You have probably seen the posters hanging in every nook and cranny of the UAA campus. The bold black font imploring the passerby: “We need submissions!” These posters are in reference to “Understory.”
“Understory” is an annual collaborative arts magazine overseen by undergraduates and distributed by
UAA. It is written, compiled and features exclusively selected work from the undergraduate student body showcasing poetry, prose and visual art; each piece selected from hundreds for its uniqueness and excellence.
“‘Understory’ I would say, is a spectacular magazine; for an undergraduate magazine to have this quality of stuff is really cool,” said faculty advisor Douglass Bourne. “I will work on it for as long as they will let me.”
Though preceded by a similar endeavor in the early 90’s, “Understory” published its first issue under its current name in 2003. The name “Understory” by definition refers to a mixture of seeds and saplings that grow beneath the protective covering of a forest canopy, awaiting an opening in the canopy above for their chance to grow and shine. And according to “Understory” president Brianna Dym, the direct symbolism is quite fitting for the vision of this magazine.
“What I like most about “Understory” is that it gives undergraduate students the opportunity to get their work out across all mediums from short story and poetry to painting,” said Dym. “This helps students get published who have not been published before.”
Once a student has created a piece and submitted it to “Understory,” it makes its way through a rigorous screening process.
“We [three separate individuals per piece] do read-throughs without the names on the submissions, just numbers,” said Dym. “We determine which stories to look at further through voting, and the President and Vice President have the final say on what goes in and what does not.”
There are some graduate students who act as readers in order to expedite the sifting process, but they are volunteers just like everyone else.
“We have got a big team this year, between art, poetry and prose, around fifteen volunteers,” said Bourne. “We try to utilize people in the category that they are strongest and have the most interest; if someone loves art, then they will review the art submissions.”
The goal of “Understory” is to exhibit the highest quality of creativity that students have to offer, so just because you submit to Understory doesn’t mean it is going in –they want the best.
“The purpose of “Understory” is to showcase creative talents at UAA,” said Bourne. “We want to publish the greatest creative talents that are here.”
Striving for excellence and originality has pushed “Understory” each year, but as with all things in life, there are trials to season each success.
“There was some worry that there was not going to be a 2012 “Understory” because last fall, most of the folks who started with us back in the spring just kind of disappeared,” said Bourne. “And then, we have had to push the deadline back from the original January 31st to February 9th, because we would really like some more submissions.”
“Understory” will be accepting entries until February 9th at 5 p.m. Along with the chance to be published in this magazine, submissions will automatically be entered for a chance to win $100 based on two categories: the Hayden Carruth Award (awarded for the best piece of writing submitted,) and the Understory Visual Arts Contest (chosen from among the visual arts submissions). More information can be found online at www.understory.uaa.alaska.edu