Creative talents bring success

Emily Chopra starts a new chapter of literary magazine

Pran Kittivorapat, Reporter

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Junior Emily Chopra made her mark on The Tartan literary magazine last year. As a result of Chopra’s tremendous talent and determination, the magazine won multiple awards at the state and national level.          

Last year was the first year for journalism teacher Lindsay Benedict and creative writing teacher Seth LeBlanc, to sponsor the literary magazine.

“So last year was my first year advising, and we are so lucky to have Emily,” LeBlanc said. “Emily came in like a rock star, had a strong vision, was very adaptable and she had a good sense of what the other people wanted out of a magazine.”

Chopra likes art and writing. She is also a fan of literary magazines and was really interested in making one herself. Chopra wanted to try designing and formatting for a long time. After she found out about an interest meeting at the beginning of the school year last year, she went to the meeting and helped with planning and fundraising.

“I heard about it on the announcements, and I thought [making literary magazine] is going to be fun,” Chopra said. “I’m actually very thankful I did because now it’s become one of my priorities. It’s like my main focus rather than some other extracurricular [activities].”

After Chopra and other Tartan staff members finished planning and fundraising, the staff moved on to their next step, getting artwork and writing submissions from McLean students.

“As a club, we looked through them and we categorized them, usually on three different levels,” Chopra said. “If you just submit your work, nine [times] out of 10 you are going to be great and very strongly considered.”

Toward the middle of the second semester, Chopra and the rest of the staff used the qualified writing and artwork to design the pages of the magazine using a minimalist theme, which Chopra helped develop. Through this process, Chopra developed her passion for producing a literary magazine.

“It’s a long process of elimination, of re-reading things, of reading what others thought were good,” LeBlanc said. “That takes a long time to get through, because taste is objective.”

 Since last year was the first year for most of the people in the club, the staff still didn’t have a clear vision of what their magazine was going to be like until the late nights, when Chopra passionately led the club and all of their ideas came together.

“Emily really took charge. She stepped up and made a giant difference,” LeBlanc said. “I don’t think we would have finished it on time, [and] a lot of things would not have gone this well [without her].”

Chopra worked really hard during late nights, coordinating almost everything, as she is one of the few members who stayed late almost every day.

“We [work] really well together. I feel like she is very much handling the business part of it,” said senior Michelle Ugarte-Nunez, a Tartan veteran staff member. “We played off each other very well, artistically, design-wise. She is a great person to have in [my] life.”

As the late nights week came to an end, The Tartan staff and sponsors were proud of their work when they saw the final draft of the magazine that was going to be published for McLean students in the following weeks.

“The happiest part is when you’re finally finished after all the edits, after every little detail that [was] wrong that you have to go back and fix,” LeBlanc said. “Just making sure that it’s perfect when it’s finally done. You know you’re finished. That’s the best part for sure.”

Chopra’s first ever edition of The Tartan was finally published just before the school year ended. The 2018 edition was a hit magazine during that time. Earlier this year, it received the VHSL trophy class.

“I think it’s really just about having a vision, having a plan, trying your best, stick to that, being able to make changes and adapting as things happen,” LeBlanc said. “I think [it] can be really stressful, but I think that, especially compared to other publications, like the [newsmagazine], or even the yearbook, way less stressful than that, and I think the payoff is so worth it.”

The VHSL trophy class rating was not the only award won by the 2018 staff of The Tartan. Chopra designed the “fish person” cover of the magazine, using artwork by Seijung Kim, which led to an NSPA Design of the Year Honorable Mention award, meaning it was one of the top 10 high school literary magazine covers in the country.

“We went through so many drafts because we really wanted it to be good,” Chopra said. “I was very surprised because it was on a whim that I created it. The fact that it did get that award made us feel even better about what we finished.”

This year, Chopra is taking the lead in organizing the club. She set goals to improve the club by recruiting more interested and focused staff members, working on getting new submissions by putting up more posters, making announcements on the news show and through other methods, and also fundraising and getting patrons.

“Because we are [an] independent club after school, I don’t want to put any pressure on the club,” Chopra said. “I just want [to] altogether have a good magazine. Like what we did last year, we just submitted it in a competition to see what happened, it ended up working out well.”

Chopra is working on finding some fresh ideas and themes for the literary magazine. She is planning to teach The Tartan staff how to design pages by using the sample from last year.

“Definitely one thing I’ve been doing is I have been browsing online to look at different magazines and different format things,” Chopra said. “I would like to try and work to make the text itself a little bit more like art this year.”

Chopra really enjoys making the literary magazine because it helps her express her creative mind and her skills. She is not planning on making it her career, but she is willing to continue with it by working on her university literary magazine.

“I love the literary magazine. It is something that is totally a passion of mine. I find it a lot of fun. It is where my skill set lies,” Chopra said. “I think part of the fact that it’s just not cut and dried exactly what I want to do in my career is why I enjoy it more—because it gives my mind a break.”

Be part of the 2019 edition of The Tartan literary magazine by submitting writing and artwork to [email protected] or stop by R133 or B167 for more details.

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