If literature is your passion, you probably know that it can often be difficult to find a community or a group activity that involves creative writing—after all, writing can be a very solitary activity. That being said, we don’t all have to stay in isolation like the famous poet Emily Dickinson. In fact, it can often be beneficial to work with others and collaborate on a creative project. You might even end up seeing things from a new perspective from the first time, and this in turn can inform your own writing or creative projects.

Joining your high school literary magazine can be a great way to get involved with other creative individuals. You might get the chance to read and talk about the work of others. If you decide to become editor, you’ll also get the chance to build valuable leadership skills within this community. Read on to learn about the ins and outs of  becoming editor of your high school literary magazine.

What is a high school literary magazine?

First and foremost, a literary magazine is a collection of creative writing from students at a particular high school. These types of creative writing might include poetry, short fiction, or even short essays. The work in a literary magazine can be submitted by teachers (perhaps if they really liked a particular student’s work for a given class assignment), or it can be submitted by students directly.

Lit Mags are usually published once or twice a year, but they might be published more often based on your school’s budget. A Lit Mag might also include students’ art or photography. You should talk to the members of your school’s literary magazine club or check out your high school’s website for more information regarding the specific group you’re thinking of joining.

What does it mean to be the editor of your school’s literary magazine?

The title of editor can mean a lot of different things, although in general it includes a pretty substantial amount of responsibility. Before delving into this realm, make sure it’s something you’re passionate about and willing to devote your time to.

Your specific duties will depend upon your school, the size of your magazine staff, and your advisor. You might be given more or less responsibility depending on what is needed in order to keep the Lit Mag up and running. Responsibilities could include helping select which student works go into the magazine, copy-editing the work that will be published in the magazine, keeping track of the group’s finances and the magazine’s sales, and arranging for the printing of the final publication.

As editor, you might be able to assign and delegate tasks to other people on the staff—this can be an extremely valuable skill for later on in your academic and professional career.

Aside from your advisor, as editor you will probably also have final approval over which work appears in the literary magazine, as well as the final layout and design choices. You’ll essentially be able to control what kind of magazine your club produces—it’s a big responsibility, but one that the editor will hopefully take a great deal of pride in.

You might also be called upon to make important decisions, such a whether or not you should include a controversial piece of student work.

What are the benefits of becoming editor?

There is lots to be gained from becoming editor of your high school literary magazine. First of all, it’s a great way to demonstrate your leadership skills, as well as your dedication to the literary arts and your ability to handle significant responsibilities. It’s also an opportunity to take part in an extracurricular activity related to creative writing, which can often be a tough thing to find.

Excelling in this position also shows that you have gained the respect of your peers and the magazine’s faculty advisor. It’s not easy to have to make the kinds of decisions that are required of an editor, and so those who choose for you to be put in charge must obviously believe in your abilities.

You could also get the chance to gain skills with specific software by working as editor of the literary magazine. You might get experience with Adobe InDesign for layout, for example. In today’s digital world, any and all experience with software can be a great asset, as it makes you a more competitive applicant for jobs or internships which require software experience.

Becoming editor of the Lit Mag can also give you a greater ability to implement your ideas about how the literary magazine should look or function. Maybe you’ve admired past issues of your school’s Lit Mag but have noticed issues with layout, publicity, or other aspects of the magazine on which you have ideas to improve.. Taking on a leadership role within the literary magazine is your chance to use your ideas  to make the best publication possible.

How do you become the editor?

So how do you actually gain the position of editor? Again, it depends on how your high school’s Lit Mag is structured—factors like the size of the magazine staff and the advisor will affect what the process looks like. You might simply need to be selected by the advisor or previous editors after submitting an application, or you might have to be elected by the entire group.

In general, though, skills that will set you apart for this position include having a strong faculty for writing and language. You should also be skilled at understanding grammar and spelling. Paying attention to detail and being a responsible individual in general will help you as well. It might also be potentially advantageous to have strong computer skills (maybe even with the editing and layout software mentioned above).

Other beneficial skills to have include design, advertising, sales, money management, communication (especially when interacting with people like printers who will ultimately make the physical copies of your school’s Lit Mag), writing, and editing.

In Conclusion

Becoming editor of your school’s literary magazine is no small feat, but with great responsibility can come a lot of benefits. If literature is your calling, it might be a way to meet like-minded creative people. Aside from building upon useful leadership skills and gaining experience making tough decisions, you’ll also have the agency to make a great magazine that all your fellow friends and students can really enjoy reading. If you think that this is something you’d be good at, consider stepping up to the plate and taking part in this memorable and fun endeavor.

For more information about extracurriculars and taking on leadership roles, check out these blog posts:

What Counts as an Extracurricular?

Will Quitting an Extracurricular Reflect Poorly on my College Applications?

How Much Do Extracurricular Activities Matter in College Admissions?

Your Resume, Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile

Devin Barricklow

Devin Barricklow

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).
Devin Barricklow