In Conversation with Paige Dixon, Spectrum’s Editor-in-Chief
Spectrum reader Luc Le interviews our editor-in-chief, Paige Dixon.
Now in its 64th year, Spectrum Literary Journal has seen more than its fair share of talented writers, poets, readers, and, of course, editors-in-chief. This year, Spectrum is led by Paige Dixon, a sophomore writing & literature major at UC Santa Barbara’s College of Creative Studies (CCS). I caught up with Paige over Zoom to talk about her plans for the UC system’s longest continuously published literary magazine, and the unique challenges of organizing Spectrum during the pandemic.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Why did you first get involved with Spectrum?
I was involved in a literary magazine at my high school, and the backstory there is that my high school has very little involvement with creative writing. The school runs from seventh grade to twelfth grade, so I was there for six years, and, in all that time, I had about two creative writing assignments. So what we wanted to do with our literary magazine was provide a platform for creative writers to share their work because we knew that a lot of people were writing, but independently and separately from each other. So we wanted to make this platform to share our creative work and, you know, kind of create a creative community within the school, and it worked out really well, and I enjoyed doing it a lot. So when I came to UCSB and I found out that there was a literary magazine here, I wanted to get involved. Spectrum’s at a much greater scale than my high school one was, and so there's a lot of work to be done for every issue, and I just wanted to help out.
What made you want to become editor-in-chief?
Well, I really enjoyed working on Spectrum my first year—I definitely got a greater appreciation for why literary magazines exist and just what they can do. I think I just enjoyed working on it so much that I wanted to engage with it even more. I actually applied to be managing editor, but then they asked, well, would you be willing to also apply for editor-in-chief? And I said yes, because I had a bunch of ideas I wanted to try out, and they were kind enough to give me the platform to do so. I really wanted to get people more engaged with—to get people more aware of Spectrum [around campus]. Having come from the [College] of Letters & Sciences, I know just how invisible Spectrum could be, and coming from my high school where our literary magazine was so prevalent in the creative community, I was wondering, where is this magazine? Why don't we see it on campus more? And so I wanted to get people more engaged.
What are your typical responsibilities as editor?
There's basically three periods of [the] editorial process. There's [the period] from opening to closing of the submissions, and I just sort of keep an eye on that, making sure things are working out well. And then after the submissions close, we immediately start to process those, get them ready for the readers to evaluate. I love spreadsheets—they’ve been helping me keep track of everything and to assign pieces to the readers, making sure we cover enough in each session to get finished in a timely manner. [The] next [period] is managing the submissions as they go through the editorial process: everyone's going to read some pieces, give feedback on them—we're going to have three rounds of editorial reading. And then we also work on a bunch of things behind the scenes, like with our website and social media.
The big one for me is the budget. We get a yearly amount of funding from CCS, and then
we also have a few other things that we can apply for to supplement that funding, like grants.
Next quarter, when we have expenses, I'll be working with Marianne [Morris], our [financial] coordinator, to get those expenses paid. We’ll design the magazine together, but then I'll be in charge of getting that design printed. The situation has looked really different from how it has in the past, because of COVID, but I've been able to sort of follow in my predecessor's footsteps and just adapt to what we need to our situation. I have to give huge thanks to the editorial team—Hayley Tice and Chloe Schicker, and also Dr. Rebbecca Brown, who’s our faculty supervisor—it really was a collaborative effort to conduct the whole operation over the last few months.
How has organizing the magazine in a pandemic been different from in prior years?
The biggest hurdle that COVID has given us has been mailing copies of the magazine to people who have bought them because we can't do that at all right now. We don't have access to the physical magazines and we also don't have access to the mailers [because campus is closed]. So we can't take orders right now, which caused us a little bit of trouble at the beginning of summer when we had to shut that down. And I anticipate we're not going to be able to mail out until probably next school year, maybe late summer this year. So all those orders that we have for the magazine can't be fulfilled for a while. It's kind of a bummer, but we've had to put orders on hold so that we can prevent any more issues from arising.
Tell me a little about the theme of this year’s issue, “perseverance.” Why was it chosen? How has it shaped this year’s edition?
Last year was actually our first year with a theme, and it was “truth.” And that theme made an amazing issue, but it also made a very heavy issue, as you can probably imagine. And so there actually came a point last year where we were considering, you know, how difficult that issue would be to publish in a world that's just starting to struggle with COVID at an extreme scale. And so we were a little—not concerned, but just aware of how much more emotional labor that issue might provide. But there were important topics that the theme covered, and it wasn't all doom and gloom—there was some beautiful work in there. So this year, when I was thinking of the theme for our issue, I wanted to do something that represented the best part of people during COVID—you know, the strength that is getting us through this. And strength isn't consistent. I think in reality, everyone has their good days and their bad days. I wanted to do something that encapsulated all of that—the overall journey. And this can be applied to many things, not just COVID, because life is still continuing during this pandemic. So I chose perseverance because I thought that that word would bring to mind that core “I will not give in” mentality—no matter what the inspiration behind it was, whether it was strength, or spite, or love, or desperation. And so that was basically the general thought behind it.
What’s the best part about working for Spectrum?
I have to say that this year, I was aware that it might be a struggle to get our student
readers to engage with the journal just because everything was online. And so one thing that's been great this year is that everyone has been really engaged with the pieces and the works, and I think we've had some great discussions. We have a wonderful team because people are so willing to collaborate and willing to discuss, not argue. That was one of the best parts—just being able to explore these pieces together. I always love to hear when someone else interprets something just completely differently than I did—I just think it's fascinating. I think everyone pitched in way more than they were required to, so I just was delighted. And then also just personally, I’ve always loved reading the submissions, seeing the wide range of them and finding some works that you just fall in love with. That's the best part of any literary magazine.