LitMag: Behind the Scenes to its Success

Mariam Ali

After years of hard work and effort, LitMag has finally done it; it has won several national titles. This past week, BCA’s LitMag advisor, Ms. Villanova, and the Co-Editors in Chief, Hafsa Ali and Chloe Jung, discussed LitMag’s recent awards and the journey that LitMag has undergone to achieve this prestigious recognition. LitMag is BCA’s one and only literary magazine, featuring student and teachers’ photography, writing, paintings, and other such art forms.

Ms. Villanova is an English teacher at BCA and during her spare time, she is heavily involved in the management of LitMag. As the advisor, she was able to share her story about her experience with LitMag. She also mentioned the history of LitMag, commenting on how LitMag has grown from a small morning club putting out one edition a year to a departmentalized club with over thirty students, putting out on average four editions per year. The club’s work, through hours of hard work and collaboration, has recently been recognized by several organizations and now proudly holds national titles. The discussion with Ms. Villanova helped highlight the steady and impressive growth of LitMag throughout the years. Below are some questions that Ms. Villanova, specifically addressed.

AC: When did LitMag start and what was it like?

MV: When this school was Bergen Technical Schools, they had a literary magazine called “TekNeeks.” Even after the inception of the school becoming Bergen County Academies, the name stayed the same. About 15 years ago, when I became the club’s advisor, the students voted to change the name to “LitMag”, and the title has remained ever since.

How long have you been an advisor for LitMag? What has your experience been like in LitMag?

I’ve been the advisor (with the help of Ms. DiAmico King) for about 15 years. LitMag met as a morning club, with about one publication a year. It has been about 10 years since it’s been a Wednesday club. As a morning club, it took dedication from the few members to publish. I have always enjoyed being the advisor and working with the students. I’ve allowed the students to run the club from the inception of ideas for the magazine to printing.

How has LitMag progressed over the years?

It has definitely progressed. Since becoming a Wednesday club, there is more enthusiasm and more members. It takes the dedication of the students, particularly the editor(s) to get the magazine out to the school.

What do you believe is LitMag’s proudest accomplishment?

Our proudest accomplishments have been winning awards. During the pandemic, several magazines were published. Although we were not in school, on Zoom, and could not publish hard copies, LitMag won several awards:

  • National Council of Teachers of English – Excellence in Art and Literary Magazine
  • Program Merit award for LitMag – Winter 2021.
  • American Scholastic Press Association – Outstanding Photography – Fall 2021 American
  • Scholastic Press Association – First Place Award for Overall Magazine – Fall 2021

Also, we have just started to include work from teachers.

Where do you hope to see this club in the future?

This trimester we have surpassed the number of students joining LitMag. I would like to continue publishing the superb quality. Also, since the pandemic, we have not been able to publish hard copies of the magazines. I would like to see that begin again.

Chloe Jung and Hafsa Ali, along with Ms. Villanova, also provided their input on the growth of LitMag throughout their duration with the club. Hafsa, a current senior, looks forward to handing the responsibility of Editor in Chief off to another eager leader in her absence. She hopes the club will continue to expand and continue to receive national awards through the upcoming years. Chloe, a junior, also has similar aspirations for the club. The two of them hope to begin printing editions, an effort that has not been feasible in recent times due to the pandemic.

Hafsa shared her journey with LitMag as well as some words of advice for future leaders. Below are some of her responses.

AC: What has been your journey with LitMag? (When did you start? What drew you toward LitMag?)

HA: I joined LitMag during my freshman year. From a very young age, I have always been passionate about reading and writing, and I was very excited to join the club as an editor and help with the process of publishing an actual magazine. In my sophomore year, I became the Co-Editor of the magazine and was responsible for running club meetings and organizing our publishing schedules. In my junior year, I became the Editor-in-Chief of the club and I am very proud to say that LitMag as a club has grown at an incredible pace over the last four years.

What is your proudest accomplishment with LitMag?

Of course, our growth would have not been possible without the support of our advisors and the dedication of our department leaders and members. In previous years, LitMag published about 1-2 editions annually, but last year – even though we were virtual – we were able to publish 4 editions. Additionally, we started out with very few members in our club, but our numbers have significantly increased. One of the accomplishments that I am most proud of was that LitMag was recognized by several national organizations – including the American Scholastic Press Association and the National Council for Teachers of English – through which we won several awards for our work.

What would be your advice for the new club leaders in the upcoming future?

It may seem cliche, but my advice for new leaders would be to remember that organization, planning, and forethought go a long way. Setting deadlines and preparing for setbacks make it easier to deal with those difficulties. And don’t be afraid to ask the advisors, department leaders, and even alumni leaders if you need advice!

What are your goals for LitMag? for the rest of the year?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been publishing online editions, and I hope that we can return to printing our editions before the end of the year!

Chloe also had her own story to share as to how she joined the club and rose to the position of Editor-In-Chief. She elaborated on the process and work that goes into each edition the club puts out.

What has been your journey with LitMag? (When did you start? What drew you toward LitMag?)

Chloe: I joined LitMag at the beginning of my sophomore year in 2020. I have always loved poetry, photography, and design, so I was instantly drawn to LitMag when even during my freshman year. I was too nervous to join any clubs in my freshman year, however, so I feel like virtual school gave me the opportunity and courage to join all of the clubs I was interested in, including LitMag!

What is the process behind making and releasing an edition? (What is the organization process? How long does it take?)

The process of creating a LitMag edition lasts around three months and is an extremely collaborative process. Our club is divided into three departments: editorial, communications, and design. Each department has different yet important roles in making our editions.

As the club leader what has been your biggest challenge?

I think with the transition into in-person learning this year in combination with it being my first year of being an Editor-in-Chief, I found it challenging to manage our club time wisely. We only have about 40 minutes of club time every week, so I have realized how important it is to make sure everyone is using this time productively to make sure we get our editions out.

If any, what improvements do you want to implement within the club? What do you hope to accomplish in your time with the club?

I think our main goal for this club has always been to get more people interested and involved with LitMag. With my time in LitMag, I hope we can release more amazing editions and maybe even consider getting them printed, something we used to do before the pandemic but was paused because of online school.

Once again, a special thank you to Ms. Villanova, Hafsa, and Chloe for taking their time to not only speak about their personal journeys with the club, but also the overall dynamic of how things run and their hopes for the future; it’s no doubt that without their assistance, LitMag would not have achieved such successes.