On Friday, a select group of University writers shared pieces currently in the works to be published through Stethoscope Press, the University’s completely student-run publishing group that partners each writer with a fellow student editor. These pairs work together throughout the year on books that will be published in the spring.
Both the writers and editors of Stethoscope Press are welcomed into the group through separate application processes. The editors are chosen first, and many are former writers. Argus co-Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Brill ’16, who also serves as co-Editor-in-Chief of the Press, wrote a memoir for Stethoscope last year and is now editing a collection of short stories by Nina Channing ’16. Since many of last year’s writers graduated, a couple of the current editors did not write last year and were selected through an application process separate from that of the writers.
After Brill and co-Editor-in-Chief Kathleen Radigan ’17 selected three additional editors, the five editors read writers’ applications as a group, considering which writers excited them most and which applicants they would be most comfortable editing.
“When all the editors went through the applications, we asked them to think about which of the book proposals they were most drawn to,” Brill said, adding that the choices were predominantly controlled by the genre of each work.
After the writers were linked to their respective editors, each pair arranged their own schedule, usually meeting once a week. Each month, the entire group will meet together for a workshop in Brill’s living room and discuss the writers’ works over wine and snacks.
Now in its seventh year, Stethoscope has published a diverse assortment of works, including a graphic novel and an illustrated guide to the birds of Connecticut. The group also publishes more conventional forms such as novellas and plays, as well as memoirs, short stories, and poetry.
This year is no different in its variety: The reading, which took place in the living room of Alpha Delt with an estimated 30 person crowd, sat in a makeshift circle of eclectic-looking furniture, and included a wide variety of genres from an expansive range of backgrounds and majors. After a brief introduction by Radigan, the readers shared snippets of their works in progress.
The first reader, Nikku Chatha ’16, demonstrated the Press’ diversity right off the bat. He, a math major, read an excerpt from his novel set in 1840s Hong Kong. He prefaced the reading, as many readers did, with a brief explanation of the work, tentatively titled “Typhoon”. He mentioned during his explanation that he had always casually written, but that this was his first foray into the more official realm of publishing.
Another fictional piece was that of Sophie Chabon ’17, whose story takes place in a feminist dystopia where her main character can major in millennial studies and obtain molar fillings that play music.
As each editor introduced their writer, it became clear the pairs had developed distinctively close relationships along the way, and that each editor’s description of the work proved exceedingly accurate. Some even attested to the ways the writing had affected them on a deeply personal level. Zenzele Price ’18, her work edited by Anna Strzempko ’17, recalled that the job challenged her and made her think about herself. Strzempko ended her introduction with the affirmation that “[Price’s] work is personal to me, and it is personal to all of us.”
Price’s reading, which closed the night, was an especially moving personal account of her relationship with her mother. Price narrated as if addressing her mother, and revealed shared experiences with her mentally ill brother. She read a chapter called “Tender-Headed, We Will Not Last,” as well as an excerpt from a chapter called “Cadavers”.
In one similarly personal but significantly more edgy reading, Max Friedlich ’17 read excerpts from what Radigan, his editor, called, “part anthropological study, part play.” Her introduction indicated the piece’s playfulness. She read out various tweets that Friedlich had written over the previous couple of hours, and proceeded to announce with a sly smile that Friedlich’s tweets actually held a lot of depth, to which many audience members chuckled knowingly (his works do indeed have depth—deadpan humor and sarcasm). Friedlich’s writing consisted mainly of meditations on modern culture, combined with brief moments of deep intimacy and threaded with a sort of sour humor and a confessional tone that renders it universally relatable.
The editors were also able to provide fascinating details about each writer’s imaginative process. Brill, who edited Channing’s work, said that she comes to their weekly meetings with what she calls “seeds”–small snippets that seem to take place right in the middle of stories, sometimes with characters not yet developed.
“The rest of the story falls into place with her, or sometimes I help her with that process,” Brill said.
Channing read three of her short stories, which detailed various minutia of everyday life and were narrated in such a way that they became powerfully moving.
“For me, part of why I wanted to be an editor is that I had a really good experience last year, particularly with my editor,” Brill said. “She really got where I was coming from and had a really good understanding of my writing.”
Brill and Radigan have maintained this close-knit relationship between the group’s members. It is clear from the dynamic present between each writer and editor that the entire group has developed a deep-seated relationship both with each other and each other’s work.
“They’re all chosen because they’re all talented and experienced writers,” Brill said. “The whole group has gotten really close.”