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Mount St. Mary’s Literary Magazine Receives Medal from Columbia Scholastic Press Association for 10th Time in 12 Years

LC feature

Lighted Corners editors and contributors presented at the recent regional Sigma Tau Delta conference, hosted by the Mount. From left are Tom Bligh, Ph.D., advisor; Rachel Donohue, art and design editor; Alba Sarria, editor; Betsy Busch, staff member; and Breanna DeSimone, poetry editor.

The 2019 edition of Mount St. Mary’s University’s literary and arts magazine, Lighted Corners, was awarded a gold medal in the annual Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) competition. Lighted Corners has been a perennial winner in the CPSA competition over the past 12 years, securing a gold medal in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2019 and a silver medal in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. CPSA was established in 1925 to help improve student publications.

lighted-corners.jpgThe award-winning Spring 2019 magazine showcases a thoughtfully published collection of creative nonfiction, fiction, fine arts, photography and poetry by nearly 30 Mount students, selected from among 300-plus submissions.

“This year’s magazine is a product of the passionate writers and artists on this campus, stemming from all fields of study,” Alba Sarria, C’21, wrote in her editor’s note. “Without their love for exploring our world, daring to make up their own, and crafting works as vibrant, nuanced, and eclectic as themselves, we wouldn’t have the wonderfully dark magazine you now hold in your hands.”

The cover of the magazine features current Mount MBA student Sarah Dirndorfer’s digital photograph titled “Majesty.The photograph captures a forest of dark pine trees at the base of shadowy mountains topped by a cloud-filled sky. Art and Design Editor Rachel Donohue, C’21, noted that the cover’s gradation created perspective and movement, which visually matches the raw emotions and diverse topics of the pieces in the issue. “Our minds tend to recede and rest in the dark places,” she said of the cover image. “We must remember to look upward to a greater purpose, symbolized by the sky, to arouse our thoughts and creativity.”

Faculty adviser and professor of English, Thomas Bligh, Ph.D., C’94, has had a hand in shaping the literary magazine for decades. During his time as an undergraduate, Bligh was a contributor and also served as assistant editor and editor. “The adviser to Lighted Corners was Dr. William Heath. He was my favorite professor and I took lots of his literature courses,” Bligh said, recalling Heath’s help and encouragement when Bligh applied to graduate school. “By coincidence, he retired in 2007 around the same time I received my doctorate from Florida State University. I applied for the Mount job he was vacating and found myself teaching literature and creative writing and advising Lighted Corners.”

In the same spirit of cultivating the next generation of students to produce a meaningful publication and undertake a worthwhile endeavor, Bligh favors teaching undergraduates what it means to participate in a literary community. “Making Lighted Corners isn’t just about seeing one’s poem in print—it’s about service to our university and to each other,” he added. Throughout the process, students are exposed to how to make a magazine, work together, evaluate and edit work, and understand a “complex process involving attention to detail, leadership, patience and teamwork.”

Lighted Corners is printed by Valley Graphic Services in Frederick, Maryland, where students have the opportunity to tour the facility and learn about the printing process.

“Undergraduate literary journals encourage students to take responsibility for the shape and form of their work and to learn about publishing through firsthand exposure to the process,” Bligh commented. He was impressed by the fiction the team published, namely “The Allies” by Katie Brittingham, C’19, and “At the End of the Trail” by Betsy Busch, C’21. “I read earlier versions of these stories in my fall 2018 courses and had a strong hunch I’d see them again in the pages of Lighted Corners,” he noted. Busch’s essay on Brave New World was selected for the 2019 edition of the Mount’s First Year Symposium reader. The triple major (English, French and music) is also a freelance writer for search engine optimization.

Lighted Corners, launched in 1981, has sparked a passion for students and alumni to pursue and continue publishing. “Working on the staff of our magazine provides invaluable training and opportunities for personal growth,” Bligh said. Many Mount alumni have their publishing careers rooted in Lighted Corners.

Andrew Calis, C’09, Lighted Corners’ poetry editor in 2009, has published six poems in Dappled Things, Presence and Silver Streams. After earning his master’s degree in English from West Virginia University, this year he completed his Ph.D. in English. “I’m currently trying to revive the school’s poetry journal, Stylus,” he wrote in an email. He is also anxiously awaiting communication of a manuscript he sent for publication.

Anne Walters, C’14, was a contributor to Lighted Corners and now publishes her poetry regularly. Her works have appeared in Babe Press and The Avenue. She says seeing her work in print inspired her to continue to develop and expand her craft.

Poetry editor and contributor Breanna DeSimone, C’20, interns at Indies United Publishing House and has had her poems published in Bourgeon online and Oddball Magazine. Her latest poem was published in September in StepAway Magazine.

Karolina Wilk, C’12, was editor in chief in 2011, when Lighted Corners won a gold medal from CSPA. “It was the first opportunity to take myself seriously as a writer and to work collaboratively with other talented artists and writers,” she wrote in an email. Wilk earned her master’s in writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2015 and currently works as a writer and editor at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her works have been published in Little Patuxent Review, the Susquehanna Review, PennUnion, Maryland Life Magazine and the Potomac Review blog, where she is an associate editor in fiction. She was also a finalist in the 2016 Crazyhorse Fiction Prize and a quarter-finalist in the Nimrod 2016 Literary Awards.

“Working through the submission process with Lighted Corners was a really valuable experience,” says Alyse Spiehler, C’17, a contributor in 2015 and 2016. After graduation she worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Mexico and then enrolled in a master’s program in applied philosophy and ethics at Texas State University. “The process challenged me to think of my work in a new way.”

In September, Editor Alba Sarria was published in Susquehanna Review for her piece titled “Gemini Return to Earth,” which she describes as mythos fiction with an element of relationship psychology. In 2020, Sarria will study abroad and hand over her role as editor in chief to another student. “To me, creative expression is one of the most beautiful and intimate ways of getting to know a stranger,” she said.

“Authors and artists really do pour bits of their soul into every work they craft. You catch glimpses of things they many not yet have discovered about themselves, but will, some years down the road when they reflect back on their older works and see hints of something they came to discover later in age. It’s an expression of how they process the world around them and warp it into something only they could have written or drawn simply by being who they are,” she added. The junior, who has been with Lighted Corners since her freshman year, studies English with minors in creative writing, Spanish and art.

The CSPA critique included assessment of the magazine’s reader-friendly information, verbal elements of prose fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and visual communication of content, design and typography.

Lighted Corners is distributed around campus and the next issue will be published in April 2020. Student submissions are accepted from November 23 through December 23 and may be sent to lightedcorners@msmary.edu. Submissions are evaluated anonymously by a group of students and student editors. Copies of Lighted Corners can be obtained by contacting Thomas Bligh, Ph.D. at bligh@msmary.edu. More information is available on the Mount's website.