Real-world Publishing

July 3, 2018

Spectrum, a CCS student-run literary magazine, publishes its 61st issue

by Emma Shapiro

The cover of the 2018 issue of Spectrum; Photo: Will Proctor
The cover of the 2018 issue of Spectrum; Photo: Will Proctor

This spring Spectrum, a literary magazine published by College of Creative Studies students, published its 61st issue. Founded in 1957, it is the longest-running literary magazine in the UC System and has published work by leading names in art and literature such as Alex Otolani, Jervey Tervalon, Chris Lauer, William Carlos Williams, Raymond Carver, and Samuel Beckett.

With guidance from a faculty advisor, Spectrum is run entirely by undergraduate student editors. The student journal is produced throughout the duration of the three-quarter “Literary Publishing” course series which is offered by the CCS Writing and Literature major each year. This year, the journal's staff was lead by Editor-in-Chief Kailyn Kausen (CCS Writing & Literature ‘20), Web Editor Talia White (CCS Writing & Literature ‘20), and Fiction Editor Belle Machado (CCS Writing & Literature ‘20). The publication is the culmination of countless hours of work, often late into the night.

"The students involved in Spectrum did a wonderful job on this year's issue of the journal,” said Kara Mae Brown, the CCS Writing & Literature Program Coordinator and Spectrum’s faculty advisor. “The journal is one of the most significant educational opportunities that CCS offers to all students on campus who want to pursue careers in writing or publishing. It really helps them understand how writing is produced outside the classroom; plus, it's a lot of fun to make a magazine!"

Although the journal did not have a specific theme this year Kausen, wanted to be intentional about the direction of the journal. “We’ve always strived to show a variety of voices, voices that might not be heard elsewhere,” said Kausen. “This year we expanded that to include a spectrum of forms and genres as well, like comics or hybrid form. We want people to try us out, to submit to us things that they don’t know where they belong and see if we want it - because if it doesn’t fit anywhere else for being too weird or too out there, that’s exactly what we want to see.” The editors wanted to include works that may not get published in other literary journals. Machado explained, “We want experimental works, stories with strange subjects, poems with non-traditional subjects, and more; anything from sheet music to blueprints to whatever creative project someone can throw at us. We want to see something new and unique.”

To help the journal head in this direction, the Spectrum website was also re-designed. White, the Web Editor, worked to give the site a fresh new look, adding a blog section that includes posts from the editors of the journal as well as literary and art submissions.

Each year, Spectrum gets well over a hundred submissions, and the staff has to decide on how to review each piece. The current edition of the magazine took a unique method to this process. “We took a very democratic approach to put this literary journal together,” said Machado. Every piece sent into us was reviewed by two people, who would give it a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’ and any pieces with mixed decisions were then read by the entire publishing team.” From there, editors and staff held a meeting with an open discussion on each piece that received a majority vote of ‘yes' to decide the journal's final lineup.

The cover image of the 2018 issue is a piece created by artist Michelle Nguyen. “She immediately stood out as an exceptional artist, and in particular the image we used for our cover was very moving to many of us,” said Machado. “The detail of the tears on his cheeks was incredible, and the emotion was very clear.”

Being involved in Spectrum is a fantastic opportunity for CCS Writing & Literature and other UCSB students to learn by doing. “I’m incredibly grateful for the continuation and progression of this literary journal,” said Machado. “It has such a long history full of amazing writers and stories, and I feel blessed to now be a part of that history.” The journal's staff, many of whom are first or second-year students, immediately put what they learned in the classroom into practice. White stated, “Spectrum played a large role in shaping my education this past year, and will only continue to do so.”

Many of the publication’s staff and editors, including Machado and White, would like to make publishing their career. Running Spectrum gives these students valuable insights into the publishing realm, which are relevant to future careers. “I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to get practical experience,” said White. “Already, it has helped me get a summer internship with Catamaran Literary Reader.”

To learn more about Spectrum, to submit your work, or to purchase this year’s copy, visit



Will Proctor

(805) 893-2035