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Shepherd’s Sans Merci literary journal receives national award

By Staff | May 24, 2012

Shepherd University’s student-run literary magazine, “Sans Merci,” was named the design winner of the 2012 National Program Directors’ Prize for Undergraduate Literary Magazines by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).

Instituted by the directors of AWP-member creative writing programs, the prizes are awarded annually in the categories of content and design. One winner is selected in each category and receives a prize of $500.

Past winners in the design category have included Columbia University, The New School, the American River College and Kansas City Art Institute.

“Sans Merci,” which released its 36th volume this spring, is a student-led publication with a literary and design team of editors. Editors are chosen by the previous year’s editorial staff and the graphic designer applies and is hired by the editors. The group is advised by Dr. Carrie Messenger, associate professor of English and Stephanie Robbins, associate professor of art. The role of the advisors is to make sure that the design and literary side are equally represented in the publication.

The cover and interior design is done by a paid student graphic designer using content selected by the staff.

Submissions to the publication are open to all Shepherd students. Each year, approximately 1,500 copies are printed and released in the spring.

“We are excited to let the students come up with more ideas going forward,” Robbins said. “It puts Shepherd on the map, both the design and the art program and the creative writing program, and gets the magazine seen by other schools. It’s huge for getting Shepherd’s name recognized outside of the area.”

“This award is a big deal,” Messenger said. “It never occurred to me that it would win the first year we submitted. This is the main way to get recognition for literary magazines.”

Messenger said she hoped it would be a way to do an exchange and get on the radar regionally.

The winning design was “Sans Merci” Volume 35, designed by Elaine Spivey, who graduated in 2011 and currently works at Photojournalism by Rodney Bailey while attending graduate school at George Mason University, studying arts management.

“I’m thrilled that “Sans Merci” is being recognized and that the design was critiqued so highly,” Spivey said. “The art and literary editors put in a lot of time and effort to make this a great publication, and I wanted to be sure the design reflected that as well. Being a part of the “Sans Merci” team was a great experience, and I’m so glad my contributions allowed it to be an award-winning publication.”