Virginia Woolf famously wrote that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Woolf's conviction has held—and continues to hold—true at Nazareth College. Here, a tradition of literary magazine writing since the 1930s has allowed its students to create and compile original prose, poetry, essays, criticisms, photography, and artwork.
The magazine's current iteration is Elbowroom, which launched in 2000. Elbowroom is published annually in April and its co-editors, Emily Alexander '11 and Sarah Lesser '14 aim to showcase the creative arts talents of the College's students. "I worked on the revival issue of my high school's literary journal and was ecstatic to discover that Nazareth College had a literary magazine as well," says Lesser.
The magazine is designed in-house by the co-editors and their staff, and then printed locally. The entire process—from requesting submissions; evaluating, editing, and designing the content; to delivering the final product—is a valuable learning experience for the magazine's staff, which changes each year. Because of the annual flux of incoming freshmen and graduating seniors, Alexander is mentoring Lesser to become the next lead editor of Elbowroom. "While I am a newcomer," explains Lesser, "I look forward to continuing work on the literary magazine for the remainder of my time at Nazareth. I also hope to leave my mark on the magazine and its legacy for future years."
The future of Elbowroom is especially poignant in light of the strong history of literary writing and publishing at the College. Elbowroom is actually a revived version of the College's long-time literary magazine, known alternatively as Verity Fair, Verity Faire, or simply Verity. The Lorette Wilmot library stocks issues from 1932 through the 1990s and serves as a mirror—reflecting the student body as well as its ideals and values. The reader is afforded a fascinating glimpse of Nazareth College evolving through the decades.
The early issues were published quarterly and the influence of the College's then-Catholic traditions and identity is palpable. The issues from the 1960s and 1970s showcase a notable increase in photography and artwork. During the 1970s, Nazareth became co-educational and independent of the Sisters of St. Joseph. As a result, Verity began showcasing the work of male student contributors, enhancing the magazine's multiple perspectives. This trend extends through the volumes of the 1980s and 1990s.
But the new millennium saw the rebirth of Verity as Elbowroom. In her editor's note for the first volume in 2000, Heather Congdon Lamphere '00 explains, "Where verity means truth, elbowroom is a synonym for freedom. One can't express truth without having freedom...Through this magazine we've tried to offer a place for non-judgmental, uncensored expression."
Melissa Kotas Hartford '07, the 2007 editor of Elbowroom, underscores the importance of the magazine at Nazareth, writing that it "is especially important for a liberal arts college because not only does Elbowroom serve as a creative outlet for students...but it also celebrates community and connections among people."
No doubt Woolf—who more than 80 years ago highlighted the relationships between education, socio-economics, and a person's ability to create literature—would agree and applaud the College's continued literary, artistic, and expressive endeavors.
The 2011 issue of Elbowroom will be available April 18. For back issues, visit the Lorette Wilmot Library.