A Review: How to College, a Guide to the Top Literary Magazine of SUNY Oswego

Since 1974, The Great Lake Review has been bringing aspiring students into the world of publishing. This literary magazine has a bit for everyone, with genres of nonfiction, fiction, screenplays, artwork, and poetry. Not only all of this, but better yet, it’s free.

In Spring of 1975, the Great Lake Review was only in its second edition. A baby of a thing, this edition was a mere 18 pages long with only 5 editors. Now, this year in Spring 2017, the magazine has grown.  Each genre has its own head editor, with at least 5 volunteer readers under them. This amazing team reads through all the submissions in their genre – in poetry alone this semester there were over 100 submissions! Together all these editors and volunteers create a book that in total will be about 5 times as big as the one created in 1975!

If that doesn’t show the love that students put into creating this book…

I don’t know what will.

Not only are the people behind this literary magazine passionate about creating it, but the works being submitted are top notch. When talking to the head editor, Christina Bandru, about the latest edition of the GLR she said:

The first thing that came to mind when I saw the finalized book last semester was: Wow, look at my child. So beautiful.Of course it wasn’t perfect, but I knew what went into making it and I genuinely loved the pieces in it so I was pretty proud.

I’m even more excited for this semester’s issue because it’s cleaner, it’s brighter, and it’s a good way for me to end my time with GLR. I’m definitely still a proud Mama.

Her love for the magazine is evident in this quote, as well as the quality of the final edition. It isn’t always easy sorting through and picking out which pieces will make the final cut, and the ones that do make it in deserve to be read. Every piece inside of this magazine is created by students – from freshmen to seniors – everyone has a chance! Submissions are read anonymously as well – so there’s no way any bias can be put in should an editor know a writer.

In our group discussions, sometimes an editor would say something such as “I’ve read this poem before and I think I know who wrote it, so I’m withholding my opinion until after you guys have discussed it” that’s how seriously we take the anonymity behind reading submissions. The only person who actually has the names, is Christina as she oversees us all but lets us make the decisions.

Who knows where these writers will go one day…will they become the reporter whose story you always search for? Or the writer whose online publications you follow intensely? The talent coming in can be shocking, especially when you think about the fact that this is all student work.

This Spring (2017) I got the chance to be a volunteer editor of the poetry submissions. After reading through over the 100 submissions in our free time, all 6 editors got together and we talked about the submissions one by one for a little over 3 hours!

It was interesting to read all the poems coming in ranging in subjects form love to school to even drug use and self abuse. Some of the poems were really dark, like really dark, and we decided that they could be triggers and that publishing them wouldn’t be something we could all agree on, so sadly we had to pass on them.

IMG_7920 (2)
Photo taken of the poetry editors on review night. In the back: Emily Goleski (head poetry editor) & Christina Bandru. In the Front: Lilly Kiel, Me, & Rebecca Ziegler. 

Then of course when you get that many submissions sometimes you get a lot of cliches, but what is a cliche? You know that line you read that you swear you’ve read before in a bunch of other literary works? Chances are…it’s a cliche. Webster’s Dictionary defines a cliche as “something that has become overly familiar or commonplace / a trite phrase or expression”. When we read a few poems with the same image of lavender smells and unlocking my heart, these also got beaten out by other poems. This type of elimination surprisingly takes away a good half of the submissions. Other submissions that had to be passed on had many typos and errors in them (submissions are expected to be print ready), or lacked a certain elegance in language making them come across as tired or less passionate.

At the end of the year after hours of reading submissions, debating over what to accept into the magazine, rearranging pieces one by one to create a book, calling printers and budgeting (all done by students might I add) there is even a party held at a local bookstore, The River’s End Bookstore where these authors get a chance to publicly read their works and interact with other people passionate about language and the different ways words can be arranged.

That party is coming up soon, May 4th in fact, so even if you didn’t make that final cut or didn’t have a chance to submit, it is an amazing chance to go meet young writers and hopefully be inspired by them, as they have inspired me.

Bandru, Christina. Personal Interview. 24 April 2017.

“Cliché.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

Donnelly, Laura. “Photo of Poetry Editors.” 2017. Photograph.

Maggie Gaiero


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