A thousand voices with one story

Ruth Black

Breanne Sill | Guest Columnist

Since 1974, Voices Literature and Visual Arts Magazine, commonly known as either Voices Magazine or Voices, has been the only venue at MSU to feature original student art and literature.

The magazine is produced by students, for students. It has also featured local high schools and currently accepts MSU alumni work. In 2011, the number of submissions doubled, requiring editors to build a spine for their publication.

When I was a prospective student in the spring of 2009, I met with the advisor of Voices, English professor Sue Henson, during the Mustangs Rally. Expressing that I wanted to be an editor at a publishing house, Professor Henson told me about Voices. I was hooked from the start.

The following fall, I became the first freshman to serve as an editor for Voices. Now, four years later, as a graduating senior in May, I am the only editor to serve for my complete duration of college. And every step was a life-changing experience.

When I began working with Voices, I had little experience with editing, save what I do with my own papers. Over the years, I have honed my editing proficiency and learned valuable skills with professional-editing and designing software. But besides gaining skills that will make me more marketable in the real world, I have gained invaluable insight into the MSU community.

I think as students we often get caught up in our cliques of organizations and academic circles that we forget how diverse MSU is and how our diversity sets us apart from other universities. At least one-third of the university population is exchange students, and Voices provides a venue to let those unique voices be heard.

I’ll never forget one of the first stories I read as an editor for the 2010 issue of Voices, called “Blood on Africa.” Written by Stephen Igbinedion, it recounts his horrific, personal experiences as a POW during a revolution in Rwanda. He had been serving as a Red Cross volunteer when his group was taken hostage by rebel forces. The story moved me so tremendously that the page shook in my hand, and tears fell from my eyes as I tried to edit the piece. I told my co-editors that I couldn’t possibly read it again without breaking down.

And neither can I forget the enlightening experience that Arun Rao expressed in his personal essay, “Redemption,” as he took a pilgrimage to Tirupati, India. Both pieces were submitted to the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association literary magazine competition, and “Blood on Africa” wonsecond place in the essay division.

I have edited so many stories like these in the past four years. And every time, I stop and think, “A student wrote this; a student lived this.” For me, it is a humbling and honoring experience to showcase the works of these extraordinary students.  And even the poetry and creature fiction that I read bring waves of awe to me. MSU students are so talented, and that talent can come from any department.

Both Stephen and Arun were not English majors, but they wrote some of the most moving prose that I have read. In fact, my favorite artist from the 2011 issue is Heather Gamble, a mathematics graduate student.

And who can forget the Juicy Double by Hannah Segura, an English and Art education major, it that issue? Everyone loves that “ass.”  I wish I could choose a favorite poem or short story that I have read over the years, but with the number of printed pieces, I couldn’t possible pick a favorite. They are all enlightening and entertaining in their own way.

It is the student experiences and expressions that make MSU a liberal arts university, in my mind. We’re not just students at a small university in Texas; we have stories to share; our voices want to be heard.

Voices Magazine allows us to share those voices. We are a thousand voices with one story.

As I continue my education at SUNY Buffalo next fall, I’ll think back on my experiences as a Voices editor, smile and remember it was worth the sweat, swears, and sweet memories to produce those voices. I hope I have effectively trained the new editors so that they too can publish the next generation of voices at MSU.

Let your Voice be heard!

Voices Magazine will be accepting submissions for the spring 2014 issue in August. Submission guidelines can be found on our website: http://www.mwsu.info/voices/.