Home Grown Publishing: Part 1

Part One: How to Create a Literary Journal to Publish Students’ writing

CHALLENGER international: A Home-grown Literary Journal

Do you enjoy teaching creative writing? Many of us do. But isn’t it frustrating that the poems and stories our pupils “sand and polish” seldom get an audience beyond author and teacher?

Twelve years ago I cut down my frustration in this regard. I assembled a forum for my secondary alternate students–a literary journal I call CHALLENGER international.

Volunteers photocopy about one hundred copies per issue (we run three issues per year), which we distribute mostly to secondary alternate students throughout our school district.

These issues are the collective effort of many of my students, myself, and our secretary, each helping out as one or more of the following: typist, proof-reader, “gopher,” author, co-editor, artist.

Co-editors read submissions and vote on whether or not they merit publication (illustrations may also be published if our co-editors find their quality acceptable). Submissions often come from our own students, but because we are advertised in The 2001 Poet’s Market1, we also receive work from students internationally.

Once we’ve gathered enough material, a volunteer word processes the journal. Next, proof-readers go over the printed original several times, uprooting typos and overlooked spelling errors.

Some of our young writers have found other publishers: in Canada, The Cariboo Observer, The Cariboo Advocate, Kids World Magazine, The Word is Out, Teacher, The Student Voice, Against the Wall, Western People, To the Wall, and TG: Voices of Today’s Generation; in the USA, StudentsWrite.com.

Naturally, I want our CHALLENGER-writers to find big audiences. So I hope some of their poetry and prose, one day, will fill pages in first class literary journals such as Canada’s Fiddlehead, Malahat Review, and Grain, and in fine international markets. *

Here are two poems and one editorial note CHALLENGER international has published, to let you taste some of its flavours:

Houses out of Boxes, by Kerry Randall (18 years old)

Thought mumbles through
my breath
breaking the soft silence.
Happiness has past
dripping off my skin.

I seem to remember
my strange days
making houses out of boxes
mastering my future.

And the fragile fish
show off their silent strokes
and I still perch

Kindergarten, by davemoss (19 years old)

                    i'm a kindergarten    i used to sail
                    now i'm away
                    that is it

                              i'm a bird
                                  a bird
                                    bird blue
                                         you are in my
                                         my tears
                               but my waves on the

                                      eye see you


Campbell’s Beef Vegetable from the can–that’s poetry. Add no water. As John Drury says in Creating Poetry, “[a poem] is charged, intensified, concentrated” (1991, p. 5). Once you add water, you’ve got prose.

Poetry is my first concern in this issue. Poems that CHALLENGER international has published, and new ones, lie awake inside. Be careful they don’t jump off the page and into your blood.

I hope they make your “toenails twinkle” (Thomas as quoted in Drury, 1991, p. 5): Dylan Thomas’ thrust: If they don’t make your “toenails twinkle,” they aren’t poems. Emily Dickinson defined poetry differently: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry” (as quoted in Drury, p. 5).

Who needs drugs?

If a “poem” stops you shaving, it really is a poem figured A. E. Housman (Drury, 1991, p. 5). Robert Graves thought a poem should make “the hairs of one’s chin…bristle” (as quoted in Drury, p. 5). Emily, I believe, didn’t shave, so she had her own ideas. I wonder if she knew Beethoven’s friend called Furry Lisa.

I hope you enjoy this issue. William Wordsworth defined poetry as the “overflow of powerful feelings” (as quoted in Drury, 1991, p. 5).

I hope you overflow.


As for reviews of CHALLENGER international, here are three:

  1. “I have just finished reading the latest edition of CHALLENGER international. Great stuff!…I really appreciated it, but the big winners are the kids. I know kids feel validated when they see their own work in print.”
    –Tina Quinn, former Associate Principal of Secondary Alternate Programs in Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada.
  2. “I have just read CHALLENGER international…I found it to be very interesting…I particularly enjoyed the poetry.”
    –Ed Napier, former Director of Instruction in Quesnel.
  3. CHALLENGER international is commended for distinguished accomplishment in clarity and interest…I am most impressed by the variety of topics you address as well as the quality of the articles and poems submitted.”
    –Dr. Debra Cullinane, former Co-ordinator of Student Support Services in Quesnel.


1I encourage writers to submit poetry, short fiction, novel excerpts, and black pen drawings. I’m open to “any kind of work, especially by teenagers (Ci‘s mandate: to encourage young writers, and to publish their work alongside established writers), providing it’s not pornographic, profane, or overly abstract” (CHALLENGER international, 2001, pp. 96-97). E-mail submissions preferred: . Snail mail: Dan Lukiv, editor, CHALLENGER international, 440 McNaughton Avenue, McNaughton Centre, Quesnel, British Columbia V2J 3K8 Canada.