Literary Magazine Achievement in VHSL Competition

By Olivia Hoye

Hannah Wright, the editor of the James River High School literary magazine, Currents, worked all of last year, along with her dedicated staff, on the 2017-18 magazine titled Transcendence. Their efforts were recognized in the VHSL competition this fall, winning a First Class award.

The literary magazine has a very interesting and complex history that many people are unaware of despite the many banners hanging in the library and lobby. The name of the magazine, Currents, has stuck for over a decade. Interestingly, the name came from a book that previous librarian, Ms. Woodie, wrote after realizing how perfect the title fit with the school’s location next to the river. Ms. Woodie was the first adviser of the James River High School literary magazine, which she started in 2003. After advocating for a creative writing class and convincing the school’s principal to go through all sorts of channels at the school board, Mrs. Woodie finally got permission to start a magazine. She used her previous experience in publication to mentor two seniors who served as her writing and art editors. To kickstart the magazine, the literary staff raised three thousand dollars thanks to generous donations from the Bank of Botetourt, VFW, and local Kiwanis Club. These sponsors enabled them to produce a colored magazine that won a trophy title at the VHSL Creative Writing Booklet State Level Competition in 2004. Their success at the competition became a recurring theme, as noted by the banners around the school, and Currents has been produced here at James River ever since.

The VHSL competition judges literary magazines based on unifying elements, layout and design, literature, and art, rating each on a scale of four classifications: superior, excellent, good, and needs improvement. The evaluators look for consistency in quality, cohesiveness, variety in chosen works, use of space and color, proper writing techniques, and creativity. The VHSL committee holds student publication to a very high standard as “students not only learn to publish for an authentic audience, but they also receive training in specific disciplines: writing and editing, layout and design, art and photography, technology, and business management. Beyond that, students develop responsibility, dependability, leadership, teamwork, and ethical decision making,” as stated in the VHSL 2018-19 Evaluative Criteria Booklet. VHSL also places importance that the competition, evaluation, and critiques of the magazines are for the students’ benefit and growth; the awards come second.

The magazine showcases students’ works of visual art and creative writing featuring everything from poetry to short stories and watercolor to oil pastel. By working in Ms. Week’s Creative Writing class and spending countless hours outside of school, the 2018 magazine was designed, printed, and then sold at Knight of the Arts in May. The magazine’s theme, Transcendence, by Merriam-Webster’s definition, means the quality or state of being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge. The theme brings together works with a mystical and euphoric style, making the magazine cohesive while showcasing and celebrating the authors and artists within the school. The staff was very excited to finally be able to give a theme to the magazine because VHSL hasn’t allowed themes in previous years. Being able to work around a single idea made the magazine come together in a way it hadn’t before.

Hannah worked with her staff, Brooke Cuddy, Jake Mabe, Erin Walker, Lilli Clevenger, Elizabeth Rice, Jessie Rocha, Michael Burnett, Dani Keffer, Paige Fitzgerald, and Evie Melvin on the magazine every day during their ninety-minute creative writing class. Many different elements go into the creation the magazine. Some of these elements include designing the layout, perfecting the artwork, writing letters to possible sponsors of the magazine, and tedious spell checking. The team also utilized time outside of class in order to submit the magazine for competition by the June deadline. The current -- no pun intended -- staff is working diligently to put together this year's magazine, which is set to come out in May. They will be hosting an Open Mic Night February 15th for $5 admission in order to raise money for the publication expenses.

The James River community is so proud of Hannah, her staff, as well as the authors and artists that contributed to the magazine. If you are interested in being a part of the magazine staff, talk to Hannah or the newest adviser, Mrs. Wingo, to find out how to get involved in Literary Club!