.
I will, however, pretend to know why we all publish (or try to): writing is putting your most difficult thoughts and emotions (or, possibly, someone else’s thoughts and feelings) into words and, once we have done it, we want other people to experience it.
I got my first (and only) piece published last year in the Grub Street Literary Journal – a poem I wrote for an advanced poetry class called “Elegy for a Lost Doll.” It was a poem that, like everything I write, began as something completely different from what it became. This acceptance came under the condition that I omit my last stanza, which the editor felt was telling too much. This acceptance letter came after several rejections but, when it was accepted, those rejections didn’t matter. Having just that one piece accepted meant that I was doing my job as a writer: transcending my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences onto a page, in a way that others identify with.
At least, that’s what acceptance meant to me at the time.
This year, I worked on the Creative Non-Fiction team for Grub Street, where we were responsible for reading about 200 submitted pieces – we accepted seven. Sure, some pieces were accepted immediately and some were rejected immediately, but, the majority of the time, there was significant debate and discussion. One of the pieces we accepted, was given a “soft no” by the previous team, but a “hard yes” by our team. Several class periods were spent debating pieces that were good, but did not necessarily suit the needs of our journal. We spent weeks debating a story about eating chicken. There were pieces that, like my own, were only accepted because someone made a case for a simple edit that could be made to strengthen the piece.
Having worked on the Grub Street staff this year, I have learned that rejection actually means very little – in fact, if it means anything, it means you should keep working and submitting your work for publication.
Working on a literary journal has changed my understanding of “rejection.” Rejection does not mean that your writing is poor or that your piece should be disregarded; nor does rejection mean that no one liked your piece or felt that it held value. Instead, rejection might mean that you need to restructure your piece, rethink certain plot points, reconsider what is essential and what is not. Rejection should urge you to keep going – rejection should fuel you to rethink and revise your piece and send it elsewhere. As writers, as college students, or simply as people, we are going to face rejection everywhere – take pride in your rejections, because, chances are, it means you are that much closer to acceptance.
The mere act of feeling a piece that you have worked on is ready for publication is rewarding in and of itself. Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep embracing rejection, knowing that acceptance is on its way.
by Carly "Boss Lady" Weisengoff, Fiction Editor, among other things
When I was in fourth grade, my teacher had my class create a book. Each of us got one page to write on, and another page to draw on. We were supposed to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. At the time, I wanted to be a dog breeder, because I loved dogs.
Spoiler alert: I did not grow up to be a dog breeder. (Honestly? Thank goodness.)
There’s a page in the back of the book, giving kids credit for their work on things like the cover, or the dedication page - pages outside of our allocated spaces.
My name is on that list three times.
When I proofread the staff list for Grub Street this year, I started to laugh, because my name is somehow listed four times.
This isn’t meant to sound braggy - I genuinely don’t understand how this happened. Is it a need for validation? Am I greedy? This wasn’t the original intent for my contribution to this journal.
When I joined the staff of Grub Street, I remember telling myself that being a part of the leadership of Grub is not imperative to my enjoyment of the class. It’s okay not to be in charge of something, I said. It’s okay to let other people tell you what to do.
I kept telling myself, over and over again, that I didn’t have time in my schedule to try and be leadership. I was the treasurer of Towson’s Equestrian Club at the time, which meant that essentially every moment of my life was surrounded by incorrectly-filled out checks, invoices from other schools, approximately 500 pounds of horse hair, and several weird looks from strangers when I showed up to class wearing breeches and smelling like a barn.
But I kept getting a nagging feeling that I would regret it if I didn’t apply for something. So I did. And by some miracle I was allowed to be the Fiction Editor, and by an even greater miracle I was given four other humans to read stories with - all of them sassy, and all of them passionate about the journal. We kept each other accountable through Google Docs, and occasionally 10pm texts from me passively-aggressively telling members to get their shit together and read (please and thank you).
My team was great, and I tried to help them get through the semester, especially when we got a mountain of submissions. I always tried to base my decisions on their schedules, and tried my best to help them sift through the influx of 30-page stories we received in November.
During the final class period of the fall semester, all of the staff were told to chill out over winter break (no pun intended). Don’t read submissions, don’t obsess over the journal, and wait until spring semester to hit the ground running.
Somehow, I set the journal aside for a month, which is something I’ve never been able to do when I’ve loved being a part of something.
And then spring semester hit, and I had two new souls to debate the value of submissions with. Liz recruited me to read with her team, as an extra pair of eyes to get through the piles of poetry. We decided on our pieces, and both of our teams were, for the most part, dissolved for other teams. Proofreading, design, sequencing, general sweating over the outcome of the journal. You know. The usual.
By this point I had completely thrown out my original intentions for my contributions, and immersed myself in Grub Street’s production.
So much for taking a step back.
I helped whenever I could, either by answering the editor-in-chief’s 11pm texts about anxiety-inducing late-night thoughts (which were always valid questions, and were almost always questions I had the answer to), creating yet another Google Doc for the class to use, or getting to class 3 hours early and sitting outside the room with Jess, Liz, Marissa, and Nichole in our own version of The Breakfast Club - with occasional visits from James and Rachel, when their 9:30 class became too intolerable to sit through all at once.
These people are my friends, and I wanted to help them through their stressors. This turned into attending design meetings with Jess, or helping Nichole with social media.
I told people to shut up and compromise during sequencing, and I told people you’re doing great sweetie when proofreading.
Mostly, I told people that guys, we made a journal. We did a thing.
The many hats that I wore during the making of volume 67 are now hats for others to wear next year. But somehow, I feel like I didn’t do enough. My friends were still stressed, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t help them relax.
I know someone will look at the staff list and think wow, okay, someone was an overachiever and couldn’t keep her nose out of everything.
I wish there was a way to tell that person that I just wanted to help.
"What are going to use your English Major for? Just because you want to write doesn’t mean you’ll get anywhere with it."
by Marissa "The Machine" Burns, fiction team and social media/web design team member
I’ve heard this statement, muttered in a variety of ways, for over ten years now. And while the people uttering this nonsense usually do so with the best intentions to persuade me to be more realistic with my life, it has yet to deter me from my goals. I’ve known I wanted to write in some way, shape, or form since I was ten, after my best friend and I spent a summer playing games of make believe to entertain ourselves. Creating worlds, giving life to characters, and exploring new ideas consumed my days from dawn ‘til dusk. When I was old enough to start thinking about college, I knew I’d major in English and I was set; there was nothing that would change my mind, nothing else I knew I’d be happy spending the rest of my life doing. And yet, as graduation lies in the horizon, I still get asked ‘what are you going to do when writing doesn’t work out?’
My answer? Write more. If an author starts writing a book and halfway through they realize it isn’t working out, they don’t get a new job; they scrap the book and start again. While I realize becoming a best-selling author is an out of reach goal at the moment, that doesn’t mean it is an out of reach goal in general. Writing is the only thing I’ve been sure of in my life. It’s been my constant for years, the one thing that I knew I could do whenever I was stressed, bored, happy, or sad. Maybe writing won’t pay my bills. Maybe I’ll need to work a dead-end, 9 to 5 job and write during my lunch break and in the evenings. It may not be the most glamorous life, but it is the life I’m ready to live.
I get asked a lot why I write, and what I write, and what I’ll do if I’m never able to get published. And my answer is a simple one. I write for me. I write because it feels right. Because it helped me find a best friend. Find a community. Find a group of individuals where I felt comfortable enough to express myself. Creating a world, with problems and solutions, making up characters to love and hate, it was my way opening myself up.
I write what I want to read. When I’m scanning the shelves at Barnes and Noble or searching for books on Amazon, I try to find new books that will capture my mood in the moment. Often, however, I find something close to what I want to read, but still, it’s not quite what I was looking for. When that happens, I make up my own story line, create my own plot and though finishing a story is always harder than starting one, I find it was exactly what I was looking for.
I might never get published. It’s an upsetting thought but a realistic one and over the years I’ve accepted that. And just because that thought looms in the background of my mind, doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing. Just because I don’t get published doesn’t mean I don’t have my own story to tell. And that’s what keeps me going, keeps me writing. Because at the end of the day I don’t write for anyone else. I write for me.
by Nathanael "Sassafras" Buckman, Managing Editor
As a member of the editing team, I have noticed a variety of punctuation problems that mar the effect of a piece. To counter these instances of what George Orwell would call “barbarous English,” I have assembled a simple overview of Grub Street’s punctuation guide. In this essay, I will go over some simple techniques to stylize ellipses properly.
Our main example will focus on the following sentence: “The child ate a sandwich while sitting on the dark green bench in the park.”
If we wanted to omit some of the details of the sentence, we can use ellipses (three dots) to accomplish this feat: “The child ate a sandwich . . . in the park.” Each dot is an ellipsis. Note that there is a space before and after each ellipsis. The ellipses show that we are omitting something. Generally, if the portion we are omitting is less than one sentence, we use the three-dot ellipses; however, this is not always the case.
In some cases, you might see four dots. Don’t panic. The fourth dot signifies one of two things: that the sentence is ending (thus serving as terminal punctuation) or that the writer has omitted more than one sentence, such as a paragraph.
Now if we were to end the sentence with ellipses, we must also include a terminal mark in addition to the ellipses. For instance, our sentence would look like this: “The child ate a sandwich. . . .” In this example, we have four dots—the first one immediately follows the h and is the terminal mark. It does not have a space before it, but it does have one after it. The ellipses follow the period, with each ellipsis having a space before and after, except for the final ellipsis.
We also can use ellipses and terminal punctuation in the middle of a quotation: “The child ate a sandwich. . . . The sky was cloudy.” This example indicates that we are ending the first sentence, omitting information, and introducing a new sentence. The key feature besides the space before and after each ellipsis (except for no space between the h and the terminal mark) is that the final ellipsis has a space after it.
Rarely will we find ellipses opening a quotation—doing so is both tacky and messy. Instead, we either incorporate the quotation into our own sentence or use the quotation on its own standing. For example: “As the babysitter was filling a water bottle, ‘[t]he child ate a sandwich while sitting on the dark green bench in the park.’” Here I introduce the quotation as my main sentence using an introductory adverbial clause. I use brackets around the t to indicate that I am changing the sentence from its original form, specifically indicating that I am changing the case form of the letter. I don’t need any ellipses because I have used the entire original sentence, grafting it with my introductory dependent clause.
Additionally, ellipses can also signify a speaker’s voice trailing off: “The child ate a sandwich and said, ‘The sky looks cloudy and. . . .’” This stylization heightens the drama of the scene, showing that ellipses affect the piece’s tone. Note the inclusion of the terminal mark.
Ellipses are effective tools that add concision to a person’s writing, adding nuance to a sentence and diversifying sentence types. Effective writing needs effective punctuation. Understanding your audience will help you to determine what portion of a sentence is unnecessary and therefore omittable.
Let us know what other type of punctuation mark you would like to understand better. For now, rest assured that with the knowledge of how to style ellipses, your writing will be all the stronger.
by Ellen "The Supreme" Vallonga, Editor-in-Chief
Group project – a term capable of evoking eye rolls and sighs from every student in a classroom. Much to college students’ dismay, professors love group projects because they teach us many important life skills: how to divide work among multiple people, how to delegate tasks, how to organize and convey lots of ideas, and—most importantly—how to get along with people.
People – another term that can evoke eye rolls and sighs. Nevertheless, the sooner we can learn to get along with other people, the better off we will be in our careers (and lives).
Working on the Grub Street staff this year has taught me a lot about teamwork. I’d participated (against my will) in many group projects before signing on as the editor-in-chief this year, so I figured I had a pretty good idea about how to work well with people on a task.
Oh boy, did I have a lot to learn.
First, Grub Street isn’t your typical, semester-long group project—it’s a yearlong group project. Many people who take ENGL 415 in the fall take ENGL 415 in the spring, so if you join the Grub Street staff, you’ll end up working with a lot of the same people for about nine months.
Second, this is a project that (hopefully) everyone in the class cares about. Let’s face it—we’ve all participated in group projects we didn’t actually care all that much about. In contrast, most students working on the Grub Street staff are passionate about literature and the journal. We want to produce an issue of the journal that we can be proud of, and this requires no less than 110% from everyone on staff. Our successes and failures influence more than just our final grade: they influence the journal itself. If the Grub Street staff fails to work together as a team, the quality of the journal will suffer as a result.
With these two aspects of this project in mind, I decided to compile a list of do’s and don’ts to help the future staff members of Grub Street. Feel free to take them or leave them—these suggestions are based on my personal experience. However, I’m confident that they can apply to any staff working on the journal.
So, here we go:
DO pull your weight. If you sign up for a task, complete it to the best of your ability. This is especially true for those who volunteer to serve as the genre editors. Your team and the entire staff trusts and relies on you to take care of your responsibilities. Do yourself and them a favor and complete your tasks well and on time.
DO recognize that you don’t know everything, and that’s okay. Everyone on staff this year learned a lot about editing, publication, team work, and even about ourselves. Don’t be afraid to admit that you need help or that you don’t know what you’re doing. I guarantee you that when you first join staff, you won’t know everything you need to know. Personally, I felt like I knew nothing when I joined staff, but I learned a lot from our faculty advisor and my fellow staff members, and we all worked together to apply the knowledge and skills we learned in order to make our issue of Grub Street the best it can be.
DO learn to laugh at yourself. Like any group project, working on Grub Street gets super stressful at times. The easier it is for you to laugh at yourself when you make a little mistake or feel overwhelmed, the better. Your other options are (a) cry, or (b) scream. I strongly urge you to choose laughter.
DO give yourself enough time to accomplish everything. At some point, the staff needs to discuss its timeline of events and deadlines. The scariest deadline is the day on which the journal gets sent to the printer. Before this happens, you will undergo a few rounds of proofreading. The more time you can give yourself to meet these deadlines, the better. Work hard so that you can accomplish each task on time. Otherwise, you’ll have to rush at the last minute, and mistakes will definitely be made (and missed).
DO take care of your fellow staff members. Ask them how they’re doing. Get them coffee. Bake them cupcakes (this year, someone brought cupcakes every Tuesday and it was amazing). Thank them for their hard work. Apologize to them if you upset them. Laugh with them, cry with them, offer to help them. Share life with them. This is so important. These people are your rocks, and you need them. Trust me.
DON’T try to please everyone perfectly. It just isn’t possible. Instead, learn to compromise. This year the staff had to compromise pretty often on which pieces to take, certain design elements, the paper color we wanted, how many copies of the journal we wanted to print, and so on. In the end, we are all incredibly happy with our issue of the journal, even though none of us got exactly what we wanted.
DON’T get stuck in perpetual decision-making. Sometimes big (and small) decisions are complicated and the right choice might not be obvious, but eventually you and your team just need to make a decision and go for it. One “bad” decision probably will not ruin the entire journal. Just do your best, think it through, and go for it.
DON’T try to take over a task that isn’t yours. By all means, share your thoughts with your team members—especially if you have a legit concern—but don’t try to undo another person’s hard work or undermine a team’s decisions regarding artwork, pieces, or design. This happened during my year on staff, and it led to a few weeks of mistrust, anxiety, and hurt feelings. Trust your team—they’re more competent than you think.
DON’T sign up for more tasks than you can handle. We’re all incredibly busy college students. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. The journal will suffer as a result, but more importantly, you will suffer. Be honest with yourself about your capabilities and ask for help when you need it. Your fellow staff members will happily extend a helping hand if you let them.
DON’T go behind one another’s backs. If you’re upset with a staff member, speak with them directly. If you’re worried about a piece of art, speak with the art editor before you remove the piece from the list. And so on. We’re all mature(ish) adults, and we know that talking about people behind their backs only leads to mistrust and hurt feelings. Confront people when problems arise, work through those problems efficiently, and move on.
This list is obviously not exhaustive—I could go on and on. The most important thing, I think, is to be polite, work hard, and keep an open mind.
Grub Street is a yearlong, exhausting, intense group project—but it is also the best group project out there for anyone who loves literature, creativity, and feeling rewarded after a job well done.