New nonfiction mag Apostrophe debuts today

by Beacon Staff • November 16, 2005

Billed as "the college's first lifestyle magazine" by its editors, Apostrophe will stray from the literary style dominating Emerson's current magazine-format publications, they said.,Apostrophe, a new magazine produced by members of Emerson's Undergraduate Writers Network (UWN) at Emerson College, is set to launch Nov. 18.

Billed as "the college's first lifestyle magazine" by its editors, Apostrophe will stray from the literary style dominating Emerson's current magazine-format publications, they said.

Apostrophe is tentatively planned as a monthly publication. Its editors describe it as "witty and articulate," a magazine designed to cater to the nonfiction reader and writer in order to fill a demand for something between creative writing and hard journalism.

"There is a larger market for nonfiction that isn't journalism that Emerson doesn't acknowledge right now," said Editor-in-Chief Emily Steers, a junior writing, literature and publishing major, and president of the UWN. According to Steers, Apostrophe hopes to provide students with a better means to explore that creative sphere.

The organization aims to promote interaction between student writers and faculty members, said Steers. Robin Fast, an associate professor of writing, literature, and publishing, serves as the organization's advisor.

The reputation of the UWN has fluctuated in the 10 years it has been an organization, Steers said, from esteemed and productive in 1995 to relatively modest and low profile as of late. With the launch of Apostrophe, Steers and Leah Wyner, a junior writing, literature and publishing major and treasurer of UWN, said they hope to reestablish the group's once ubiquitous influence and repute.

Steers formulated the idea for Apostrophe this past summer with help from friends and advisors, among them the former editor-in-chief of UMass Amherst's Daily Collegian, the largest free daily college newspaper in the Northeast. Wyner said the staff learned all they could about the launching and running of a publication.

Steers said that the creators decided it was important to launch the magazine as soon as possible to increase Apostrophe's visibility and evaluate its reception. Getting the kinks out early, she said, will help their progress and growth.

Steers and Wyner said the biggest challenge is a lack of presence and credibility. The ongoing roadblocks in starting the magazine from scratch included finding writers, formulating ideas, developing a system under which to operate and organize, and finding an identity, which Steers said is "more Esquire than anything else."

Emersonians can preview the magazine at a launch party tonight in West 1 and 2 in 80 Boylston St. at 9 p.m. This event will be open to the public.

The 20-page black-and-white publication addresses social themes such as identity searching and comfort within society, with a creative non-fiction tone, Steers said. There will be three to four feature stories per issue, accompanied by columns, entertainment reviews, profiles and occasional works of fiction. Steers said she is open to incorporating more political, hard-hitting topics.

In the premiere issue, pieces range from a 100-word blurb on the ability to purchase the morning-after pill over-the-counter to a 5,000-word investigative piece on the experience of being homeless. The varying article length and subject matter, with no department headings in the table of contents, raised questions regarding the connection between the pieces.

"We know what we want to be but we're not sure who we are," Wyner said.

Allie Compton, a senior writing, literature, and publishing and media studies double major and managing editor of Gauge magazine at Emerson said that adhering strictly to certain topics or formulas has been difficult for them.

"For example, in Radar [a consumer magazine], they've attempted to combine pop culture, entertainment and politics," Compton said. "But sometimes those things drip into one another. Gauge began as a magazine attempting to write creative nonfiction articles that could still be heavily fact-based. This has been a hard goal to maintain."

Steers and Wyner said that although each issue will not have a theme, and articles will not be sectioned into departments within, "there is a cohesiveness to it," Steers said. The undercurrent of Apostrophe's premiere issue, the editors said, each piece lends itself in some way to the subject of comfort, or discomfort, in society: in a more literal sense with homelessness, and through a column about fitting in as a woman.

While Apostrophe's editors work through finding an identity, Emerson's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) plans to spread word of its arrival. The two groups have taken on a working relationship to help create a presence for the publication.

According to Steers, PRSSA has contributed much to the magazine's marketing. Gillian Smith, the vice president of PRSSA, has done much of the advertising.

"Emily is trying to create something totally new at Emerson," Smith said. "We have all of the fiction and poetry. What we don't have is a place for the writing that's going to make you money. It's a great way for students to hone their writing skills in a practical way."

As for Apostrophe's abstract title, Steers hoped to keep it a bit of a mystery.

"Don't worry," she said. "The first issue will explain it all."