INK Magazine with Jad Abumrad of Radiolab
INK Magazine with Jad Abumrad of Radiolab

An interview, à distance!

Last we left our INK Magazine students, they were fresh off their eighth consecutive year of achieving the rank of "Excellent" in The National Council of Teachers of English annual program Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines (REALM). They were preparing to interview Jad Abumrad on campus for our Visiting Writer Program, and strategizing about what kinds of questions would entertain and inform their audience. Then, the world changed.

We caught up with three members of the team; Poetica, the Editor in Chief, and fellow Grade 12 leaders Saulet and Neil, to talk about how INK has adapted to the new environment, and continued their literary activities from at home.

Although our Visiting Writer events were canceled, the students were still able to interview Mr. Abumrad via Zoom. Their in-person preparations were translated quickly to a digital presentation where each student developed a question for Mr. Abumrad on his work, how he creates stories, and how he sees the American identity. Saulet, Neil, and Poetica moderated the interview, "It went well," Neil shared, "It was just nice to see someone so enthusiastic, and he was really open to all the questions. Some were pretty complex, and sometimes people don't take students as seriously but he was really invested in it." In addition to carefully considering the questions asked by ASP students, Neil notes that Mr. Abumrad, " had an interesting take on identity. He was talking about how you should not be restricted by your identity [when creating] and this is a theme of ASP's visiting writers."

Poetica and Saulet shared that Mr. Abumrad's responses about working to inform people while working in a changing audio medium, from radio to podcasts and online messaging, "showed an impressive ability to change, while also staying true to what he wanted to say, and to the core value of his message."

You can listen to their interview, split into two parts, below. The students plan to transcribe part of the interview for the 2020 edition of INK Magazine.

When not interviewing groundbreaking radio and podcast hosts, INK continues to meet weekly on Zoom, and are planning to release the first-ever digital copy of the magazine this spring. While they hope to print the magazine by September, their usual printing house is still closed in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

When shifting to an online medium, the students shared that they had to think on their feet, from evolving the in-person interview of Mr. Abumrad to a Zoom format, first planned to take place at school with the students gathered together, then quickly developing into an online meeting with students in their homes. Even though the medium of communication has shifted, INK was able to welcome 13 students to the interview, comprising most of their editorial board.

Increased participation in meetings is not the only marked increased; the INK leaders note that they extended the deadline of submissions to the 2020 publication because Upper School students are creating at an incredible clip during the quarantine. While the magazine will reflect the theme of confinement and quarantine, says Poetica, the 2020–21 leadership team are beginning to take over and realize their own design and creative process. Saulet comments that students are reacting very differently to the confinement. Some struggle to stay present to their creative outlets, and to maintain a schedule that lets them both maintain their studies, process this experience, and create.

The team has received double the amount of submissions, she says, which "shows how important how the magazine is for students to express themselves. This situation is unexpected for everyone and we are getting submissions that reflect that, but now students have time to finish and they're able to make their pieces the best they can, so that they feel comfortable submitting them. While the team hopes to include as many pieces as possible, Saulet clarified that necessary parts for a piece of work likely to be accepted for publication and credits some of the increase in submissions to this process: "Good work comes with emotion and technique, so where you have an emotional catalyst and time, students are creating, because they have both now." Much of the work received since confinement is poetry, shared Poetica, but there are some longer pieces of prose. Interestingly, COVID-19 is only the explicit subject of one piece, but the these of isolation and being alone are prevalent throughout many of the works.

INK will showcase works in English, French, and Spanish, and for these three graduating leaders, continuing to prepare the magazine for publication has been, "a great touchstone, and a reminder of normalcy." How willing the team has been to adjust is heartening for Poetica as editor in chief, who has a lot of hope for the coming years: "We're getting really consistent, great group, and it's been wonderful to see who's interested and passionate about continuing." The team has even started a book club, and meets every Friday in a group of 8 or so students with Ms. Antoine on Zoom, where they read and discuss short stories and poems on the theme of isolation and confinement.

We hope you enjoy listening to the interview with Jad Abumrad of Radiolab. Stay tuned for the first ever digial edition of INK Magazine, coming soon!Recording One

Thank you to Mr. Abumrad and Lizzy Johnson for providing the photo featured on this post.