Looking for a way to further engage the creativity of budding writers, Carrollton High School English/language arts teacher Hunter Spurlock, sponsor of the CHS Creative Writing Club, decided formalizing their work through the publication of a school literary magazine would be an ideal way to encourage students and to boost confidence.
The inaugural issue of The Golden Spiral was revealed at the end of the first semester with a launch party in the school’s media center. Spurlock said each issue will feature themed content; in this case, “Once Upon A Time …” The second issue is planned for publication in May.
“The idea started when I took over the creative writing club at the end of last year,” said Spurlock, who inherited the duty with the retirement of another teacher. “I thought the students would be more engaged if they had more structure and something to write for.”
Spurlock said he discussed the idea of the magazine with teacher peers and administration and that it was a collaborative effort with the CHS art department, with student artists providing works to enhance the publication.
“Everyone thought it was a great idea, but I was still wondering how we would get students excited about submitting,” admits Spurlock. “I decided to come up with monthly challenges, where we would review the entries and pick a winner to receive a gift card and a certificate. We received more entries than I ever anticipated and the idea of a magazine to showcase some of the awesome stories became more of a reality.”
Spurlock said the name came from a team brainstorming process.
“I had a tough time coming up with a name and so I asked members of the creative writing club for help. They came through with some awesome suggestions. I then took those suggestions and sat down with the editing team and we all decided The Golden Spiral had a nice ring to it and nice symbolism with this almost being like a spiral notebook filled with their stories.”
In addition to providing a vehicle to distribute their work, Spurlock says using this tool is a way to provide constructive feedback through a less intimidating process to help students grow and improve as creative artists.
“What surprised me most is just how willing the students were to share their work,” he said. “I was sure that we had talented writers and artists at the school, but I had no idea how students and staff would get behind the project. Jake Richardson (CHS art teacher) was instrumental in helping me get students to submit amazing art and they were all so willing to share their work with me and also shape their work around the stories. It was very cool to come into contact with students I had not met before and just get to see them through the lens of how truly talented they are.”
Through the development of the club, Spurlock said six students emerged as editors: Alison and Avery Sellers, co-chief editors; Charlie Brinkhof, managing editor/art editor; and Caro Dudley, Jon Van Valen, and Addison Loyd, editors at large.
“I felt very strongly that this should be student-led,” said Spurlock. “When we received a submission, I would share it with the editors. They would make comments, corrections, and suggestions.” He said once a month he and the students would get together to discuss submissions to determine final inclusion.
The 40-page first issue features a variety of short stories and poetry, including one short story written in Spanish. Most works are accompanied by student artwork. The issue also pays tribute to an early CHS literary magazine, “The Howler,” with an image of the May 1925 edition.
“Writing is most powerful when it emerges from a place of authenticity,” said Marsha Hook, English/language arts department head. “The reboot of the CHS literary magazine is a powerful space for students to express their ideas, hone their individual voices, and publish their work so that it reaches an audience beyond their own peers, teachers, and family members.”
Hook said the effort also helps students grow as members of a creative team in that the board of editors works closely with peer authors in providing critical feedback and reaching the goal of producing a polished piece of creative writing.
“Ultimately, the literary magazine is an important space for continuing to grow the culture of writing and creativity that is already so vibrant here at CHS, while also empowering young creators to see their stories, words, and images as worthy of reaching larger audiences,” said Hook.
CHS Principal Ian Lyle says The Golden Spiral is another example of the intentional efforts of the CHS faculty to engage students beyond their academic classes.
“Our student body is made up of a diverse population with different interests and passions,” said Lyle. “Offering another outlet to plug them not only promotes their own growth as young adults, but enhances our entire school culture.”