On the Record with Editors-in-Chief on 50th Anniversary of ‘Plum Creek Review’


Rachel Grossman

College seniors and Editors-in-Chief of the Plum Creek Review Zack Knoll (left) and Ryann Eastman met with the Review this week to talk about the publication’s upcoming 50th anniversary issue.

Vida Weisblum, Staff Writer

This semester, the Plum Creek Review — Oberlin’s oldest literary and arts magazine —will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special edition to commemorate its history and longstanding presence on campus. The Review spoke with Editors in-Chief and College seniors Ryann Eastman and Zack Knoll to get the inside scoop on the production of the Plum Creek Review and what to expect in the anticipated 50th anniversary edition.

Can you tell me a little bit about the Plum Creek Review?

Zack Knoll: What is most unique about the Plum Creek Review is there is no niche to the work we accept, so [we accept] literally anything and everything in written or visual form. We’re sort of, I think, a nice artistic sounding board for the school, because [the magazine] is all-encompassing in terms of what we see and publish. We get to see the whole landscape of the arts at Oberlin.

Ryann Eastman: I think we’re also very inclusive in terms of how we do things. I’ve always been invested in the Plum Creek Review because of the way in which we create our magazine. It’s really important to us that it’s a democratic process and that nobody’s voice is louder than anyone else’s, and that includes the editors. As long as [someone] attend[s] three-quarters of the meetings, then their voices will be heard in terms of a vote. Somebody who is just starting the semester carries the same weight as someone who’s been at the Plum Creek Review for several years.

Tell me more about what happens behind the scenes.

ZK: We do a ton of emailing. RE: Yeah, our lives are hard. ZK: I think we exist purely digitally sometimes, in terms of being an editor, because it’s difficult coordinating things.

RE: And [we] organize the submissions and make executive decisions now and then. Submissions are anonymous [during the review process] because there’s a huge emphasis on our part to being as respectful as possible about the pieces and about the different people [submitting]. By keeping it anonymous, we are keeping it as safe a space as possible within the workshop to talk constructively in a way that’s not mean or unproductive.

ZK: Ryann and I will be writing a blurb about what the Plum Creek Review is [in the 50th anniversary magazine], because there are a lot of misconceptions about how the review [process] works. We’ve had a lot of people come up to us asking, “Why didn’t Plum Creek like my submission?” It all works anonymously. And that’s a really important part of how the magazine comes to be. Just because you’re an editor or on staff, your piece doesn’t automatically get in. There are advantages to being on staff because you have an active voice in the conversation, but no one else in the room knows who submitted each piece. [Eastman and Knoll high five.]

What were some of the highlights of this year’s production?

ZK: It was cool to have the 50th anniversary arts pieces. To commemorate [the anniversary] was special to me as a senior and an Editor-in-Chief.

RE: I really enjoyed the meetings where we were talking about a piece that was really funny or strange. And I distinctly remember we were talking about the [digital painting] piece “Phaena” [by College senior Elena Gold], and everyone in the room kept trying to make statements about it and then dissolving into laughter halfway through. And I really appreciated that, because it felt like such an organic response to the piece. I’m really glad that it got in. I just couldn’t stop laughing, which was extremely unprofessional but also so enjoyable.

ZK: Yeah, and it’s always so lovely to see staff members really just want to talk about art and writing outside of an academic setting, and still feel really invested in the conversation. I think, also, a personal highlight is this is the fastest we’ve done layout! We did layout for three hours on Saturday, and [one of the layout editors] and I did half the magazine. Now we’re putting final touches on it. I can remember years where layout took two weeks, and it was really stressful. The fact that we’ve become so efficient at producing this magazine is just really cool.

The 50th anniversary magazine is coming out. What does that mean to you?

RE: We’re both really honored that we’re the editors this year. It’s really nice to be able to say that we were the editors of the longest-running magazine on campus, especially because it’s so inclusive and, I think, different from the other magazines available on campus.

ZK: I was talking to an alumna, because I’m a senior and trying to figure out what I’m going to be doing professionally, and I mentioned that I am an editor for the Plum Creek Review and they’re like, “That was around when I was at Oberlin!” And it’s really cool hearing that and having that level of prestige and to be attached to a magazine that has a long legacy and an important history at Oberlin.

What can Oberlin students expect from the 50th anniversary edition?

ZK: This is the most prose-heavy magazine we’ve had since I’ve been on staff. We’ve never accepted this much prose! [There is] as much prose as poetry, if not more, which is really exciting because it’s often a poetry-heavy magazine. Poetry definitely has its own merits, but as a prose writer, it’s cool to see more getting accepted.

RE: It’s super unusual, and I was really excited about that too, because I’d always felt like it was not necessarily inclusive of prose, because it seems to be such a short-form magazine. But I was really happy that we managed to make space for that kind of voice.

ZK: We’re printing fiction, we’re printing non-fiction, and we’re printing a short prose piece, a long prose piece and a prose poem.

RE: I think we’re really living up to the tagline of “all forms of publishable art” this year. We have art interacting with words; we have many different mediums and kinds of art — things that are funny and things that are serious and profound. So we have a lot of diversity this year.

ZK: We also have an incredibly large amount of female-centered pieces of writing and pieces of art. We’re printing, and we saw a lot of digital manipulation art. We’re printing a couple of GIF sets. There’s digital painting. We’re definitely moving away from just being fine arts painting and fine arts photography, so we are living up to our tagline, but also not taking ourselves too seriously.

RE: There are lots of fun pieces. And we’re printing the first piece in our memory by a non-Oberlin student. We get submissions every year by people outside of the community, and we’re going to be printing two poems by one of them.

Where on campus can we find a copy of the Plum Creek Review?

RE: Everywhere!

ZK: But make sure you get them quickly, because they’ll go fast.