Sentience Literary Journal Isolation Mast Head

Alumni Launch “Sentience Literary Journal”

Sentience is a new online literary anthology publication created by a group of Antioch University Los Angeles BA in Liberal Studies Creative Writing students and alumni. The inaugural issue centers on the theme of Isolation and features fiction and creative non-fiction, poetry, and art by Antioch students, alumni, and faculty.

“This beautiful literary journal was started by alums Helen Doremus, Nina Gibson, Brianna Vigil, Kelly Curran, Lisa Croce, Zoe Marzo, and Tracey Simmons,” said Creative Writing faculty Alistair McCartney, MFA. “They’d stayed in touch since graduating, had been workshopping their own creative writing, and, during the pandemic, decided to start a journal.”

In 2019, recent UGS Creative Writing graduates Nina Gibson, who received her MA from Loyola Marymount in Spring 2020, and Helen Doremus, put together a writing workshop of their former classmates and fellow graduates. They wanted to keep alive the positive workshopping and support network people had found in the AULA BA Creative Writing program.

During the spring of 2020, the group was grappling with the realities of writing during this chaotic moment in history. Tracey Simmons, now a student in AULA’s MFA Creative Writing program, suggested to Helen Doremus that the group start a literary magazine.

“The group was looking for ways to further support each other’s writing endeavors and to create a platform for lifting up under-represented voices in the literary world more generally, in keeping with the culture of the AULA Creative Writing community,” said Managing Editor Helen Doremus.

After internal discussion and polling, the group elected to try their hand at creating an anthology of work from the group, with selected submissions from other AU-affiliated students, alumni, or teachers.

“Isolation has been on all of our minds over the past year, from the minuscule to the grand, yet each feels so personal, so valid,” said Fiction Editor Lisa Croce. “The writers and artists featured in this issue captured that isolation in our anthology so masterfully.”

The editors and readers are all volunteers from the Antioch alumni workshop group, which consists of roughly two dozen members. All are former members of either the Two Hawks Quarterly editorial internship or the Lunch Ticket editorial team. The genre editors volunteered for their roles and oversaw the final selections and editing of the pieces published within their genre.

“Being an editor for Sentience has given me the opportunity to put skills I learned at Antioch into practice,” said Creative Nonfiction Editor Kelly Curran. “Not only has it been a great stepping stone from classroom to real life, but it has also given me the confidence to begin to assure my place as a writer in a world fraught with imposter syndrome.”

The Managing editor kept the publication schedule and built/administers the website and social media pages, with the rest of the team’s support. Once submissions were received, the entire reading crew and editorial team reviewed all of the material and convened over several Zoom calls to narrow the choices for the issue.

Editors then contacted the authors directly and began a two-week process of working with the authors on developmental edits to ensure their pieces were ready for publication. Meanwhile, the editorial body contacted an alumna artist to secure the issue’s cover art, as well as other art—including from the authors themselves in some cases.

“The team is currently anticipating the launch of a downloadable digital magazine version of the Isolation issue, as well as an announcement of a second issue later in the spring/summer,” added Doremus.

Caley O’Dwyer, MA, MFT, MFA, Undergraduate Studies and Clinical Psychology faculty had three poems and a drawing published in the first issue: “Night Polo,”  “Certainly Valsartan,” and “Death Ruins It.” 

“I couldn’t be prouder or more impressed with the result, a testament to our alums’ imagination, their creative work, their professional skills, and their ability to stay connected and hopeful in challenging times,” added McCartney.

Read Sentience’s inaugural issue here.