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Literary ‘hidden gem’ Glass Mountain celebrates 10th anniversary

“For us in Houston, there’d be no excuse not to open it up and allow the widest diversity possible, and I think we’re doing that and that’s pretty exciting,” said Glass Mountain General Editor LeeAnna Carlson. | Courtesy of Glass Mountain

Amid a changing artistic climate and increasing recognition from the literature community, the University of Houston’s undergraduate literary magazine, “Glass Mountain,” will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in April.

Glass Mountain first came on the scene in 2006 when undergraduate students created the magazine as a counterpart to UH’s graduate literary magazine, “Gulf Coast,” according to the Glass Mountain website. The first edition came out in Spring 2017.

“We accept writing from emerging writers, which is a voice that’s very under-served when it comes to literary magazines,” said General Editor LeeAnne Carlson. “These are people who aren’t necessarily going to be comfortable submitting elsewhere.”

Glass Mountain defines an emerging writer as anyone who hasn’t pursued a post-bachelor’s degree in creative writing, Carlson said, and with the exception of its faculty advisor, Audrey Colombe, the magazine is entirely run by undergraduate students.

“To have the amount of work that this takes done entirely by undergraduates is huge,” Carlson said. “I may be a little biased, but I really would hold our literary journal up to almost any other out there as far as professionalism and appearance.”

Branching out

In the past year, Carlson said, the magazine has expanded to accept submissions worldwide, from a history of exclusively publishing UH student content. The shift in the caliber and nature of work Glass Mountain has begun publishing has contributed to the growing confidence of the magazine’s staff, Carlson said.

This is clear in the more controversial pieces that have been selected for April’s edition.

“Right now the political situation is really making a lot of artists unsettled with issues like funding. For us, it’s important to give a forum to that,” Carlson said. “We know we’re professional. We know we’re not just pandering to the emotion of the moment.”

Carlson said the magazine’s new push to accept more diverse, and sometimes more politically-charged, writing allows the publication to reflect the diversity UH is known for.

“Their vision definitely changes,” said Co-Managing Editor Marissa Isabel Gonzales, “which you can also see in past magazines, and especially this semester.”

Shaina Frazier, Glass Mountain’s former co-managing editor, said the work of past editors and members of the organization played a critical role in laying the groundwork for today’s Glass Mountain.

Though she graduated with a bachelor’s in creative writing after serving on the publication from 2013-2015, Frazier said she’s noticed the increased engagement the magazine has with both the UH community and the literary community as a whole.

Frazier attributes this growth to the ever-increasing size and diversity of the Glass Mountain staff.

“I think that while the heart of the magazine has remained the same, the nature of it has changed greatly,” Frazier said. “The contributions of the staff in terms of their commitment to publishing such incredible content, as well as expanding the magazine’s nature of inclusivity, has certainly led to the success we see today.”

Gaining attention

In addition to publishing two editions of the magazine during the year, Glass Mountain also provides opportunities for emerging writers to benefit from the program through readings at Bohemeo’s, a local bar and coffeehouse, and at its annual Boldface writing conference.

“You’re actually hearing their heart and their experience,” Carlson said on the value of writers sharing their work at Bohemeo’s. “Yes, in a performed, polished way, but in a way you might not otherwise hear it.”

Carlson added that the magazine’s continued presence at Bohemeo’s has garnered Glass Mountain attention from a community outside the University.

According to the Glass Mountain website, Boldface is the only writing conference in the country dedicated to emerging writers and takes place each May at UH’s MD Anderson Library. Carlson said Boldface is a unique opportunity because comparable writing conferences can cost up to $2,500, while Boldface starts at $195 for students.

Glass Mountain also hosts Write-A-Thon in November, which gives sponsored writers an opportunity to participate in a day of writing workshops and conferences in order to raise money to keep Boldface affordable for emerging writers, according to the website.

Gonzales said the opportunities working on the magazine has allowed her to engage with the literary community outside UH, which has given her some of her most rewarding experiences.

Increasing value

Most people in the literary community know UH for its graduate creative writing program, Carlson said, but many don’t recognize the caliber of the undergraduate program despite it offering courses from the same distinguished professors.

“The same faculty that teach the graduate students teach the undergraduate students,” Carlson said. “I really believe that Glass Mountain and Boldface are playing a vital role in bringing attention to the undergraduate writing program.”

As a large presence in UH’s creative writing community, Maryam Ahmed, the Glass Mountain poetry editor, said one of the most rewarding parts of working for the magazine is the ability to refine her own writing and be made aware of talented writers she may not otherwise have discovered.

“I feel like if I wasn’t in Glass Mountain — if I was just a creative writing major here — I wouldn’t have known about all of these amazing community writers,” Ahmed said on the value of Glass Mountain to UH’s creative writing program. “I feel like we don’t highlight enough the more hidden achievements of UH.”

April’s anniversary edition of the magazine will be dedicated to past and present members of Glass Mountain, Gonzales said.

“Without the people who have come in and done the work that they have done, we wouldn’t have been able to have 10 years of this,” Gonzales said. “It’s really hard to keep a magazine running, especially a literary magazine, and this one has continued on.”

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