Norwich literary journal reaches out to campus

With the guidance of a new journal advisor, Norwich University’s annual literary journal, The Chameleon, is working to organize the publication process and strengthen the journal’s presence on campus.

“A lot of people have said that they didn’t know The Chameleon even existed, we want to take care of that,” said Chameleon advisor and professor of English, Sean Prentiss. Since the first meeting with the new advisor in September, there has been a push to inform the student body about the college journal that has been in publication since 1961.

Prentiss was hired as a creative writing professor at NU knowing that he would also be advising the university’s literary journal. “We display student work in (the) journal so that students can see what other student writers are doing, what other student artists are doing,” he said. Unlike other NU publications, Prentiss said that The Chameleon fills a “niche” with art.

The Chameleon accepts writing styles of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama, along with art and photography. The first deadline for student submissions was on Dec. 12, however there will be future opportunities for submissions in the new year.

“I really value the arts. I think it’s a great thing to have on any college campus,” Prentiss said of his personal connection to his new position with The Chameleon. “It helps bring together the students’ voices as artists. It gives the readers a chance to see how great we can be and it also gives the writer a chance to see their work in a real world.”

Prentiss’ own first published piece was in a small literary journal reminiscent of The Chameleon. “It was just so nice after years of writing for myself to see it in print, to be able to hold it (in) my hand, to share it with my mom and my friends, and say ‘hey I did this.’”

Though the staff is not considered an official club yet, it meets regularly on Wednesdays in order to set the groundwork for future Chameleonites so that, as Prentiss said, “it’s not just some hidden corner, but something that’s vital to our university.”

The Chameleon staffThe Chameleon staff looks forward to hosting possible live readings on campus featuring NU student writers and professional writers, advertising a call for more submissions across campus, and starting next semester, publishing creative pieces in The Guidon to offer a look at the type of work the journal will be filled with. Additionally, flyers posted in campus buildings encourage students to submit their writing, artwork, and photography to the Chameleon.

When students submit their pieces to, the Chameleonites categorize them into a genre, read through each piece, express their opinions about the work, and determine what will be published in the 2012 Chameleon.

“If you’re interested in working for the Chameleon being an editor or a reader, we are always looking for more people,” Prentiss said. This year the riffling through student submissions has become more organized, said Abigail Donahue, a 19-year-old sophomore English major from Chester, N.H.

Donahue worked with The Chameleon last year and has witnessed the change in the process and steps it took to put the journal together. “(Now) we have editors (and) we have readers,” she said. “Last year, everything was in one big pile and we just went through it.”

Donahue is now one of the senior editors and she reads through selections of student-created poetry and fiction. Another senior editor, Katherine Proffitt, a 21-year-old junior political science major from Powhatan, Va., focuses on selections of fiction and handles the social media aspects. “There’s a lot of reading and behind-the-scenes work that not many know about,” Proffitt said.

In order to learn and improve the ins and outs of creating a literary journal, The Chameleon is working with managing editor of the New Madrid, a journal of contemporary literature, Jacque Day.

Day was invited to participate with The Chameleon after her newly hired husband who is also an English professor at Norwich, met Prentiss and found out they knew some of the same people in the literary community. The Chamelonites are “really in tune with literature, with the written word, and how important that is,” Day said. She likes the vibe and the vision within the group and is excited to see the talent the publication will be able to find this year.

“One of the best experiences is to discover a new writer who has not been seen or heard of before who shows great promise,” Day said. “To be able to be that publication, to put that person’s work out there for the first time, is really exciting.”

The Chameleon encourages creativity at Norwich because everyone has a story to tell, Day added. “We’re so military oriented that we forget that we can be a creative school,” said Sarah DeBouter, a 21-year-old senior English major and one of the senior editors from Middlebury, Vt.

The Chameleon has a new Facebook page and will be releasing the organization’s website soon. All submissions are received and organized electronically, although students can be kept anonymous if they desire, Proffitt explained.

The Chamelonites can relate to students that feel too shy to submit their pieces to the literary journal, but they encourage writers to do it anyway, offering writers or artists the right to remain anonymous or use a pen name.

One of the fiction and non-fiction readers for the Chameleon is also a writer himself, Thomas Childs, a 21-year-old senior nursing major from Franconia, N.H. “My worry was that I wouldn’t get accepted, I can sympathize with people that don’t want to submit because they don’t want to get rejected,” Childs said.

“Don’t worry about getting rejected, worry about giving it a shot, we’d love to read your work, we’d love to see if we can publish you in the Chameleon, we’d love to see what we can share with the rest of campus,” Prentiss said, encouraging students to get involved. “If you’re doing any writing, if you’re doing any art or photography, let us see it.”

As a nursing major, Childs sets an example for those to try to express themselves creatively regardless of what they study. “I think that everyone has creative potential,” Childs said. “It doesn’t require the study of fiction or the study of writing or the study of the English language. All it takes is the heart, the desire, the imagination to create and that drive to create.”

The different stories that students have to tell is what attracted Adam Gravano, a 21-year-old senior political science and English major from Long Island, N.Y., to work with the literary journal.

“It’s a very rewarding experience to see your stuff printed on paper and seeing other people reading it and responding to it,” agreed DeBouter. She was published in the journal her freshman year at NU and focuses on reading poetry and non-fiction. “The more you get your stuff out there, the more comfortable you feel.”

Chameleonites feel comfortable collaborating with one another. The enthusiastic environment created this year is credited to not just the student volunteers, but the new advisor to the literary journal, Prentiss. “(We) aren’t afraid to share (ideas) and really aren’t afraid of getting shot down and (we are) open to criticism,” Childs said. “He throws out an idea, puts it in front of us and we sculpt it, we mold the object he puts in front of us into something more tangible, like a good leader should,” referring to Professor Prentiss.

The Chameleonites hope that the 2012 Chameleon gets the proper attention it deserves this March when the selected pieces are released in the literary journal, and in the future years to come.

“It can bring the Norwich community together because anyone can bond over literature,” Donahue said.

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