by Ashleigh Clark
Cedarville University’s various publications allow students and faculty to showcase their academic and literary writing skills. All the journals published by the university, such as “Channels” or “Musical Offerings,” come with high praise and recognition, but the “Cedarville Review” has a unique place among such publications.
The “Review,” as it is sometimes called, began in 1996. It publishes works from burgeoning writers and artists every year. The journal showcases visual art and literary pieces of poetry and prose. Notably, the “Cedarville Review” gives a voice to students by publishing exclusively undergraduate work from all disciplines and departments.
A group of students edits The “Review.” After the submission period is done, the editors get together to discuss which pieces will be accepted into that year’s publication. The process is highly selective, with the group curating the best pieces to showcase the beauty of literary and artistic expression. The journal is typically published by the end of the academic year.
Former chief editor Rachel Rathbun Benefiel and current chief editor Emily Vest spoke about their experiences working with the “Review.” Benefiel and Vest have both been featured in the “Review” and non-Cedarville publications.
Benefiel worked on the “Cedarville Review” for three years and has loved being a part of the team. She noted that getting to see the inside perspective on publication was one of the greatest fulfillments of the position.
“You get to see a literary journal’s publication process from the submission period all the way through printing,” she said. “Not only is that super rewarding since you get to hold the finished product in your hands, but it’s also a really valuable experience for anyone looking into publishing as a career.”
Vest, the current chief editor, has been a part of the team for two years. She sees the “Review” as a passion project curated by the editors. She echoed Benefiel’s love for the insider view on publishing.
“The Cedarville Review is still a semi-hidden gem of Cedarville University,” she said. “
In her experience, the journal’s advertising has been the biggest change while she has been in charge. The team has added social media (@the_cedarville_review on Instagram) to its advertising strategy to reach more people.
Both of them were adamant about the desire for submission variety, not just in style but also in inter-departmental contribution. They are excited to see it grow beyond the Department of English, Literature and Modern Languages. Over the last few years, the “Cedarville Review” has been diversifying its collection. Some of the most well-liked pieces, according to Vest and Benefiel, have been ones that take the writer’s experiences and infuse them with nuanced writing.
Benefiel and Vest would also like to see the “Cedarville Review” continue to grow. Vest is excited to see more variety in prose and poetry.
Benefiel wants to see more pieces that “push the boundaries between forms or genres and blur traditional boundaries of what you think you can do…[piecies that] cover unique topics that the author has more knowledge of than any of us. That might mean a unique setting in fiction, any deeply specific subject matter in non-fiction, or a really strong grasp of a particular form for poetry.”
Vest and Benefiel both said that one of the difficulties the “Cedarville Review” editors face is handling Christian allegorical writing.
Benefiel said, “I think we have a consistent worry in the editorial board that students think their writing needs to be ‘Christian enough’ to get accepted into the Review, e.g. overly Christian in subject matter. Sometimes this produces great art. Much more often, it limits a lot of creativity that we’d really welcome.” Any exceptional visual or literary work created by a Christian can be a vessel for the Gospel message.
“I’d advise our contributors to relax,” Benefiel said. “Be honest on the page no matter what the subject matter, and let that speak for itself.”
So, why should students care about the “Cedarville Review”? To be featured in the “Cedarville Review” is an excellent addition to an early literary career.
For Vest, “publishing a piece is difficult, but we hope to give every student the chance to share their voice and thoughts and creativity.”
There is an average 30% acceptance rate for the “Review,” according to Vest, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from submitting something. Getting published in the “Cedarville Review” is quite an accomplishment.
Even for readers not interested in being featured in the “Review”, it is still worthwhile to take the time to read it. Benefiel said “reading beautiful art encourages us to worship the Creator. It’s also a great way to explore new ideas…We learn a lot and grow a lot by seeing into other people’s visions of the world through their art.”
Vest agreed, saying that reading the journal “supports both the campus and the students. It is encouraging to see the hard work that students have put into their submissions and even more encouraging to see the dedication and talent that the writers of Cedarville University show.
All copies of the “Cedarville Review,” are available online through their website. Alternatively, a hard copy of the “Review” can be purchased.
For more information about this journal, visit their website: https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/cedarvillereview/.
Ashleigh Clark is a junior political science major. She plays electric bass and lives in New York with her four cats, Vincent, Chubby, Mable, and Scout.