Juice Journal launches its 19th edition of the University of Winnipeg (U of W) literary journal on Oct. 7. Founded in 2000, the literary journal publishes the creative writing of U of W students, including fiction, art, poetry and, occasionally, plays and comics. Some of the writers published in Juice have gone on to illustrious careers, including Katherena Vermette, Joshua Whitehead and Kristian Enright.
Every fall semester, two student editors are hired by the working board. In the winter term, the editors and the editorial board, including creative writing professors Catherine Hunter and Margaret Sweatman select the work which will be published in the journal.
Over the spring and summer term, the editors work with writers to polish their pieces and prepare the journal for publication in the fall. Each submission to this issue “received feedback and advice on how to develop and grow their personal style, regardless of whether their piece could fit into the journal,” Hayden A. Maines, Juice 19 editor, says. They had over 50 submissions, of which 22 were accepted.
While many of the writers are from the English department and the creative writing classes offered by Sweatman and Hunter, they emerge from across many disciplines.
Every year, Juicers visit classes across the U of W to tell students about the literary journal. Juice has published writers like Beverley Fredborg, a graduate in biopsychology, and actors Kevin P. Gabel and Rayna Masterton, as well as photographer Leif Norman.
Hunter says it is “a way to show the world the work our students are producing. We’ve got some incredibly talented people here, and many of them have gone on to publish elsewhere.
“There are always surprises in the journal, because sometimes there are people writing, and I’ve never heard of them before, (because) they haven’t taken any of my classes. That is always exciting.”
First publication for many students
For many people, Juice is their first literary publication. Kristjanna Pensato will be published for the first time in Juice 19. Pensato says that finding out her poem was going to be published gave her a “very confirming and empowering feeling that something (she) wrote would be considered publishable and shareable.”
Juice Journal is “a fair place to start out” as a writer,” Hunter says.
“You’re not necessarily ready to be competing with anybody, sending your work to journals that also publish Michael Ondaatje or other professional writers. It is pretty hard to break into professional writing, but Juice is still a real literary journal.”
History in the writing
Before Juice, there were several literary journals at the U of W, including Creative Campus in the ’40s and ’50s, and Mandala in the ’70s and ’80s. Margaret Laurence’s 1974 novel The Diviners features a scene in which the character Morag and a friend hide their manuscripts in their textbooks on the way to submit them for the literary journal at the English department at the U of W.
Up until 1999, Hunter’s students of the Advanced Creative Writing class “would put together a little anthology on their own,” Hunter says. “We never had money for photocopying. The students would do it themselves. We needed help to put together something nicer.”
U of W librarian Mark Leggot approached Hunter with the possibility of a library-funded literary journal. Leggot had a number of ideas of what to do with the library budget, Hunter says. He even attempted a project where he sent “students on roller skates to videotape things around campus.”
Leggott and Hunter partnered with the Writers’ Collective, a Winnipeg writers’ organization with offices in the U of W Library, to form a small working board, and Juice Journal was born.
The working board hired two undergraduate students, Ben Benton and Michael Goertzen, to edit Juice 1. Every year since, Juice has hired two undergraduate students to edit and produce the magazine, working with an editorial board and the published writers.
Training in writing and editing for students
“It is training,” Hunter says. “It is professionalization in writing, editing and publishing for people. These editors work with the writers to polish their work, solicit artwork for the cover, typeset and co-ordinate with the printers. In the fall, they organize a launch of each issue, either on campus or in the community.”
To submit, each writer has to follow guidelines, which can help prepare them for future publication. Lindsey Childs (published in Juice 8 to 11), associate editor at Prairie Fire magazine, says “Juice is an excellent starting ground for writers, so that they get a taste of what it is to follow the submission guidelines and work with an editor, which in turn would better prepare them (to work with) a journal like Prairie Fire.”
Since the founding of the Carol Shields Writer-in-Residence program in 2005, the journal has featured an interview with the current writer in residence. These interviewees have included Margaret Sweatman, Chandra Mayor, Debbie Patterson, Gregory Scofield and Juicer Katherena Vermette (Juice 4, 5 and 7). Hunter says it makes the journal more interesting while also publicizing the program and letting students know they may make use of it in the future.
While the physical journal is important, the open mics Juice holds every year have become essential to Juicers.
“Community-building was a side effect that I wasn’t necessarily expecting. Writers need each other,” Hunter says.
This past year, open mics were held in The Hive.
“Many (writers) would develop their work over the course of several open mics or experiment with something new they were working on or showcase something they had completed years back,” Maines says.
“It changes from year to year, as we have different cohorts going though. Sometimes, (it’s) very tightly knit.” Hunter says. “Other years, it’s not necessarily as cohesive, (and) it kind of goes up and down. I think since Eileen Holowka was editor (in 2014 and ‘15), it has really focused on community-building.”
Joshua Whitehead, who was Holowka’s co-editor for Juice 14, says the open mics taught him “how to be performative and how to animate story, returning to (his) Indigenous ways of knowing and being. It is oral animation, experience it living, letting it reverberate through the body.”
Some of Whitehead’s poems workshopped at the open mics are published in his book, full-metal indigiqueer.
“What I learned from Juice when I was working on the full-metal poems was really to think about the performative nature (and how) I construct the grammar and sound (by using) technologic language, which was something I started to hone in on and work with during the open mics.”
Whitehead says he values “the level of accountability of the community,” which they have continued to maintain. For Josh, a good writing community is “about inclusivity, rather than exclusivity, and I think Juice, at least when we were running it, it was very much about that.”
For the past 19 years, the goal of Juice has been “to give the students the experience of going through the submission process, working with an editor and then hopefully going through the publishing process. But all of that means possibly going through the rejection process,” Hunter says.
Whitehead admits he was rejected the first two times he submitted, but his eventual acceptance made him feel empowered.
“It was very validating for me, finally having something in print, material that was tangible that I could touch,” he says.
“Print culture is getting squeezed these days,” Hunter says. “So many things are online now, and they don’t even have a paper presence. In fact, Juice prints fewer journals than they used to, but Margaret Sweatman and I think that print culture is important. It has a place in society, and it is something you can pass around from one person to another in the way that you can’t pass your laptop around, and it is something you can hold in your hand, something you can travel with, something you can give to your mom.
“Each issue is like an art gallery show. This is what we have this year. It is kind of a marker of what is going on creatively among the writing students.”
The writers may change from year to year, but Juice continues to have an impact on writers like Whitehead.
“Juice really set me up for the writing career I have now. I am not a writer in a vacuum. I have accountability to communities: Indigenous communities, queer communities and the community of the U of W,” Whitehead says. “I really hope (students) take advantage of the opportunity and the spaces that Juice can afford.”
This year’s launch will be at the Grant Park McNally Robinson Booksellers on Oct. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be copies of the journal for sale, as well as readings from the writers. Pensato says she’s “gut-wrenchingly terrified” to read but acknowledges that “there is a lot of significance in speaking your words into a space of people.”
Juice 19 will be available for purchase at McNally Robinson Booksellers and the University of Winnipeg Bookstore. Follow the Juice Facebook page for updates on open mics and submissions.
Published in Volume 74, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 26, 2019)