Arkana Represents

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The Impact of AWP, Past and Present

by Mikayla Davis, Poetry Reader

In 2014 I attended my first AWP in Seattle, planning to meet up with one of my creative writing instructors and some classmates from community college. I didn’t know what to expect, having only ever been to anime conventions in the past. But I was just starting to think about grad school, and a writers’ convention seemed like the perfect place to explore my options. If nothing else, I knew my undergraduate institution would be in attendance. It would be nice to gather with old friends and get their take on my plans.

So I made my plans, booked my hotel, scheduled out what panels I wanted to attend. I drove five hours across my home state.

Turns out, planning for panels was a misguided decision—as I became completely enthralled by the Book Fair. There were rows upon rows of booths and tables. There were probably at least fifty tables in each row. They filled this huge hall.Graduate schools, magazine publishers, businesses. People were wandering around, buying books, talking to people behind booths. There were author signings and readings, though the latter couldn’t be heard over the buzz of conversation. I spent hours there, just wandering and looking…but I rarely actually approached the booths, and no one tried to draw me in.

Three years later, I had the opportunity to attend AWP again—this time, manning a booth representing the University of Central Arkansas’s MFA program, the C.D. Wright Women Writers’ Conference, and, of course, Arkana.

My one goal was to engage with participants who, like me in 2014, were just wandering…wanting to ask questions, but not knowing how.

But how does one motivate others to visit your booth, when your budget is limited, and you have three major organizations to try and promote?

This is where my many trips to anime conventions came in handy.

If you’ve never been to one, I can tell you that they are bright, loud, and incredibly exciting. Think about Harry Potter when he first visits Diagon Alley. You don’t know where to look because everything seems interesting. People were drawn to the booths that were there, because they managed to be bigger and brighter than the environment around them. The booths at anime conventions often have activities you can interact with. Whether it’s merchandise or games, there is always something you can put your hands on. When I attended AWP in 2014, most of the booths only promoted free merchandise. Nothing was particularly interactive.

Though AWP is a lot less visually stimulating than an anime convention, I still began to brainstorming the aesthetic of our booth. Arkana could afford to be a lot less flashy than an anime convention, and still be visually appealing.

In order to invite visitors to our booth, we included several items on our table. For vertical appeal, we had a large banner that advertised the conference. For horizontal, we also had a banner that stretched across the bottom of the table that presented us as the UCA MFA program. We had various flyers, informational papers, and even stickers on the booth tables.

We also had a “Poet-tree” made from the branches of an actual tree, that at first blended into the black curtain that served as our separator from other booths. But as visitors began writing on the green paper “leaves” we provided, and hung them on the tree, they provided eye-catching pops of color on the dark backgrounds.

The “Poet-Tree” also doubled as an activity, something we could invite passersby to contribute to. It was something no other booth had.

We had another highly visual activity to draw people in. One of the other faculty members at UCA had happened upon a bubble cup vending machine at a flea market. They later found some cups for that machine, and—luckily for us‚—she was willing to let us use it for our booth at AWP.

We filled the capsules with candy, excerpts from women writers and Arkana contributors, and stickers, and invited attendees to donate a couple of quarters to win the prize.

All of these things really encouraged others to visit our table. Throughout the event, we received comments about how we were the most interesting table they passed by.

But there was really only one thing that really made us successful. If we hadn’t acquired a “Poet-Tree,” or a vending machine, or even tables at all, we could have succeeded with just one thing…our people.

With toothy grins, we stood out in the walkways of the Book Fair, greeting anyone who walked by. We offered flyers, compliments, and conversation. We were almost impossible to ignore. If we were sitting behind the table, it was because we were on break, or needed more supplies to hand out.

We were passionately involved in the process of pulling people in, and it showed. It helped that we truly believed in the organizations we were prompting, and particularly, the mission of Arkana. Our booth was certainly one of the busiest tables, and perhaps one of the most engaging booths at AWP.

While I worked the booth, all I could think of was 2014 me stepping forward and really getting involved in the world of writing conventions and submissions. It was one of the most thrilling and exciting literary experiences of my life. I am already eagerly planning on how to improve our booth for next year.


Mikayla Davis is a UCA MFA candidate who specializes in poetry while dabbling in fiction. After getting her undergraduate degree at Eastern Washington University, she got lost in two-year business degrees from the local community college before finding her way back to the page. She has a love for cats and magic and has been published in various print and online journals.
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Arkana Rooted in Diversity

A brief essay on Arkana and the importance of diversity.

by Jacqulyn West, Nonfiction Editor

Here at Arkana, part of our mission is to uncover the hidden and provide a platform for voices that are frequently silenced, overlooked, or ignored. We embrace our responsibility toward and embrace a commitment to diversity. But what exactly does diversity mean? As the new folks on staff, we discussed just that – and here’s what we said to each other:

“Diversity means that there are always others besides myself.”

“Diversity is a range of ideas, platforms, styles, life experience, identity, and history.”

“Diversity includes different backgrounds – not just the straight, white male.”

All true, valid, honest assessments right? But what do we actually do about it? First, we did some research to find out more about diversity in publishing.

Regarding gender identity and representation, we found the VIDA Count – available at http://www.vidaweb.org/category/the-count/ –  both informative and engaging. This tally takes a look at who is publishing in a number of different periodicals and journals and shows how many women and how many men are publishing within them. VIDA is a nonprofit feminist organization that brings awareness to concerns of disparity among traditionally marginalized populations. Since we’re a new organization preparing to publish our first issue, we don’t yet have the data to run a count on our publications, but we’re confident we’ll represent both women and men.

Of course, we want to encourage and invite writers from multivariate backgrounds and identities to submit their best work to Arkana. In order to reach a variety of audiences, we’re sending our calls for submissions to places and organizations that already have an audience and the infrastructure already built in to reach out, like Writers of Color on Twitter. We’ve also reached out to Cave Canem, an organization supporting African American poetry writers. See more about the organization, their outreach, events, and publications at http://cavecanempoets.org/ .

With more information about what’s happening in the wider world of publishing, we looked locally to see how we could reach out and hear back from diverse writers and readers. Our team has made contact with representatives from the KIPP Delta public schools, an equal opportunity provider serving six Arkansas schools and alumni teaching life skills for success. We hope to receive submissions from their alumni, and get the word out about our magazine to their students as well. Check out their website at http://www.kippdelta.org/ .

In addition to these, we also want to encourage and embrace work both from and about a diversity places as well. Since we are part of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas, we are definitely situated in the South, and we welcome and enjoy works from this region. But we don’t want to exclude works and voices from other places. The big publishing houses have received (valid) criticism about their focus on stories and voices from big cities, especially on the coasts. At Arkana, we want to read stories from the sticks and the cities, and to find out how and why culture works from the people living and creating in those spaces.

Finally, we encourage diversification and fluidity in genre. Works don’t have to fit neatly into one category to find a home in this magazine. If you have suggestions on how we can continue to reach diverse audiences, grow our readership, and publish infrequently heard voices, reach out to us on social media.  And if you want to share your own voice, take a look at our Submission guidelines. Keep our mission statement in min, and share this with writers you think would be a good fit. We’re all in this together, and we want to represent.


Jacqulyn Harper West is a poet of unfinished parts who prefers writing nonfiction. Her heart is in classic country music, especially the Bakersfield sound, and her scholarship ranges from feminist explications of her hometown’s cultural heritage tourism sites to code-meshing and hip hop as texts in first-year and creative writing pedagogy.