“It’s my goal to make sure this magazine has a soul,” Samara Steele declares standing in a tiny second floor office in the Humanities Building.
Steele is the editor-in-chief of Jeopardy magazine, Western’s undergraduate annual literary journal. This year the editorial staff is invested in the history of the notable magazine while also striving to create a quality, if not memorable, magazine this year.
Operating in conjunction with the English Department, Jeopardy showcases the best of Western’s students, faculty, alumni and affiliates’ literary talents. But what is literature here? In Jeopardy, literature is defined by poetry, songwriting, fiction, creative non-fiction, prose, children’s literature, fine art, graphic novels, photography, scripts, screen plays, literary criticism, and so on. Pretty much anything of cognitive depth that can be bound, or replicated in print form.
Part of what makes Jeopardy unique is that each year the editorial staff changes. In the spring, a student editor-in-chief along with three student associate editors, also students are hired. This year, Steele acts as editor-in-chief, while Julia McDermott, Ryler Dustin and Matt Russen are all associate editors.
Submissions deadlines are twice a year, one on December 8 and the other in the spring, on March 16. A maximum of eight submissions may be submitted on each deadline, and each submission must be less than 5000 words or six pages and must be smaller than 11”x17”.
Julia McDermott emphasizes, “the more submissions the better. It means more work for us, but I really think the more submissions the better.”
On average, Jeopardy receives about 800 submissions. The submissions then go through a “blind submission” process where three readers evaluate each piece, passing on the highly rated pieces to the editors for the next step of evaluation, where the editors make final decisions on what will be included. Art pieces are evaluated by a separate group of readers who are art majors/experts.
Established in 1963 under the name Synchesis, the magazine was birthed as a literary journal accepting submissions from around the world. Purported to be a woman run and feminist organization in its infancy, the program was rumored to have run into some resistance and changed its name—and its supposed feminist focus—in 1965, becoming Jeopardy, according to Steele.
Accepting global submissions until 2003, Jeopardy has published such famed writers as Annie Dillard, Robert Creeley, Madeline DeFrees, William Stafford, Charles Bukowski, and so on.
In 2003 it was decided by the Jeopardy staff that Jeopardy would become a magazine exclusive to the Western Community, meaning that only Western students, alumni, faculty, staff and affiliates could submit materials for publication.
Though the exact reason for this change is somewhat unclear, according to the Jeopardy sdtaff, it is thought that the magazine changed its submission policy because the graduate English program at Western already publishes a literary magazine, the Bellingham Review, with international submissions.
This year the editorial staff is working at promoting a comprehensive yet community approach to the magazine. “We’re trying to make sure to create a magazine that displays a lot of different voices from the Western community,” McDermott said. Which is why the staff has chosen not to use a pre-conceived theme for this years magazine. “If a theme arises [from the selected submissions], we’ll go with that theme. But we try to make sure our magazine is reflective of students and the surrounding community,” Steele explains.
Dustin furthers, “I think we’re all pretty excited because we’ve all had experiences with literary magazines in the past and we’ve all developed ideas abut what we like about them and what they fall short of. I feel really excited because now we have a chance to try our hands at it and try to do something really quality.”
Within the whole campus community, the magazine has a strong reputation. Carlos Martinez, professor of poetry and a past Jeopardy poet, comments, “It’s interesting because considering the staff and students change every year, it remains wonderful.”
“In actuality, I think its one of the best student publications I’ve ever seen. The caliber has been consistently high from year to year.”
Interested? Submit your creative musings by December 8. To get a preview of past magazine talent, check out the Jeopardy reading night at the Underground Coffeehouse at 5 p.m. on November 30, as four former Jeopardy published writers will read their works.