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"Lake Effect": The only literary journal in all of Penn State

Photo By: Penn State Behrend

3-26-2019

AnaBella Lassiter, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Not only does Penn State Behrend publish a literary journal called “Lake Effect,” but Penn State Behrend publishes the only literary journal of Penn State, and it is an internationally recognized and respected work in the book industry. With that being said, this journal makes the Creative Writing program one of the most unique of all creative writing programs across the country.

One of Penn State Behrend’s creative writing faculty, George Looney distinguished professor of creative writing and english and editor of Lake Effect, who has worked at Behrend since 1999, says that the journal was originally a student journal that showcased works done by Behrend students. The staff of the journal, at the time called “The Tempest”, was students who read through submissions and chose works that they felt deserved to be published.

However in 2001, the professor who oversaw the journal at the time spoke with Looney and asked him to help turn the student journal into a literary journal upon the student staff’s request. So, the transition began.

Looney said, “The students had decided that they wanted to change from a journal that published work of students here to a national literary journal that published the work of writers from all over the country, and they wanted to change the name ‘cause they hated the name ‘The Tempest’... and that’s when they came up with the name ‘Lake Effect’.”

With a new name and a new submission process, “Lake Effect” was therefore born.

Today “Lake Effect” is still a literary journal published on campus and it is still run by students. A majority of these students are English and Creative Writing students, but anyone is welcome. Once you join the team, you become an editorial assistant. As you hold that position, every Tuesday, the class is held in the evening for an hour and a half. In that time frame, you and the rest of the staff read through submissions made by writers all across the country and decide whether you think the work has potential or not.

“Anyone can submit as long as they are not a student here… There’s a word and that word is nepotism. If you publish the work of people who work on the journal, it is not taken seriously,” explained Looney.

In addition to running a professional literary journal, “Lake Effect” is also unique because of its staff: undergraduate students.

Looney came to Behrend from Bowling Green State University. There, he worked on their literary magazine which was run by the master’s students.

“There, as with most literary journals that are at universities, the master’s students, the graduate students, are the ones who get to work on the editorial staffs.” He said. “There are very few literary journals of our quality… In fact, I can’t think of another university that is exactly like us, that is staffed by undergraduate students.”

Now, some may view that as a peculiarity and maybe even a weakness to a literary journal, but it turns out that Lake Effect is highly respected by the book industry. “The Best American Short Stories”, the longest running and best-selling selection of short fiction in America, reprinted one of the “Lake Effect” short stories just a little over ten years ago.

This was a huge accomplishment because, as Looney explained, “‘The Best American Short Stories’ is the premier, or spotlight, of the literary marketplace and the year we had that printed, we were the only small journal that had a story in that edition.”

Additionally, another story was listed in the back of a newer edition of the same book. Seven essays were listed in the back of “The Best American Essays.” “Lake Effect” also published two poems that ended up in the Pushcart prize poems, Pushcart being another major anthology.

In fact, there was a time in which “Lake Effect” would publish a few Behrend works IF they won a contest. Aimee Pogson, another professor and creative writing staff who helps with “Lake Effect”, won one of the contests and her essay not only went into “Lake Effect” but was then reprinted in “Best American Essays”.

For those interested, “Lake Effect” embraces all majors across Behrend. The journal is for students who are interested in reading and recognizing good fiction and poetry. If interested in reading some of the work published in the journal, Professor Pogson or Professor Looney would be happy to let you have a volume of the work! There is also a website for the journal that displays some of the published works in past volumes.