Lit mag showcases literary, visual works by CHS students
What do you get when you mix creativity and initiative? In the case of incoming Claremont High School senior Shea Seery, the answer is a startlingly professional literary journal highlighting the writing, art and photography of CHS students.
Anomaly is a glossy, full-color, nearly 50-page explosion of expression, giving readers a glimpse into the hearts, minds and imaginations of local teens.
Shea, who has always had a passion for writing, got her first chance to participate in a literary journal when she attended The California State Summer School of the Arts the summer after her freshman year.
Over the course of the two-week program, which in her case emphasized creative writing, she and her peers put together a literary magazine. It wasn’t a state-of-the-art production, more of a ‘zine, but it whetted Shea’s editorial appetite.
The next inspirational move was when she applied and got accepted to the Idyllwild Arts Academy. While she decided not to attend, she perused a copy of the school’s literary journal.
“It blew my mind. It was a tangible production of writing and art, all combined,” she said. “I liked it because there was an aesthetic aspect as well as a literary aspect.”
When she was a sophomore, she tried to start a literary journal at Claremont High School, but it didn’t take off. This past fall, she returned to school determined to make it work. She decided the best bet for garnering student participation was to make it a club. CHS English teacher Allison Evans gamely agreed to serve as advisor.
Before she got the ball rolling, Shea figured out the costs involved. Her mother Kim Peasley, a graphic designer, helped her create a production budget.
Shea is historian for the Interact Club, a junior version of Rotary. Once she had a price tag, she approached Rotary of Claremont asking for a grant. While she waited for grant approval, she talked to the publisher of the COURIER seeking financial support and applied for a grant through the city of Claremont’s Teen Committee.
“I was really scared of relying on profit to pay for it,” she said.
Shea needn’t have worried. In the end, she received funding from all three sources. With money in the bank, the club formed and a few friends roped into editorial roles, it was time to look for content.
Shea plastered the school with posters, and advertised on the student-run Wolfcast broadcast, of which she is a member. She decided to allow students to enter work anonymously if they preferred.
“One of the biggest challenges was actually getting students to be courageous enough to submit,” she explained. “I know there is artistic talent at my school in multiple forms, but it’s high school so people are scared what other people think of them.
“I knew people would be hesitant to expose themselves like that in such a widely-viewed publication. Writing, especially, tends to be kind of personal,” Shea continued. “A lot of people felt more comfortable or only agreed to submit once being anonymous was an option.”
Soon, the entries started to pour in: photographs, paintings, line drawings, short stories and poems touching on things that really matter to the talented teens. Topics include the night-lit city and sun-kissed nature, love and heartbreak, depression and dreams and the common struggle for self-esteem.
“I was surprised by the diversity of it,” Shea said of the submissions. “We even have a QR code with an app on your phone that leads to an original piece of music from a junior who makes electronic music. That’s what surprised me—the ingenuity of my peers.”
One of the more moving pieces is a poem celebrating the short life of Esmé Page, a well-liked and creative freshman who committed suicide at the end of March. “We will remember you who kicked up the dust/and gave a life to the rise and fall of the sun,” the anonymous tribute reads.
Shea feels it is a healing thing for the literary journal and the community to mark a momentous loss and pay tribute to a remarkable person.
“It was peculiar, because you don’t think of a positive outcome of something like that,” she said of the aftermath of Esmé’s death. “But everyone felt the same way at the same time. There are usually so many variations going on in everyone’s life. It’s hard to be on the same level. But the week after, everyone was there for each other.
“The teachers were very understanding, and the students comforted teachers,” she continued. “The barriers were kind of broken down. There was no judgment that week, no hostility on campus. It sounds like there isn’t a link between such a tragedy and coming together, but there really was.”
Shea is hugely grateful to her mom for her help designing the publication and for the members of the CHS community who have already bought the publication. She set the price tag for students low, $3, because she knows that teens aren’t made of money. The charge for adults is $5.
Shea sincerely hopes that Claremont High School’s literary journal won’t be a one-off, some kind of “anomaly” that is printed once and disappears. She plans to helm the journal once more during her senior year and then recruit a student willing to take over when she graduates.
In the meantime, the enterprising student is ready to sit back and enjoy the accolades that have begun pouring in.
“People are really impressed,” she said. “I think the fact that it’s totally student-initiated, student-run and student-produced, with virtually no adult help, is empowering and surprising for a lot of the kids at school,” she said. “I don’t think they realized it would be so professional looking. Kids are excited seeing it.”
To get a copy of Anomaly, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit The Colony at Loft 204 on the second floor of the?Packing House or stop in the COURIER office, 1420 N. Claremont Blvd., Suite 205 B, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.