Looking back on FLARE as it moves forward

By Laura Henning

I will be honest–it’s been difficult not being a part of FLARE this semester. After two and a half years with the journal, two of which I was editor, it certainly felt strange not meeting up with the rest of the staff on Thursday nights in the Gargoyle (Flagler’s online newspaper) lab. Thursday evenings were always FLARE evenings. Our meetings were one of the bright spots of my week, something I looked forward to no matter how stressed or exhausted I was. The fact that this semester I have a figure drawing class on Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m., the same time FLARE meets, has prohibited me from just, you know, casually hanging out in the room and reliving my Glory Days…and perhaps giving some suggestions…and commenting on artwork…and helping to arrange pieces…

But I can’t miss my art class. Flagler’s attendance policy is very strict. Rose, the fantastic new editor of FLARE, has sporadically asked me for advice, but other than that, I have become fairly removed from the journal. I was starting to feel confident that I could finally consider FLARE from a distance and feel okay about that.

Then (because there’s always a “then”), Brian Thompson, advisor to FLARE, sent me an email that made all of my complicated emotions resurface. He wrote:

Hey! Just wanted to let you know that the spring 2015 issue of FLARE took third place in the Four Year Literary Magazine of the Year category at the College Media Association’s 2014-15 Pinnacle Awards this past weekend…To my knowledge, this is the first award FLARE/The Flagler Review has ever won. How cool is that?!?

Well, very cool! I had completely forgotten FLARE had even been entered for any awards. I messaged Rose soon after I found out and asked her if she had heard the good news, which of course she had. Even without an award, I am very proud of the work we produced last semester. (Though I can’t lie–external validation feels really, really great.) The other two journals that won first and second place were The Appalachian from Appalachian State University and Windhover from North Carolina State University, respectively. Both of these publications are of a very high caliber, and it is such an honor to have FLARE included among them; my sincerest congratulations go out to the staffs of both journals.

I was obviously overjoyed that FLARE won this award. As I began reviewing the Spring 2015 issue, however, an immense sadness overcame me. I missed being a part of the team, missed the rush of printer deadlines and finding cover artwork. I missed creating something tangible, something that meant a great deal to Flagler as a whole. I missed coordinating open mic nights and launch parties. I wanted to reclaim my “spot.” I wanted to be there.

I moped around for a little bit until it hit me: I was thinking about this all wrong. The journal is not mine to own. There is no “spot” for me to reclaim; FLARE is already looking ahead of itself, not behind, and I should be too. After all, the journal is ever-evolving, and has benefited immeasurably from all of the different voices that have come and gone and left their mark on the publication. Everyone who has worked on FLARE will forever be a part of the fabric of the journal. We might not physically be there in the swivel chairs, reading submissions on Submittable or arguing over finalists, but our contributions live on. This award from the College Media Association is a culmination of all of those moments. Winning an award does not happen overnight, but is the result of years and years of hard work. That said, I would like to take a moment to emphasize FLARE’s exponential growth in recent years. In 2012, when Laura Lee Smith took over and made the journal student-run, FLARE was essentially reborn. Today, under the supervision of Brian Thompson, the journal not only has wider readership, but its prestige has also grown considerably. Each semester, more established writers and artists are submitting their work in the hopes of finding themselves within the pages of FLARE. As Brian would say, “How cool is that?!?”

I do not need to be on staff to know FLARE is headed toward bigger and better things. FLARE will continue to win more awards (it’s a matter of when, not if) and innovate new ways to showcase literature and art in tandem with one another. So life goes on, and the editions will keep coming, each a bit better than the last. When I get the urge to skip class and sneak into the Gargoyle lab during a Thursday night meeting, “inconspicuously” donning a trench coat and an itchy fake beard, I will stop myself; not only might that get me arrested, but more importantly, I also now realize what this award was trying to teach me: I don’t have to be there for FLARE to be with me.