Columbia High School Literary Magazine ‘Guildscript' Garners Two Awards

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Guildscript wins first place award from American Scholastic Press Association, Superior rating from national English teachers organization

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The following is a press release from the South Orange-Maplewood School District: 

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. – Guildscript, Columbia High School’s student-led art and literary magazine, has won two prestigious awards in recognition of its 2023 edition.

The annual student publication won first place in the American Scholastic Press Association’s contest for yearbooks, magazines, and newspapers, among high schools with enrollments between 1,701 and 2,500.

Guildscript was also one of eight high school literary magazines in New Jersey to earn the distinction of  “Superior” by the National Council of Teachers of English in the organization’s Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines contest. Among the criteria entries are evaluated upon are literary quality, variety of genre, and variety of voice.

“We were super happy,” said Guildscript Editor-In-Chief Ajuni Zubieta about the students’ reaction to the two awards. “There was a lot of pressure to make sure we continued Guildscript’s award-winning track record.” As Zubieta and her student colleagues began planning the 2022-2023 issue, Guildscript had won the American Scholastic Press Association’s first-place award for six out of the previous 10 years.

Co-Literary Editor Sara Spangler, Editor-In-Chief Ajuni Zubieta, and Co-Literary Editor Noa Gidal.

Two former editors who are now attending college were a critical part of Guildscript’s success. Pilar Uhl, who was the art editor, is attending Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts;  and Andrew Teitelbaum, who was the design editor goes to San Diego State University.

Guildscript, which describes itself as a cross-section of Columbia students who share a passion for creative expression, is really two student clubs working together under the umbrella of a single magazine.

Some of the written works are poignantly personal, like Zubieta’s poem, “Pretty.”

“My mom always said I look pretty when I cry/so I must be the most beautiful girl in the world.” 

Co-Arts Editor Jordan Kinley, Design Editor Stella Joyce, Co-Arts Editor Ciara Navan, and Public Relations Director Molly Donahue.

Others are close-ups of ordinary moments, like Noa Gidal’s “Vulgar Cavity,” her take on a dentist appointment.

“Run your fingers across my tingling gums…and now I want to brush my teeth.” 

The visual arts cover a broad spectrum that ranges from the realistic to the abstract. Anastasia Patti-Aquino’s “Soul” is such a skillful charcoal pencil rendition of a human eye that looks like a photograph. On the other hand, “Face In Space” by Susanna Knutsen has less definition, but leaves as deep of an impression with Monet-like brush strokes.

Guildscript’s literary side is led by Zubieta, a senior and aspiring comparative literature major, Gidal, a senior who intends to major in film studies, and Sara Spangler, who will attend Smith College next year intending to major in English.

The visual arts side is also led by three seniors – two who are working as co-arts editors, Jordan Kinley, who intends to major in fine arts and painting, and Ciara Navan, who will major in visual design; and Stella Joyce who will major in forensic science, is the magazine’s design editor.

CHS Guildscript student writers, editors, and artists.

CHS Guildscript student writers, editors, and artists.Molly Donahue, a senior heading to Penn State, takes care of the promotional duties by managing the Guildscript Instagram account (@Guildscriptmagchs). Donahue intends to study marketing, history and the classics in college.

Both sides of the magazine take on the task of curating the selections chosen for publication from the dozens of submissions they receive. The 18 literary works were selected for the latest award-winning issue from more than 60 submissions. More than 75 art submissions are reduced to 15 works mindful to include a diverse selection of drawings, paintings, and photography.

The paring-down process involves the two groups meeting weekly with their respective co-advisors, Carly Buckholtz (English Department) in A207 and Cindy Malhotra (Fine Arts Dept) in classroom D109.

The editors and the rest of the magazine’s student-staff members review each submission on a smartboard. Every submitted poem, short story, drawing, photograph, collage, and other work gets reviewed, critiqued, and ultimately categorized as a “Yes,” “No”, or “Maybe” for publication in the next issue. It’s the “maybes” that take up the bulk of the Guildscript’s time.

“We’ve gotten photos with fingers in them,” said Navan, one of the arts editors, as she described the wide range in the quality of artworks they have reviewed.

Submissions with bad lighting, poor cropping, and other problems were so frequent that Kinley, the other arts co-editor, produced a video ­– complete with his own voiceover ­– to help students make their submissions more effectively.

For as long as anyone can remember, Guildscript has been a black-and-white publication. There are no plans for a color publication, which would add to the production costs. The current writers and artists say that the choice is as much an aesthetic one as an economic one.

“It adds a unity to it,” said Noa Gidal, one of the literary managing editors.

To have a huge pop of color, in the midst of printed prose and artworks done in charcoal or pencil, would almost be a disruption for the Guildscript reader, she said.

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