"The Meadow" Creates Literary Legacy at TMCC

Two covers from The Meadow's print edition
Rebecca A. Eckland

If you have a passion for poetry and prose, you might want to know that TMCC’s literary journal, The Meadow, is a nationally-recognized publication that has weathered everything strange and unexpected in 2020 to publish—both electronically and in print—its annual edition.  Although it might be tough to get your hands on a physical copy, the online edition for 2020 is posted on the TMCC website, and even despite the pandemic, continues to offer TMCC students, as well as aspiring and established writers a forum for their compelling short stories, poems and nonfiction. 

Boise State University’s Director of Advising and Academic Support Center Tomas Baiza’s short story “Nezaahualcóyoltl” appeared in the 2020 edition. It’s the story of a single mother searching for her son at a powwow which explores the intersection of race, language, social class and the unique relationship that Mexician-Americans hold with their cultural heritage. 

“I admire the resilience and tenacity of The Meadow’s editors who fought campus closures and budget disruptions to get the 2020 into both print and online publication,” Baiza said. “The pandemic has presented extreme challenges to arts journals and outlets in ways that we would have never imagined when I began submitting this story earlier this year.”

However, The Meadow has long turned out noteworthy, quality literary work while providing unique insights into the editorial and publishing process for students. “The Meadow shows that TMCC students can produce quality work...and, it gives our students a place to publish their work along with established writers. You have these great stories and student pieces right next to them,” said Prose Editor and English Professor Rob Lively. 

Last year, the journal received over 400 prose submissions. Of those, only ten were accepted for publication. “We get a lot of really, really good stuff,” said Lively who also said he’s looking for student readers to participate on the editorial board. “Our reading period opened September 1, and already we have over 25 stories that have been submitted,” he said. 

So, if you’re into literature and you want your finger on the pulse of what writers are writing about now, join this long-standing literary tradition that’s been a part of TMCC since the 1980s. 

The History of The Meadow

According to Lively, The Meadow started in the 1980s, but it was published irregularly for several years until 2002 when he became a full-time professor in the English department. “By that time, The Meadow had been gone for four years. So, I wrote a grant, and received $1800 from the TMCC Foundation, so I put a call out for students,” Lively remembered. 

Three students joined him, and helped to put out the next generation of The Meadow. That issue was filled  with student stories, and provided a basis for which future editions could expand its reach.

That was the first year of an uninterrupted publication run, including this year with all its unanticipated challenges. “We continued to put out issues, recruit students from creative writing classes and some faculty helped with production,” Lively said. 

In 2006, Poetry Professor Lindsay Wilson joined the editorial board as the journal’s Poetry Editor. In addition to adding his expertise to the world of verse, Wilson brought a new aesthetic to the journal.  “Two issues back in 2018, we changed the masthead. It really needed to change, we had the same design since 2005,” Wilson said. He hired graphic designer Felix Danger who came up with the new masthead design that includes a silhouette of a bird and an updated typeface.

Wilson also helped to find this year’s cover which features the artwork of Jaxon Northon.  Northon, who is originally from Reno, creates portraits that embrace the combined challenge of capturing a likeness while expressing emotion through the human figure, blending realism with an illustrative style in oil paints to capture the realities of individualism and isolation. 

“This year, we have a really unique cover,” said Wilson who admits the cover design is sometimes the most difficult part of the editorial process, since the cover image must be unique as well as the right size and composition to share the space with the journal’s masthead.

Writing, Editorial and Publishing Experience

For several years, The Meadow has been recognized by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Additionally, it was awarded first place by the Community College Humanities Association of Competition for Journals. “We’ve had great success in turning out some really good work,” said Lively, who recalls a personal essay by John Gifford called “The Decoy,”  which was published in the 2018 edition of The Meadow. “I really loved that essay. It was talking about old duck decoys, and the author related that for the love he had for his wife. It was really well written.”

The essay later appeared in the 2019 editions of The Best American Essays and The Best American Sports Writing. “So, The Meadow was listed alongside ESPN The Magazine, Vanity Fair. It was great,” said Lively. 

Even better news? TMCC can take advantage of having an award-winning publication at their community college. “I think having a journal like this really helps to professionalize our students as writers and editors. The journal gives students publication credit that they can use if they are applying to bachelor’s degrees like a BFA,” said Lively. 

Working on the editorial board as a student reader offers another great opportunity to see what subjects contemporary writers and poets are publishing. “By reading, you can get to know what’s happening now in the publishing world because no one is teaching contemporary poetry to students. This is an opportunity for students to engage in work that is ‘alive,’” said Wilson.

If an advanced degree in writing or language is in your future, serving on the editorial board can be a great resume and skill-builder. This year, two TMCC graduates—Courtney Clifton and Marina Leigh—who are former Meadow editorial board members, were admitted to Master of Fine Arts programs in poetry at the University of Nevada, Reno and  the University of Mississippi, respectively. Erek Lively—who served on the Prose Editorial Board for several years—listed his experience as a part of his application to graduate school. This semester, he has been accepted to the graduate program in History at Leeds University.

Even though the editorial and publication process will continue to be altered in our ongoing “new normal” students who are interested in reading for The Meadow should reach out to Robert Lively or Lindsay Wilson in the English department.  In addition to reading some really good writing, doing so can be the resume-booster that shows your initiative and love of language.

“Working on an editorial board is a really great experience if you want to apply somewhere,” said Lively. “Plus, students get to see firsthand how to publish work and you gain a different perspective on that process.  I also think it’s really interesting for students to see what works, and to apply those insights to their own writing. I mean, if you’re two to three pages into a story and it’s just boring, you’re going to stop reading it. That’s an important lesson to bring to your own written work.”

So, if you’re a writer—published or not—you might want to consider signing up for The Meadow editorial board. The reading load is heavy, but you’ll have experience that will help you to reach those writing and publication goals. In the very least, you’ll read poems and prose that will be interesting food for thought. 

For more information about TMCC’s literary journal The Meadow, contact their office at 775-673-7092.