Student Stories

A Slice of the Artistic Life

Magazine making, like bread making, is a complicated process, began the editors’ note of Spring 2011’s Sliced Bread Magazine, University of Chicago’s relatively young student literary publication which released its sixth annual issue on May 14, 2012.

With record-breaking submissions and an acceptance rate hovering at 20% annually, Sliced Bread’s 100 pages of original student art and written work range from sheet music and poetry to photography and sketches. Every submission is carefully reviewed and voted upon by staff members during weekly meetings beginning in fall quarter and ending with a hectic week of layouts of finalization in the spring.

The magazine is focused on presenting a diverse array of reading material to the University community, and achieves this goal by maintaining a standard of critique and revision which leaves no room for unfinished or unsatisfactory work.

RejectSince its first publication in Spring 2007, Sliced Bread has become increasingly competitive, both to be a part of the editing committee and to be published in the magazine.

As second-year junior editor Spencer Watts puts it, being a member of Sliced Bread is a bit like being on an admissions board. Staff members, composed of senior, junior, copy, and layout editors, sort through an extremely diverse array of submissions and choose “the best of student artwork as can be showcased two dimensionally,” according to Watts.

Along with a page limit for published work, the the Magazine’s committee is capped at 30 members to maintain a healthy balance of opinions without slowing down the process. All prospective staff members go through an application and interview process before being invited to be part of the general committee. Applicants to the magazine have doubled since last year, according to second-year junior editor Alison Thumel, and this rise in competition has improved the quality of the magazine.

The staff are chosen carefully to create a diverse committee. From English to Econ majors, first to fourth year undergraduates, the variety ensures a more in-depth discussion and a product which addresses a wider array of interests and opinions.

“Our staff have a very diverse range of majors and interests and we try to reflect that variety in the pieces that we choose,” explained third-year junior editor Ben Pokross.

AcceptThe voting process ensures a smoothly run magazine, but Sliced Bread has one criteria for pieces which usually wins out over number of yes's and no's. For Sliced Bread, the more controversial the piece is, the better. Several of the more provocative pieces included in the magazine have caused intense debates. However, masturbating purple butterflies made it into the magazine, despite a virtual “stabbing match” between two editors. Sliced Bread embraces artists who feel the urge to write 17 pages of haikus about emus and draw pictures of lemon heads.

The divisive nature of these pieces, according to third-year senior editor Naseem Jamnia, is what earns them a spot and almost guaranteed publication.

“Pieces like that elicit a lot of emotion,” Jamnia explained. “Quite frankly, dislike engenders as much feeling as like, and really, what is more important to a publication than for it readers to feel strongly about its content?”

Accept with RevisionsThe process between receiving the submission and putting the piece into print is generally very straightforward, but often there are pieces which the board asks the artist to revise slightly before publishing: “Maybe add some color to those eyes...WAY too long! title.”

The insights of the staff are essential to producing a polished product with as little uncertainty as possible. And when questions come up about why Orpheus might be referenced in the poem, the Classics major in the room is there to help, thus eliminating unnecessary confusion or possible rejection.

The submissions are carefully analyzed by the staff before the artist is asked to make any changes, and in the interest of time, only very specific revisions are requested. Sliced Bread’s culture is not focused on making the submissions fit into any specific mold. Instead, editors work with what comes to them and produce a magazine which reflects the vision of the artists.

Magazine making, like bread making, requires carefully selected ingredients, a fine-tuned recipe, and hard work to produce the perfect loaf and the perfect issue.