As anybody who has clicked and scrolled their way around Adobe InDesign knows, the complex publishing application used to design most of today’s newspapers and magazines requires more than a few training sessions to master.
But Allie Sipe, a Southern Oregon University English major who’s currently at the University of New Mexico as part of a historic exchange program, simply doesn’t have more than a few training sessions to work with. And as the first non-UNM student in 31 years to join the staff of the school’s highly acclaimed honors journal, Scribendi, Sipe is determined to do whatever it takes to succeed.
“That’s been really one of the most challenging but also one of the most rewarding parts for me,” Sipe said of her InDesign workshops, which began shortly after she left Ashland Aug. 17. “It’s really like going back to the very, very basics, for me especially. And we have Mac’s, too, that we use here and I’m a PC person, so even that is like, ‘Oh gosh.’ But it’s been a lot of watching training tutorial videos — ‘OK, how do I insert text’ — on your own time, and then projects. We just designed flyers calling for submissions.”
Sipe, a 21-year-old senior at SOU, will probably be inserting a lot of text in the coming months after being selected in May from a pool of candidates as part of a national student exchange to help piece together an annual publication whose 2016 version weighed in at 119 pages. Scribendi is a nonprofit magazine that publishes creative work such as poetry, creative nonfiction and short fiction submitted from students that attend more than 800 colleges in the Western Regional Honors Council and the National Collegiate Honors Council. University of New Mexico honors students produce Scribendi over the fall and spring semesters. This year, for the first time, a student from outside UNM will also be working on Scribendi, and Sipe, who writes creative nonfiction herself but as a staff member cannot submit her own work, is excited about the opportunity.
“It’s really cool,” she said. “The whole thing was really exciting because everyone’s been so welcoming and super nice to me about it. It’s cool to be the first person and I hope that anybody else who’s interested will be able to do it in the future, too.”
After some team-building exercises, the staff got right to work learning InDesign, practicing their skills by creating flyers and tracking down possible donors for an upcoming silent auction. Soon, Sipe and the rest of the Scribendi staff will begin sorting through submissions, copy editing and designing the magazine, which had a print run of 1,750 copies last spring. Sipe will return to Ashland in December before the finished product is completed.
Sipe said she first heard about Scribendi’s new exchange program last May from the executive director of SOU’s honors college, Ken Mulliken, who encouraged anybody who thought it may be a good fit to apply soon. Sipe said Mulliken’s enthusiasm was one of the main reasons she decided to take a closer look at the position, and the more she researched the better it seemed. She also called UNM assistant professor and Scribendi advisor Amaris Ketcham.
“I was excited about the chance to go to New Mexico and just live in a city for a while,” said Sipe, who grew up in tiny Quincy, California. “Albuquerque’s a lot bigger than anywhere that I’ve ever lived. That was cool. And I was also just excited about the chance to get to know some more people, make some more contacts somewhere else. And I’m a writer and interested in that, so it would be cool to learn about the other side of publishing.”
So Sipe sent out her application posthaste, and about two weeks later received word that she had been accepted.
Now, she’s been in Albuquerque for a little more than a month and it’s been a busy five weeks. Besides the magazine work — the staff meets twice a week in addition to seven to eight hours of Scribendi work per week — Sipe’s taking classes, though her 12 credit hours qualifies as a break compared to the spring-term class load and part-time job she took on last spring at SOU.
Still, there were a few surprises at UNM, but nothing Sipe hasn’t been able to handle.
“I talked to Dr. Ketcham on the phone a little bit so I had a general sense,” she said. “I didn’t know necessarily that we have an office and we have a couple office hours every week, and we’re always working on projects and really there’s always stuff to do. But honestly, I really like all that.”
Scribendi submissions from across the nation are expected to start coming in soon, but Sipe is excited about that. She’s also get a lot out of a creative nonfiction writing class she’s taking, at which her work will be scrutinized by other students.
In her Scribendi office, she recently designed a flyer that will be used as a call-out for submissions. She also set up a bulletin board outside her office, a “meet the staff” wall that includes pictures and biographies of each of the staff members. She’s learning about the business side of the publishing business, too. Last weekend, Sipe and a few of her fellow staff members took a road trip to Sante Fe seeking donations for the silent auction.
“A little bit of everything,” she said. “You’re not just in the design. You’re doing the promotion, you’re doing the fundraising. Definitely, it’s a huge collaborative process. I’m really lucky to have a great staff to work with.”
Josh Rysanek, another Scribendi staffer who’s worked with Sipe on fundraising projects, said their group was able to acquire $2,000 worth of merchandise for the silent auction. Sipe is representing SOU well, he said.
“I’d definitely say she’s very interested in the process and energized by what’s going in,” he said. “She’s an English major and she’s interested in writing creative nonfiction so she definitely is able to provide good input when reviewing, especially that kind of writing. And also, just in general, she seems like a very productive, effective person. We were supposed to visit classes and talk about Scribendi to all the honors classes and I think she was the first one to complete three classes and do three presentations.
“She’s always the first person in the office.”
Past issues of Scribendi can be viewed at scribendi.unm.edu.
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.