Every other week, The Talon interviews a member of the Oklahoma Christian community, a Newsmaker, to answer questions about their role on campus.
On April 5, The Talon interviewed Sage Bramlett, senior editor of the Soundings literary journal, about the organization and their unveiling event on April 8.
How do you go about selecting entries or responses, and what factors do you consider during the process?
“As a team of eight or nine, our staff conducts judging sessions for the journal. To streamline the process, we create a Google form and send out a folder ahead of time for our staff to review and input their judgments. We prioritize pieces that receive an overwhelming “yes” or “no” and then focus on those with split votes or insufficient data. During discussion, we consider factors like technical skill and medium. Ultimately, we vote on each piece, and the ones approved by the staff make it into the journal while those that do not receive a notice with an invitation to try again next year. Sometimes, we encounter submissions with mixed opinions, and we revisit those later with fresh eyes.”
What challenges did you face while producing the journal this year and how did you overcome them?
“One of the biggest obstacles we faced this year was working under a collective deadline to unveil the journal at the event on Saturday. We needed to submit the journal to the printing place 14 days prior, so ensuring everyone completed their tasks on time was essential. Although everyone was pleasant to work with, balancing individual responsibilities and coordinating efforts proved challenging. Some judges outside of our staff had their own lives to manage, causing delays in feedback and stalling the journal’s production. Although it was challenging, especially given the deadlines and academic credit at stake, I’ve learned to trust my staff and resist the urge to take over their tasks. Trusting the team and believing everything will be completed in a timely and satisfactory manner has been a significant lesson for me this year.”
How is Soundings incorporating their 50th anniversary into this year’s journal, and what does this milestone represent?
“2023 marks the 50th year since the establishment of Soundings, but this is not the 50th journal edition. Rather, we are celebrating the fact that Soundings has been around for half a century. We celebrated the occasion with merchandise sales and social media posts featuring a 1970s theme. We are saving ideas for the actual 50th journal edition, which will be celebrated in the future. Can you describe the process of selecting themes or topics for Soundings? How do you determine what subject matter to cover?
“Although we do not impose specific themes for submissions, we do tend to see recurring patterns. This year, we received a lot of religious poetry delving beyond the usual expressions of faith and love for the Lord. In particular, these pieces explored the difficulties and hardships that come with being religious. Additionally, there was a prevalence of fantastical elements in our art pieces.”
When selecting entries, what criteria or qualities are you and your team looking for?
“We welcome a diverse range of submissions, and it is always interesting to see what patterns emerge given we do not have any specific requirements. For example, this year, we received numerous photographs from students who studied abroad, capturing the essence of different European locations. As the journal’s senior editor, when evaluating entries, I look for pieces that stand out from the rest, whether it be through unique formatting, content or themes. Like this year, someone turned in a charcoal piece, which was the only one we received. There are also common themes for each medium, such as love in poetry. Therefore, we evaluate each submission by what sets it apart, especially when it is exploring a common theme. In summary, the journal comprises pieces that either deviate from the norm or approach a common theme in a distinct way.”
What does Soundings’ work reveal about their community?
“I believe Soundings showcases the creativity and talent of the entire campus community. It is impressive to see creativity not limited by any particular major or field of study. We receive submissions from students across all disciplines. It is exciting to celebrate artists who may not have traditional outlets for their creativity. As a staff member of Soundings, it is an honor to be able to provide a platform for these talented individuals to showcase their work. I think people are drawn to the journal because it showcases such a diverse range of art, writing and photography. It is always exciting to see people stop and engage with the pieces, and I’ve noticed that people will even go and show others their favorite pieces. Overall, I think Soundings highlights the incredible artistic talent of our campus and provides a space for students to showcase their work and express themselves creatively.”
How can individuals become involved with Soundings, and what steps does the organization take to raise awareness and visibility on campus?
“Soundings has a rich history, dating back to 1972, making this year our 50th anniversary. Initially, we only published a literary arts journal, but over time we expanded to include visual arts as well. Each year, we produce a journal that celebrates both literary and visual arts on campus, and submissions are open to students, staff, faculty, and alumni. We have external judges, often from OSI, who choose the prize winners in each category. If you’re interested in getting involved, there are opportunities to help with the publication process and events throughout the semester. We also hold contests in the fall and open submissions for the spring journal by the end of the fall semester. Our current staff is mostly graduating, so there are always opportunities to get involved.”