English department’s annual anthology accepting creative work from all majors

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The UAA English department’s yearly publication, Understory, is a collection of work from students all over UAA’s campus. Photo credit: Young Kim

The editors of the UAA English department’s yearly anthology of undergraduate work are reaching out to students for submissions.

“Understory: An Annual Anthology of Achievement,” features work covering every emphasis the English department offers — from creative writing and literary studies to linguistics and rhetoric.

While the scholarly work will come from the English department’s curriculum, creative submissions are open to students regardless of their major.

“I know that there’s a lot of talent at UAA,” Anthony Taylor, co-editor of “Understory,” said. “I know that there’s an abundance of talent and I know that a lot of people have a lot of things to say creatively about UAA — just about life in general.”

The creative section of the anthology is being overseen by first-time editors Taylor and Alexandria Bako, both of whom are English majors.

Past submissions to “Understory” include poetry, plays and short stories, but with the addition of a web version of the publication, there’s more room for multimedia projects like photo essays, audio and video.

Taylor said they’re also looking for students to submit personal essays — especially ones pertaining to race, gender or sexual orientation.

“We want to sort of showcase the diverse community that is UAA, so we’re opening up submissions for people to talk about their experiences,” Taylor said.

Plans are still being finalized for a panel discussion to take place in conjunction with “Understory” about minority and LGBTQ students’ lives at UAA. The panel will be on Friday, Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. with the location to be determined.

What ultimately became “Understory” has seen several incarnations over the years, from an undergraduate publication at Anchorage Community College to a club-based project at UAA.

Creative writing professor and faculty adviser to “Understory” Ronald Spatz has seen the publication evolve over the years since UAA merged with ACC in 1987. Spatz said previous editions became too focused on creative writing.

Along with linguistics professor David Bowie, Spatz expanded last year’s “Understory” content to include the entire English department and put a mentoring system in place for students.

“It’s a very substantial change,” Spatz said.

It can be tough for undergrads to have their work recognized outside of the classroom, but “Understory” allows students to get more than recognition. Spatz said it shows students that through active learning, they’re producing work that has value, even at an undergraduate level.

“Achievement is a high-impact teaching practice,” Spatz said.

Spatz and Bowie both know the feeling of accomplishment that comes from being published for the first time.

Spatz’s first published piece was a combination of scholarly and creative work for his honors thesis as an undergrad.

“It was the first time in my education that I felt empowered and taken seriously as a person who had something to add to the discipline,” Spatz said.

For Bowie, it was while doing research in graduate school. He can still remember opening up the publication 20 years ago and seeing his article in print for the first time.

“That was a really cool feeling,” Bowie said.

Last year, Bowie notified students whose scholarly work had been accepted to “Understory” via email. He enjoyed the exchanges with students who were about to be published for their first time.

“There was this amazement and even a feeling of self-worth that comes through our email of ‘Hey, I’ve produced something that’s worthwhile’ and that’s a really excellent thing,” Bowie said.

To submit creative work to “Understory,” convert it to PDF and email to understorysubmissions@gmail.com. Include your name and student ID number in the subject line.

Only students taking three or more credits may submit work.

Tentative deadline for submissions is Nov. 16.

To find the recent edition of “Understory” online, go to scalar.usc.edu/works/understory2017/index.