Home » 10th Season (2022-2023) » Increasing Accessibility in the Literary Community with the V Form Fellowship: The Aurora Journal

Increasing Accessibility in the Literary Community with the V Form Fellowship: The Aurora Journal

By Sophie Chiang, VI Form

Increasing Accessibility in the Literary Community with the V Form Fellowship: The Aurora Journal

Editor’s Note: This project was made possible with the support of the Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship. At their 25th reunion, the Class of 1968 created a fund to provide grants to V Form students for independent study during the school year or, more commonly, during the summer between V and VI Forms. Their intent in establishing this fund was to reward independent thinking, ingenuity, and planning and to encourage the student in exploring non-traditional fields of inquiry or using non-traditional methods of investigation.

When I created The Aurora Journal (theaurorajournal.org) two summers ago, I just planned to publish my friends’ writing for fun. Literary journals were everywhere–all one had to do was submit their poetry and prose to them and hope their writing would be accepted and published. So never did I imagine that my own Journal would be able to reach thousands of submissions and be featured in news sites and blogs–a testament to the passion of our contributors. But when I first started gaining traction, I knew I wanted to do something more with my platform than just publishing writers. There exists a significant disparity gap in the writing world, in which cisgender, wealthy, educated white males dominate. With the support of the V Form Fellowship and many writer friends, The Aurora Journal has been able to make a positive impact in promoting inclusivity and accessibility in the writing community. 

Click the image to visit the Aurora Journal website

1. Pay contributors 

Writers should be paid for their art, although they rarely ever are. The problem with not paying is that many writers who rely on their writing for income are left out, as they cannot afford to publish for free. Without payment, the writers most likely to stop writing are those with the fewest financial resources. My grant allowed me to pay my contributors for their valuable work, breaking this cycle. I received powerful positive feedback from the entire community for this effort, proving how rare a paying journal is. In the future, I plan on collaborating with other literary journals to help them find and apply for grants like the V Form Fellowship so they can pay writers as well, creating a more progressive norm. 

2. Host free poetry contest 

Since I created my Journal, I have been envisioning a large-scale poetry contest that awarded not only winners but also learners. From June to August, I hosted a contest that really was as much a learning opportunity as it was an award opportunity. Five poets were awarded $375 after I carefully selected my favorite poems out of nearly 800 submissions. You can read their poems here: https://www.theaurorajournal.org/contest-winners 

Their pieces genuinely inspired me, so I interviewed the first and second-place winners, Sophie Mo and Sara Aldrich, to understand their writing process and journey. I talked with them about what inspires them, what surrealism means to them, why they write, and more. You can read the interviews here: 

https://www.theaurorajournal.org/sara-aldrich-winner-spotlight and https://www.theaurorajournal.org/sophie-mo-winner-spotlight

3. Host free workshops 

To accomplish the educational aspect of my contest, I contacted eight published writers and past Aurora Journal contributors from all over the world to co-host poetry workshops. Luckily, they got on board! I hoped these eight workshops would offer accessibility for those who can’t afford to attend expensive workshops or pay editors for feedback. Topics ranged from negative space to grounding techniques to dreams to prose poetry, where the hosts helped to create an environment where attendees could learn, ask questions, and grow as writers. We had live and pre-recorded workshops that garnered more than 700 attendees. The collective effort of the writers and attendees created a supportive and inclusive community where individuals could come together to learn, gain feedback, discover new genres and styles, and grow as poets. The workshops provided a platform for writers to connect, collaborate, and inspire one another, making it an interactive and memorable experience. 

The support from the V Form Fellowship has allowed The Aurora Journal to become a platform for socioeconomically marginalized communities to create art that embodies differences, collaboration, and exploration. I am passionate about promoting education and accessibility in the creative writing world, and I plan to continue incorporating these values into future projects with The Aurora Journal. I am grateful for the opportunity to work towards creating a more diverse and inclusive literary community, and I hope that our story inspires others to pursue their passions with a grant. I hope my story will encourage you to apply to one of St. Mark’s many, many grants to fund something you care deeply about as well.

Sophie Chiang is a VI form boarding student from Brookline, MA who loves neuroscience, surrealist poetry, and philosophy. When not writing, she enjoys retail therapy, hanging out with her friends, and curating Spotify playlists.

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