By Adrianna Donat
Winning is sweet. Especially for a group of talented, mutually supportive teens.
Guildscript, written and published annually by students of Columbia High School, was a first-place winner in last year’s American Scholastic Press Association’s national contest for scholastic yearbooks, magazines and newspapers. It was also lauded by the National Council of Teachers of English whose Program to Recognize Excellence in Student Literary Magazines awarded Guildscript the rank of “Excellent.”
And rightly so. While paging through Guildscript, you are whisked away in a whirl of dynamic ideas and delicious artwork. You can sink into the sometimes lighthearted, always sophisticated pieces that are surprisingly free of teen angst. Or you can leaf through the clever artwork that gracefully fits together into a stylish book.
Says Cory Myers, co-editor for the 2010 edition, “I’ve always valued the magazine as an artistic product, but even more as an artistic community: a group of people brought together by their shared love of and experimentation with language and storytelling.”
Maggie Walsh, who is on the magazine’s literary editorial staff, concurs. “To me, Guildscript is a place to share writing, get feedback and advance as a writer. I feel extremely lucky to be part of Guildscript, and extremely proud of everything that we have accomplished.”
Any sophomore, junior or senior can attend a writers’ workshop after school on Mondays in the library to discuss his or her writing. Guildscript publishes a broad range of work, by ESL students as well as those taking AP English. And the editors don’t limit submissions to CHS; a piece from a Montrose student was published this year, too.
Generally, after the workshop, the students can agree on three to five pieces for submission to Guildscript’s editorial board, which is made up of workshop attendees who choose to go the distance by working on fundraising and publicity, as well as choosing stories for publication.
The submissions and editorial process has a distinct Maplewood/South Orange feel, as it’s both green and high-tech. All students are welcome, whether they participate in the workshops or not, and they submit electronically. After the authors’ names are stripped off the submissions they are sent to the Tech Lab for group analysis on the SmartBoard. A day-long session unfolds and each submission is discussed. Says senior Whitney Braunstein, “[We’re tempted] to get goofy after being in the lab all day. But we have to make sure every piece goes through a democratic process.”
What they come up with is “a wide range between poetry, prose, serious and humorous pieces,” according to Dana Busgang, also a senior. Once chosen, the pieces are turned over to the production and design team, whose job is to enhance the content with art and overall design.
Guildscript’s dedicated and talented faculty advisors, Mary Brancaccio and Cindy Malhotra, form the backbone of the organization, though they emphasize that the students do the work. Says Malhotra, advisor of the design and production team, “This is an important experience for these students to have at this stage in their lives. Though they work in separate groups, the fine artists, designers and writers develop a mutual respect. Many times you’ll hear one group say, ‘Wow! Check this out!’ after seeing what the other group has done. That’s always nice to hear.”
Brancaccio agrees. “What is unique about the students involved in Guildscript is their passion and dedication to the art of writing. I think they truly understand the notion that creativity is infectious, that it thrives in a strong community of artists dedicated to creating works that represent their personal best.”
And though it’s not exclusive, membership still has its privileges. Not only do the students on the editorial board get real world publishing experience, they also get into great colleges, too. According to Malhotra, “Many of the [design] students get accepted to schools like Rhode Island School of Design, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Rochester Institute of Technology. They grow from the experience and take it with them.” Adds Brancaccio, “We’ve had our [literary/editorial] students leave CHS to attend Oberlin, NYU, Emerson, Brown, to name a few, and many of them on partial or full scholarships.” One underclass student received a scholarship to Kenyon College’s summer program this year.
So the next time you see a Columbia High School student, ask her if you can buy a copy of Guildscript. It’s a fundraiser, so you’ll be supporting the production of a nationally recognized literary magazine. And you’ll find some fine reading to brighten your day in the bargain.
Adrianna Donat is a freelance writer in Maplewood who spends her day nurturing her two future writers.