The Verandah literary journal is a student-run publication coming out of Deakin University. It emerged in 1986 as a way for students to gain hands-on editing and publishing experience to supplement their academic qualifications.
That was then. While the journal still provides vocational development to Deakin’s writing students, the journal has evolved into much more than just that. Today, Verandah is recognised as an important Australian literature and art journal, which prides itself as a launching pad for emerging writers.
Each year Verandah’s editorial staff is comprised of students from Deakin’s Professional and Creative Writing course. This year’s team is made up of Katy Andrews, Emily Eaton, Effie Mann, Bryce Mason, and Kathryn Rowan. Speakeasy caught up with Katy, Effie, and Kathryn to discuss the journal and the experience of editing Verandah.
Speakeasy: Can you tell us a little about what Verandah means to Deakin University?
Effie: Verandah is extremely important to Deakin, especially to the students who produce the journal or have been lucky enough to grace its pages. It has been a part of the uni for close to 30 years and is treasured and nurtured by the uni community. Verandah provides a creative platform and an outlet for those of us who fancy ourselves editors, writers, poets, and artists. It is also a wonderful way to experience what life really would be like beyond university in these sorts of professions.
Kathryn: Verandah is hugely important to Deakin as a way to promote the university and the few students that might edit or be published in it. For those who edit the journal, it allows them to have hands-on experience in producing a publication, which they wouldn’t get sitting in a classroom.
Katy: The chance to become an editor of this journal is a great opportunity for third year writing students to transfer the skills they have learnt during their degree to a real-world experience, making them more work-ready when they graduate. Additionally it is a great place for emerging writers to be published for the first time because 30% of our content is drawn from Deakin students; this gives them a higher chance of being published.
Speakeasy: As a student-run publication, what place do you think Verandah holds in the Australian literary community?
Effie: Verandah certainly transcends the university literary scene and is now well regarded throughout Australia. We even receive occasional submissions from overseas. As a publication it is a little limited by its non-profit status but Verandah has exceeded its initial audience and purpose and now caters to emerging and established writers well beyond the framework of Deakin.
Kathryn: The journal is well known throughout Australia, and even has some contact with the rest of the world, having received several submissions from overseas. Verandah is a fantastic platform for emerging writers and artists to get themselves published alongside more established people.
Katy: As mentioned above Verandah is a great platform of development for the budding writer.
Speakeasy: According to the Verandah website, the vision and philosophies of the editorial team are reflected in the journal; can you speak a little about the ‘vision and philosophy’ that you bring to the journal? What do you hope your contribution will leave with or add to Verandah?
Effie: Each issue of Verandah really does have a different look and feel, as each is produced by a new group of editors and reflects the ideas of that particular team. The Verandah journey has been a metamorphosis. Our focus this year was fairly simple – we wanted to increase the number of submissions received to ensure we produced a quality product. We also wanted to lift the journal’s profile within the artistic community and to encourage Deakin art students, and artists beyond Deakin, to submit their work.
Kathryn: Verandah is run by an entirely new team of editors each year, which means each edition has a unique feel that reflects the ideas and personality of its editors. This year we wanted to focus on increasing the quality publication, which meant increasing the amount of submissions we received so that we were only printing the best. This was especially important for art, which had been lacking in previous years. We feel we’ve been successful in this, and it can only lead to a better journal in future years. In the end we’ve wound up with a journal that we are immensely proud of, which represents us both as editors and people.
Katy: We wanted it to be edgy; we wanted to take the journal away from being viewed as just a student publication and be viewed as a highly regarded literary journal that will attract a wider audience. It was a vision we all agreed with, as a result we did a lot of work within our small budget to find a way to increase our prize money in the hope that this would attract a higher caliber of writing and more submissions, which it did!
Speakeasy: How have you found working with the rest of the team? Have there been any healthy editorial arguments?
Effie: Working within a team has its joys and challenges. We really have become friends, but of course there were healthy editorial debates along the way. One story we loved had quite a sordid theme and contained vulgar language, so we had to decide whether we would include it in the collection (and we did in the end). Some works were not loved by all, but we used the majority rule and I think we’re all really happy with the result.
Kathryn: Working with the rest of the team has been a great experience and we have all come out of it as great friends. However, along the way there were several debates over certain stories and artwork, our choice of cover image, and even about the Verandah 27 logo. All of these were solved with a vote and we’ve all been happy with the outcome.
Katy: Healthy arguments are all part of the process, we all come with different ideas on how we see the journal and can often have different tastes when it comes to selecting pieces to include in the journal, but our differences worked well in that it helped us create a journal that has an eclectic mix of writing and artwork.
Speakeasy: Can you tell us a little about the type of work that Verandah looks for? What type of things do you look for in an ideal submission?
Effie: Verandah looks for quality and for originality. Works that make us laugh, or gasp, or cry. Submissions can be sentimental or bizarre. They might be poetry, fiction, non-fiction, a script, a photo, painting, or drawing. If we haven’t seen or read something like it before, it is likely to make the cut – we like to be surprised and delighted! The ideal submission will have been proof read. It is tragic how many potentially wonderful pieces make the slush pile because they lack a careful proof read.
Kathryn: Verandah looks for well-written pieces. When reading through hundreds of submissions it’s really difficult to get through a piece that doesn’t have an excellent grasp of English language and grammar. That being said it’s just as important for a piece to standout and surprise us. It needs to be memorable and make me excited to read it again and again. Also, it’s vital that the guidelines set out on our website are followed. It’s surprising how many submitters disregard this basic step.
Katy: Obviously we look for a well-edited piece with no obvious grammatical errors, but most importantly we love to see originality, pieces of writing that contains the unexpected, and surprises that make us want more.
Speakeasy: When will submissions open for the next issue of Verandah?
Effie: As an annual publication Verandah’s submissions will open again between February and June 2013 (with more details available online in the New Year).
Katy: The submissions for Verandah 28 open on February 1 2013. We receive a lot of submissions on the deadline date, so if you submit early the editors will have a little more time to think about your piece.
Speakeasy: Is there anything else you might like to mention to our readers?
Effie: Submit, submit, submit! It’s a lovely feeling to see your work in print.
Kathryn: If you have a great piece of prose, poetry, or artwork, submit it! You’ll never know if you have what we’re looking for until you send it in.
A special thanks to the Verandah team for taking time out from the busy end of the uni year to participate in the interview.
Julian Thumm is a freelance editor and writer. He has degrees from The University of Queensland and The University of Adelaide. He has worked with the Australian Journal of Communication, The University of Queensland Press, and Corporate Communication International through The City University of New York. He is currently based in Brisbane.