On Apr. 29, the newest edition of the Rocky Mountain Review is set to release. The Review is a journal that features current Rocky students’ work in five genres: poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, and visual art. While all current Rocky students were encouraged to submit to the journal, their work was not guaranteed a spot. This year, a total of 117 pieces were submitted by 48 writers and visual artists. Thirty-four pieces were accepted by 26 different writers and artists.
Students could submit to whatever genre they wanted but could submit only one piece per genre. The editors, who are all Rocky students, read each submission, judging it on the work’s originality, rhythm, language, and much more. Together, the editors discussed the scores they gave each piece and decided who and what pieces made it into the journal. Ashley Kunsa explained that when they were selecting what to publish they “kept in mind what the bigger picture of the journal was” and how all the different pieces needed to work together as one cohesive story.
Within the selection process was a creative writing contest that students were also encouraged to submit to. Genres in the contest were poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The winners of the contest will receive a prize of $75 and would have had the chance to read their winning work at the end-of-semester journal release party, which unfortunately has been canceled due to the recent COVID-19 events. Their piece will also be published in the Rocky Mountain Review. Runners up, or honorable mentions, would also be invited to read their work at the release party and be published in the journal.
Judging the contest were Precious McKenzie, Bradley Coffield, and Nick Plunkey. While there was no specific rubric for what the three judges had to look for, the main theme was literary excellence. Kunsa, who supervised the entire process, took every submission for the contest and stripped the names of the authors so the judges would have no idea who wrote what. Then, she assigned everyone a number at random. Each judge ranked the pieces in order from first, second, third, and so on. The piece in first scored lowest, then as the rankings got higher, the scores got higher. Kunsa then tallied the score for each piece and whoever received the lowest score in a given genre was the winner. The judging process this year was different from last year. Instead of ranking the pieces, the judges were asked to rank the pieces on a scale from one to ten, which turned out to be an issue. Each judge had a wildly different conception of what a one looked like and what a ten looked like, and the scores for the pieces ended up being all over the place with a three-way tie for poetry. This year, there was only one tie, for second place in creative nonfiction.
In the poetry genre this year, Nichole Davies won with her piece “The Painting Above the Old Lesson Piano”, which is about the piano in her living room where Davies and her siblings learned how to play the instrument. The poem explains how Davies left for college, leaving her parents alone in a house that was once full of music, but is now silent. Brianna West earned the honorable mention with her poem “Reflections on a Hometown”.
For fiction, Avi Fox received first place with his piece “A Failing Shade of Sacramento”. Fox explains that his short story “captures the discrimination against African Americans and gays in the ’80s during the AIDS crisis.” The honorable mention went to Sydney Weaver for her short story “The Next Five Years”.
In creative nonfiction, “Blood Lions” by Lea Sprick won first place. “Blood Lions”, Sprick says, is about the lions that grow up in tiny enclosures with no space, little food, and constant stress. She wanted to share this story so that “more people are aware of what is happening.” Sprick hopes that her story will make people “rethink their vacation plans or realize that they don’t need a lion trophy on their wall.” Emma Swanson’s piece “Family Dinner” and Morgan Lucas’s piece “Holding onto Forever” both received honorable mentions.
Kunsa says that the Rocky Mountain Review tells a story.“It starts with one piece and moves into the next piece.” The editors spent their entire spring break creating something that is going to be professionally published. Kunsa says that the students who are published in the journal should be proud of what they accomplished because “a lot of love and care went into the process and publication.”