Tobeco may be the Native American word for the Clarion River, but at Clarion University the word is synonymous with a stream of literary and artistic creations.
Tobeco is the name of the university’s literary magazine, which is a student publication from start to finish and is a recognized student organization.
The magazine is published every spring and includes fiction, creative non-fiction, art, poetry and prose pieces. These pieces are submitted during the club’s call for submissions which is going on now.
“People never expect to get published,” said faculty advisor Phil Terman, Ph.D.
Terman said people might not expect to get published because rejection is a normal part of a writer’s life. However, Terman said the submissions the group receives are incredible.
The group doesn’t just get submissions from Clarion University students and faculty, but also from the community, which is welcome.
Tobeco also has developed a strong community of its own at its open-mic nights held once or twice a month at Michelle’s Café.
Derek Dietz, a senior secondary English major and a Tobeco senior editor, said the open-mic nights have a loyal and diverse following. Open-mic nights include musicians, comedians, poets, writing students, spectators and artists from the Spoken Arts Reading Series sponsored by the English department and Tobeco.
In addition to open-mic nights, Tobeco has been part of some writing projects which inspire different kinds of writing and community involvement. The “This I Believe” essay project is based on the popular radio series of the same name in the 1950s. The English department, in partnership with the Office of Academic Affairs and 537 Clarion: Community Learning Workshop, sponsored the “This I Believe” essay contest in 2013. Hundreds of individuals submitted to the contest, including local high school students. Some of those essays were included in the 2014 issue of Tobeco.
This year, there’s a focus on translations, and there’s been a request for those who write in foreign languages to make submissions. Those pieces that are accepted will be featured in Tobeco with an English translation, Terman said.
In addition to the community, Tobeco members have been pleasantly surprised by the number of non-English majors who make submissions. “We see a lot of science and math (majors) coming out,” said Rebecca Greenman, a senior secondary English major and senior editor of Tobeco.
But the club always wants more submissions to be made. “There are so many people who should be submitting, but aren’t,” Greenman said.
The deadline to submit an entry to Tobeco is Feb. 14. The literary magazine will be published in early spring.
Once submissions are collected, a voting committee of about 10-15 people has the task of selecting content for the magazine. Greenman, Dietz and Mark Skalski, a senior English major and junior editor of Tobeco, are a part of that voting process but said other students can vote even if they aren’t in the club.
Greenman said voting and supporting the pieces you enjoy most can lead to some arguments. “We flex our persuasive muscles quite a bit.”
“I love the passion people bring – why they hate it, why they love it,” Greenman said.
Greenman said she once felt so strongly about a poem that she fought hard for it and even threatened to quit the club if it didn’t get in the publication. It got it in after she read it aloud and made her case for it.
Once the selections are made for written pieces and artwork, they are laid out on Terman’s office floor, where committee members shift them around to see what artwork looks best or makes the most sense next to the written pieces. The process takes a couple of days until there is a consensus.
“Each journal looks different, and that’s on purpose,” Terman said.
Tobeco also is a collaborative effort among other departments and individuals such as Brenda Stahlman in PAGES and Jim Rose, a professor from the department of visual and performing arts.
Tobeco’s goal for this year’s edition is for it to be published online with one student working to make that happen.