Clarion University’s Literary & Arts Journal Still Going Strong After 20 Years
(Photo from a previous Tobeco event, courtesy of Tobeco)
Tobeco was initially founded in fall 2000 and printed their first edition journal in spring 2001.
Before Tobeco, Clarion University had a Literary Journal titled DARE. However, when Dr. Phil Terman came to Clarion and took over for Dr. Donald Wilson, the previous advisor, he found the students were ready to make some changes.
According to Dr. Terman, it was then decided that rather than focusing only on poetry and fiction writing, the journal would expand to include collaboration with the art department and to also include local writers in the community, rather than just students.
“Since this was going to be a new journal, we also wanted a new name,” Dr. Terman told exploreClarion.com, explaining that some students thought the name was confusing due to the popularity of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program.
A local writer who had become involved in the journal suggested the name “Tobeco,” which was the Native American name for the Clarion River.
“We liked the idea of rooting the name of the journal in the history of the area, especially since we were going to start taking submissions from regional writers.”
Along with adding artwork and non-student writers into the mix, Tobeco also added the option to submit scholarly writing and writing in other languages with translations.
“It was a nice way to move beyond what they were doing before.”
Another change that was made with the founding of Tobeco was the addition of organization-sponsored events, particularly open mic events.
“We have – or had before the pandemic – regular open mic nights at Michelle’s cafe. We had them on Zoom this year.”
Taking that extra step and sponsoring events in the community allowed students and regional writers more of a chance to come together and get to know one another, according to Dr. Terman.
“We also include musicians and even sometimes comedians at the events,” he noted.
“We’ve tried to create a lively community of writers and artists and provide a space for people who want to come together and share their work and find a community for what they do.”
In more recent years, they’ve also expanded into the realm of digital publishing, with a website that gives submission guidelines and where nine of the previous editions are currently available.
The organization also has a Facebook page where they announce upcoming events and share photos from events.
With the support they receive as a Clarion University organization, they do not charge for copies of the journal but do request a donation of $5.00 to help support their efforts.
For the special 20th Anniversary edition, they also invited former editors to contribute to create a connection between the anniversary issue and the previous issues.
“The editor of the very first edition even submitted and has a piece in the new edition.”
While Dr. Terman has been the main advisor for the organization for the last 20 years, he noted that there have also been many co-advisors over the years, including Dr. Leah Chambers, Dr. Elisabeth (Donato) Sauvage-Callaghan, Dr. Juanita Smart, Dr. Melissa Downes, and Dr. Damian Dressick.
“Dr. Dressick did a lot of the work for this year’s edition.”
While many long-running journals use a standard format in terms of the size, the cover image, and even whether or not it has a yearly title beyond the journal’s name, one of the things that makes Tobeco unique is that it tends to change completely from year to year.
“Many issues have been different sizes and shapes, and I like that. We like having our journal be a product of the different groups of students working on it each year.”
Sadly, while they had initially hoped to have an event for the release of the 20th edition of the journal this spring, the combination of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and the publication date being pushed back close to finals week put that on hold.
However, Dr. Terman said they are planning to have a special luncheon in honor of the 20th Anniversary in the fall.
“We’re going to try to include some of the artists, and we’re hoping to have some of the art hung up and also have literary readings. It’s still being planned, but we’re going to set something up.”
The important thing is that despite the difficulties of the last year and the pandemic, the journal participants forged on and the 20th Anniversary edition has been published, Dr. Terman noted.
“We just hope to keep the Tobeco community here for those who have been involved in it.”
Copies of the 20th Anniversary edition of Tobeco are currently available at the English Department Office in Davis Hall and will soon be available at Michelle’s Cafe and Artfunkle in downtown Clarion.
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