Assignment: Create the 2017 edition of Portal, Vancouver Island University’s nationally distributed, student-led literary magazine.
Class: CREW 430 and 431 (Publishing Workshop I, and Publishing Workshop II).
Portal is created over two semesters (class begins in September and ends in April when the magazine is published). Each student applies for positions within the magazine. After applying, my instructor Mike Calvert chose me to be managing editor. I had a hands-on role in editing all 25 pieces that we published, which included poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. I worked alongside the instructor and the other student editors for eight months and my editing skills increased tenfold. During crunch time, we’d sometimes edit for eight hours at a time. I also learned the ins-and-outs of maintaining professional editorial relationships with authors.
In addition to editing, my other roles included managing a team of twenty students, facilitating communication and mediating disagreements, and speaking on behalf of Portal at public events and fundraisers. I put all my effort into each task and developed a leadership style that the instructor later described as “leading by example.”
Assignment: Create a portfolio of poems.
Class: CREW 310 (Poetry Workshop)
In CREW 310, our final assignment was collecting the poems we had written over the semester and creating a portfolio. I had a handful of related poems I had written about addiction. Influenced by the poetics of Jordan Abel, I combined the poems and used experimental poetry techniques to incorporate text from journalism articles on addiction. I received an A+ for the assignment. Afterward, I submitted the poem to the Blodwyn Memorial Prize, a national literary competition, and won first place for the poetry prize. I was awarded $400 and the poem was published online and in a chapbook.
Here’s what the judges had to say: “With ‘We Met on 5th,’ Spenser takes an unparalleled approach to combining original and found poetry. The immaculate craft of this poem takes an intimate, difficult subject and breaks it down into sections that perfectly balance intense inwardness with devastating invitation. This poem takes the reader to necessary and uncomfortable places, and then forces a dialogue, asking them to be a different person than when they began.”