The Arkansas College Media Association Awards for 2019 were hosted in Russellville at Arkansas Tech. Warming temperatures meant the drive up there was pleasant, and the campus itself was swathed in a pale green made up of budding trees and tender, new grass. I was lucky enough to get a ride with Marley, Caela, and Emily, three women who work at the Echo (UCA’s student-run newspaper), for which they will always have my undying gratitude. As often as my car is overheating right now, I think if I’d tried to limp it to Russellville I’d still be trying to get there.
We were a little late getting there, but managed to catch the tail end of a presentation by one of my favorites at the farmer’s market, Debra Hale-Shelton. I’d never known that she worked for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, and she hadn’t known that I was editor for the Vortex, but thanks to my purple hair we found one another that day and learned something new about one another. I guess this means the purple is here to stay if it leads to things like this.
This was the third year I’d attended the ACMA event and the first year I was the only person representing the UCA Vortex. Just as with the previous year, we took home most of the awards in the sections we entered in, except for a third place prize for our podcast (we took first, second, and honorable mention, of course). I was especially proud that we did so well with the podcast as we’ve only just started it, with Caleb Sawyer-Patton building it from the ground up and Jack Barr taking over for him recently.
Uncomfortably, I’ve become certain that as the years have gone by fewer and fewer student lit mags in Arkansas are entering the competition. Our faculty advisor, Dr. John Vanderslice, tells me that he thinks the competition is open to both undergrad and graduate students, but I’ve seen precious few of either lately.
Winning awards is great, but not if you’re only competing against yourself.
I’m not disparaging the work that Vortex staff members have put into the lit mag and I think every one of those awards are earned, but I would like to see more competition come our way. To that end, I’ve been reaching out to other student lit mags in the state and trying to find out 1) if they’re submitting to the competition, 2) if not, why, and 3) if they need any help with their student lit mags. I’m not pretending to be an expert, but serving two years as an assistant editor and one as the editor has got to count for something.
Overall, though, it was a positive experience. I took home a few personal awards for my writing, but I have to say the acknowledgement I’m proudest of is the one I received for my illustrated narrative poem I titled “Purity”. I’m happy, not just with the work I produced, but with what the piece means to me in terms of trying new artistic areas and taking a chance on a class (Sandy Longhorn’s) that I might not have if it hadn’t been for the encouragement of my husband. I gave the original to a friend, but I’ll keep a digital copy as a reminder that it’s okay to try new things, and that our greatest accomplishments sometimes lay in fields we haven’t even dipped our toes in yet.