Beyond The Margins literary journal offers opportunities for UNO graduate students

Emma Seely, Managing Editor

In May 2020, the MA in English program housed in UNO’s Department of English and Foreign Languages will release the inaugural issue of its student-run literary journal, Beyond the Margins. With every aspect of the journal’s publication process, from essay selection to editing, being carried out by students in the master’s program, Beyond the Margins offers a unique opportunity to give students real-life experience in their field. 


“It creates professionalizing opportunities for our students,” says the journal’s faculty advisor and graduate coordinator for the master’s in English program, Dr. Anne Boyd Rioux, “It’s really a student-run journal, so I just oversee and make sure everything’s going smoothly. The students are picking the articles that they want to publish and I’ll look them over and give them feedback, but they’re making the decisions.”


Master’s student Sofia Gilmore-Montero, one of the journal’s co-managing editors and a former news editor at Driftwood, agrees that Beyond the Margins offers a valuable opportunity for students to try out the world of academic publishing, even if it ultimately does not work out for them. 


“I think it’s cool when students do stuff like this,” Gilmore-Montero says. “It makes them realize that this is a job that people do, and if they do enjoy it, then they know where to go from there. If they don’t enjoy it, then they know, oh, I don’t like that, I want to go this path instead. But it does cultivate a lot of professional skills that you will need in most fields within the English realm.” 


Besides being almost entirely student-run, Beyond the Margins is also unique in the type of writers that it publishes: fellow graduate students. This allows the publication to create opportunities for students outside of UNO who have not previously been able to break into the world of academic publishing. 


“Graduate students are often encouraged to get their scholarship published,” says Rioux, “papers that they’ve written for class, some sort of literary analysis, to polish it up and maybe expand it into a publishable article. But it’s really hard for them to get into the academic journals that are out there. It can also take a long time. And so we thought there was a need for this sort of thing, and it would be a nice way to make our program more visible nationally.”


Another thing that separates Beyond the Margins from other literary journals is that it requires no fee to submit. This too makes the journal more accessible to graduate students. 


“It’s a great opportunity for everyone,” says Gilmore-Montero, “but it is an open English literature-based journal that has no fees to submit, so it does not exclude people who don’t have the financial means to pay money to submit work.”


By sending out their call for publication to a wide range of graduate English students, Beyond the Margins has received many different types of English literature submissions, ranging in topic from literary studies to cultural studies or even film analysis. With the efforts of student editors and readers, these submitted works are likely to be carefully considered for publication, even if they do have minor flaws. 


“I think students sometimes are more critical of each other than professors are,” says Gilmore-Montero, “but I also think sometimes they see an idea and they want you to run with it, so they might be a little bit more sympathetic to the amount of work that your essay needs. We give [submitted essays] more of a chance because we have more time to sit down and say, ‘OK, what does this essay really need?’ as opposed to just saying, ‘Oh, this essay is not perfect the way that it is,’ because no essay is perfect the way that it is. But we see that and we say ‘We can pull these points out, those are really good points. It’s worth coming up with edits that would make this a super-strong essay that we’d like to publish.’”


Although Beyond the Margins is new, Gilmore-Montero is already looking forward to its future. As the journal continues to grow and become more established in its practices, it will continue to offer opportunities to UNO students, the English department and graduate students from other universities. 


“I would like to keep it as sustainable as possible,” Gilmore-Montero says. “I think that it’s just a really cool idea to have a journal that is run for and by students.”