Photo credit: Aaron Valdez

By Briana Johnson

It isn’t unnatural to say that I’ve always been involved with the arts at U-M; I entered Lloyd my freshman year and continued as a Student Assistant during my sophomore year. I’d been creating art all my life, and I didn’t want that to stop during college. But after leaving Lloyd my sophomore year, I felt a little unsure of where to go next; Lloyd was a space where I could let my creativity run free, without interruption (seriously, I spent more time in the art studio than at the library). Thankfully, I got involved with a literary journal my junior year. Founded by students in Sweetland’s Minor in Writing in the Fall of 2018, Writer to Writer focused on the process behind a piece of writing. The team emphasized getting writers’ and creators’ voices out there, to help people understand the weight behind a piece. Our goal as a team wasn’t only to curate a great journal, but also to amplify the voices of the people behind the pieces. The ability to share a piece’s journey, and feature an exceptional writer’s thoughts on their creation, felt like a way to connect creators together and learn from each other’s processes. As more and more pieces came in, I grew attached to certain stories and paintings, as I got a secret look into what went into creating them.

Writer to Writer E-Board 2018-2019

And as my fondness for Writer to Writer grew, I found myself wanting to make an impact beyond my role as a copyeditor and curator. During my senior year, I’ve had the opportunity to work as the journal’s marketing chair. This meant creating events for fellow writers and creators to attend, connecting with the general student body to inform them about the journal, and sending e-mail reminders about deadlines and announcements. One of my favorite moments as Marketing Chair was brainstorming for the journal’s rebranding, as the previous year we’d had some grasp on how we wanted to market the journal, but it had yet to come to fruition. My position was a big part of making this a reality. We needed a better vocabulary to describe the journal to others, and a specific way of marketing ourselves to the student body. And it was a little nerve-wracking to find all the right words and descriptions to even begin this process. The E-Board and I spent a lot of time reflecting on last year’s journal. This resulted in the launch of a new website for the journal, a definite color scheme, and new tactics to draw in new readers. The process gave us a better idea of where the journal would be in the upcoming years and how new members can uphold this new “brand.” And while it sounds like a lot of marketing mumbo jumbo, it ended up being an extremely creative process. Color schemes, colorful descriptions, and dynamic imagery were all things I’d come across while making visual art; and it was all there while we went through the rebranding process. I was able to use an analytical eye towards how the journal would look and feel, even if my ideas were only an abstract version of the final product. The process of rebranding, in my head, was similar to making something in your brain become a reality; it was like making art.

As corny as it sounds, I had a lot of fun rebranding the journal. It made me realize how important it is to be involved with a process that you know so well as an artist—the “everything” that comes before the finished piece. Being involved in an org that focuses on this big idea of “the process” connected me to a side of myself I was so worried about losing after leaving Lloyd. Although the journal was a collaboration of pieces that weren’t my own, I was a part of making sure it all came together. And that’s a part of the “creating” process. And I think that matters a lot when getting involved in a new organization or club. Feeling like you’re a part of the process, and eventually, there will be this big thing you’ve contributed to. Although I’d never been involved in a literary journal prior to Writer to Writer, I was able to use the things I’d learned in LHSP, and as an artist, that applied to a new position. My experiences in LHSP taught me to be open to critique, and work together in a team to get things done. Both my involvement with Creative Writing Club and my role as Film Club co-director strengthened my skills in time management and collaboration. All of these skills helped me communicate with new journal members effectively. Even if something is out of your comfort zone, it doesn’t always mean it’s going to be completely foreign. I learned not to let my nervousness about a position, one I was completely unfamiliar with, hold me back. Finding a way to connect it to your own personal interests or experiences makes a new organization worthwhile.

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All photos courtesy of Briana Johnson.