The NCTE's goal for their review and ranking of student literary magazines is three-fold: to encourage all schools to publish literary magazines; to encourage excellence in writing; and to promote greater participation by entire student bodies in the production of these publications. Magazines submitted must be the work of students. The phrase "students dominate" appears throughout the PRESLM scoring rubric. Magazines are evaluated on literary merit (quality and variety of the content; precision of the editing and proofreading)
WSA's Mud Pie staff has taken NCTE's challenge to increase school-wide participation in the production of the magazine very seriously. Last year they issued a challenge to the school's 90 students: if they made 75 submissions of poetry, prose, fiction, and visual art to the magazine, a ceremonial Pie Sacrifice would take place at a school assembly, involving cream pies going into the faces of editor-in-chief Gab Vogt and faculty advisor Eleanor Johnson. The bribery worked better than anticipated. Over 150 submissions were received, so another WSA faculty member, Allan Batchelder, helped out by volunteering to be on the receiving end of a pie. Vogt, editor-in-chief of the 2013 Mud Pie, sees a high degree of participation by students as essential to having a superior magazine. "This year, we are setting our standards even higher and aiming for 200 submissions. The more pieces we receive, the more selective our staff can be, and the better our journal is." Her goal: two submissions from every student at the school.
West Sound Academy students and faculty have also helped out with fund-raising. Many an ice cream bar was sold at lunchtime and out of the freezer in the faculty lounge, and a few unsolicited donations came in from WSA teachers. Mud Pie editors wanted a high-quality publication, and the funds raised were essential in keeping the cost down for students who wanted to buy a copy for themselves. "It would be a shame if people who contributed could not have something to hold onto because of the journal becoming too expensive," Vogt says.
A blind submissions system was used to protect the anonymity of contributors. Vogt notes, "The purpose of Mud Pie is to showcase the best talent from inside our school, and blind submissions is a measure we take to make sure everybody feels good about participating."
Memories of last year's hard work and long hours have faded for Vogt. "I don't think there was that much celebration [when we were finally done], mostly because we were so tired! I vaguely remember drinking sparkling cider out of paper cups with the staff," she recalls. For Vogt and the other students involved with Mud Pie, nothing beats the exhilaration of working under deadline to produce an exquisitely crafted magazine that truly represents the WSA school community. "The best part of working on Mud Pie is the adrenaline rush at the end of the year, when you are very worried that something could go terribly wrong, but you are too excited to stop laughing." Vogt is looking forward to working on the 2013 edition. "This year's staff has been terrific so far, and we're hoping to publish an even better journal than last year." And in a vote of faculty confidence, four staff members have volunteered to be the Pie Sacrifice - their part in helping insure the success of the newest Mud Pie.