It’s Sketchy At Best

 “Like our literary and cultural critics, our creative writers, especially our poets are in much need of book publication outlets.” – Charles Henry Rowell, Callaloo A Journal of Necessity     (page 62)

This greatly needed outlet for writers Rowell speaks about can be a publishing house, a literary magazine, or in some cases a college literary journal. Across the country literary journals have become a place for students to share their writing, much like the one Rowell himself started, Callaloo. Rowell’s journal allowed the students at the different universities it has been based at to share their writing, specifically African American writers with a story. Rowell started his own outlet for writers, but there are plenty more just like his.


Another journal, Sketch, is run by the students of Iowa State University.  The journal started in 1934, which makes it the longest running student publication in the country. Sketch accepts written work among genres such as fiction, nonfiction and poetry, as well as visual submissions. While the first submission does not have a required formatting, the final submission does have a lengthy list of formatting requirements. Writers offering their work to the journal are not allowed to have the work published or pending publishing in any other collections, a normal requirement for most literary journals. The works are the reviewed by a jury board to be selected for one of the two journals published a year. The publication accepts and encourages the submission of work from all of majors from undergraduate and graduate students. Two featured alums include, Ted Kooser, former United States Poet Laureante, and Tom Harkin, United States Senator from Iowa both during their undergraduate time at Iowa State. A digital collection of Sketch issues from 1934 to 2014 are cataloged on the University Library Digital Collections. In recent years, the issues have about 25 to 30 works featured from their students.


Rowell brings up the notion of writers needing a publication outlet, across the United States there are 368 outlets for student writers run by students in the form of college literary magazines. The multitude of journals that allow students to publish their work shows that the love for the written word spans across the nation. And it starts with the students.


Francesca Leparik


One thought on “It’s Sketchy At Best

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  1. The project of profiling another literary journal is a good one, but we’ve got a few issues that need clarification here. First, Callaloo is a bit different from a journal like Sketch. While Sketch seems to publish work by the students at Iowa State, Callaloo is a national (now international) journal. While Callaloo is housed at a university, it isn’t publishing the students of that university.

    Rather than partnering Sketch with Callaloo, it could be interesting for you to give an overview of 2-3 different undergraduate literary journals (Sketch plus 1-2 others), noting similarities and/or differences between them. I also encourage you to dig a little deeper into any journal you mention, since much of the info on Sketch, here, is included in their brief “about” paragraph on their website. It looks like you can read copies of Sketch online. Reading a few current issues (and commenting on these) could add more depth to your review.


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