The OC Bucket List: Student-Run Journalism
As you know from my posts, I love to write! From the second I got to Oberlin, I sought out opportunities to be involved in campus publications, from the Oberlin Blogs to student newspapers and magazines. I became a copy-editor for The Oberlin Review during my first semester. Along with the rest of the staff, I spent many hours editing articles for publication each week. Though I only worked there for a semester, the job taught me a lot about the inner workings of a newspaper and solidified my desire to work in media post-college.
After I stopped working at the Review, I had a great experience writing an article for The Grape. My commitments at the time prevented me from applying for another newspaper job, but I took a class in Literary Journalism and became even more obsessed with creative non-fiction. That semester, in spring of my freshman year, I added another item to my Oberlin bucket list.
Write for Wilder Voice.
Wilder Voice is Oberlin’s oldest longform journalism publication – a beautiful literary magazine with essays and art by students. It comes out at the end of each semester and is completely student-run! I applied to write for it a few times in my first two years here, but didn’t land on the right pitch for a piece until the fall of my junior year. That semester, I got accepted to both edit and write, so the magazine became a big part of my life!
In fall 2017, I wrote a piece called “Donor 336” about my experience as a donor-conceived person. Writing the essay involved interviewing my sister and six of our donor siblings, as well as my two moms. I also read a few books about sperm donors for background context and theoretical grounding. I worked with the awesome Oberlin blogger El as my editor! El and I met regularly to discuss my ideas and to go over drafts of the piece. They were such a kind and supportive person to work with, and made my first experience with Wilder Voice very positive. I felt happy with my piece, especially after getting some sweet comments about it from members of the Oberlin community.
At the same time, I was working as an editor for my friend Adrienne’s essay. Adrienne and I didn’t know each other when we were assigned to work together, but hit it off right away. Her piece was about her family history in Malaysia, racial identity, and some royal genetic connections! It was really rewarding to experience both sides of the process simultaneously. Sometimes I would offer Adrienne feedback that I ended up needing to hear about my own writing! Having the opportunity to work with her on such a personal piece was special to me.
In spring 2018, I wanted to edit for the magazine, but didn’t have the capacity to write as well. So I served as an associate editor, working with my friend Charlotte to edit her piece about family histories of adoption and racialized identities. The essay shared some themes with Adrienne’s, but their two styles were so different that it was an entirely new experience. I felt more confident as an editor the second time around. It continued to develop my skill in helping someone else articulate their ideas and write the best piece possible. I was so proud of the final product and cherished the experience!
By that point – the end of my junior year – I had caught the longform-essay bug. Writing pieces like that is one of my favorite things to do… ever. So I wanted to do as much as I could at Oberlin! Last semester, I wrote my final Wilder Voice piece, “A Good Night’s Sleep.” The essay discusses elder care in the United States through the lens of my grandfather’s experience in the hospital and a rehab center. I think it’s one of the best pieces of writing I’ve done. I’m so thankful to my editor Jake for all his support throughout that process.
The magazine fills an important niche at Oberlin, which doesn’t have a formal journalism program (aside from classes in the Rhetoric and Composition department). Student journalism is strong here, and many students go on to journalism and media careers. There are so many other publications to be involved in, from The Oberlin Review to The Grape to The Synapse to The Plum Creek Review! If you visit campus, make sure to pick up a student-produced newspaper or magazine.
Unfortunately, I’m not working for Wilder Voice this semester due to my many commitments. But I’m still thinking about media and sharpening my writing skills every day. For my Comparative American Studies capstone, I’m writing about Christian adoption rhetoric on Instagram. For my Advanced Filmmaking Projects class in Cinema Studies, I’m making a film about gender identity, social media, and middle school romance (it involves going back through my middle school Gmail-chats – and yes, that is as funny and excruciating as it sounds). In both of those major projects, I draw on skills I developed through writing and editing for the magazine. Thank goodness that, as a new first-year, I put Wilder Voice on my bucket list! I’m so grateful to have found a home there – a place to develop my unique voice, and to help others do the same.
Song of the week: Hard Place by H.E.R. I think I’m coming to this song a little late, but wow! It’s incredible!