Carnegiea Literary Magazine is making a comeback

By Jamie Donnelly/El Inde

A year ago, Sharmila Dey and seven other University High School students were hosting an event to celebrate launching the first edition of Carnegiea Literary Magazine. Throughout the University of Arizona Poetry Center, little magazines with green cactuses were piled on tables along with various artwork and photographs from local youth artists. Live music played loudly as Dey and the rest of the editors smiled and sold copies.

Their mission was simple: they wanted to provide a platform for young Tucsonans between middle school and college age to get their art, photographs, short stories and any other artistic venture published online and in print.

After an exciting first publication, Dey and the rest of the editorial board were soon swamped with school work and college decisions. They planned on taking a short hiatus and focusing their spring semester on recruiting new editors for the magazine. But when the pandemic hit their plans to rebuild the publication were flipped upside down.

With the majority of the masthead graduating and heading off to college, Dey, with the help of two returning Carnegiea Literary Magazine editors, i hoping to keep to the magazine’s mission alive all while balancing school work, Zoom meetings, a pandemic, and recruiting new members. 

“Between senioritis, trying to decide stuff about college and being in the middle of a global pandemic, we were kind of like, ‘Yeah, Carnegiea is not the top priority right now’,” Dey said. “I’m really glad that we’re working on it again, because 2020 has been such a crazy year.”

Dey is hoping that now since Carnegiea is back, young Tucsonans will be able to use the magazine as a creative outlet to “deal with all of the craziness.”

Dey struggled with getting her own work into online publications, as they always seemed to pick content produced by adults. After Carnegiea co-editor in chief, Genevieve Erickson, came back from a writing workshop and noticed the people there were talking about their own publications, the two girls were inspired to create a magazine of their own. Thus, Carnegiea Literary Magazine was born. Since then, Dey has been devoted to making sure young artists’ voices are heard.

“I feel like I’ve been giving back to Tucson in this really small way,” Dey said. “It’s reminding me why the youth voice is important and why people should listen to what we have to say and pay attention to what we are creating.”

Helping Dey with the magazine are Erickson and Henry Harms, both a part of the original masthead. While Dey is taking a gap year, Erickson is attending Pomona College and Harms is at the University of Arizona. Due to the pandemic, all three are still in Tucson and are focusing on growing the magazine and finding a new masthead before Dey and Erickson eventually go out of state.

In addition to the returning members, Dey was able to recruit Ruby Velez, a University High student who mainly works on the graphics for the website. Dey said Velez brings a lot of news ideas and enthusiasm to the table.

“So much of the magazine’s purpose has changed during COVID,” Dey said. “I think a lot of our focus has to shift to what can we do online, or what kinds of things can we do to digitally engage people.”

Dey was worried they’d lost their audience due to the hiatus, but was excited to see it was the exact opposite when it came to submissions. They want to start calling for pieces that cover specific current events. They are striving to take a more civically engaged role by publishing pieces that will educate their audience.

“We talked about collaborating with other activist groups, like Raise the Voices, and things like that,” Velez said. “We want to use our platform, small as it is, to put out information about what’s going on in Tucson.”

With different schedules, the four editors like to divide the work evenly, each being responsible for their own task. Dey is in charge of making the schedule and making sure the content is published smoothly, Harms and Erickson make sure the content is being published on their website and Instagram page and Ruby makes the graphics that go along with each piece.

“We had our first ‘Let’s do this again’ call a few weeks ago and we’ve been taking it slow,” Harms said. “I’m sure the daily and weekly activities of the masthead is going to shift as we go further into the project again and kind of see what new ideas we can bring to the table.”

When Dey, Erickson and Harms initially came up with the idea for the magazine, they wanted to recruit other students who had expertise on topics such as art or poetry. As Dey continues to recruit new members, she wants to have the same balance and diversity the original masthead had. They have created an application form for people who are interested in becoming a part of the Carnegiea team.

For now, Dey, Erickson, Harms and Velez continue to take it day by day. They have weekly meetings to make sure they are on the same page and are producing content. As for the future, Dey and the other editors hope to one day be able to produce another print edition. Maybe in another year, Carnegiea will be back at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, passing out a new print edition with a whole new team behind it.

From left to right: Sharmila Dey, Henry Harms, Genevieve Erickson, and Ruby Velez. They are all the current editors of the Carnegiea Literary Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Carnegiea Literary Magazine.