Save Money in this Sunday's paper

comments

Gaston Day School magazine editors win awards for Blutopia

Blutopia clinches multiple state, national recognitions, including prestigious Tar Heel Award 

More Information

  • More Young Achievers
  • About Blutopia’s beginnings

    A Gaston Day School student named Meg Hudson started the magazine, with a teacher’s approval and a photocopier. Thirteen years ago, she printed the first edition and stapled it by hand. Meg named the magazine “Blutopia,” a combination of Gaston Day’s colors (blue and white) and the word “utopia.” She went on to graduate from Gaston Day, then attended Wake Forest University, before dying of a congenital heart condition.

    The magazine name was kept to honor her, advisor Lori Davis said.

    Advice from the Blutopia editors:

    • Listen to staff.

    • Don’t be married to a single idea.

    • Communicate.

    • Stay organized, especially during editing periods.

    • Review other publications to improve your own.


  • More information

    Journalism Contests:

    North Carolina Scholastic Media Association

    Hosts annual contest for students and staffs. Critiques for magazines, newspapers and yearbooks provided by experts in each field. Contest entry forms: ncsma.unc.edu.

    Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association

    Crown Awards are its highest recognition for overall excellence in student print or online media. Both Gold Crown and Silver Crown Awards are given each year. To enter, publications must be regular or associate members of CSPA. Contest entry forms: cspa.columbia.edu.



Art, theme, font, font size, poetry, prose – it’s all part of the juggling act for teen editors at Blutopia.

Each year at Gaston Day School, a handful of teens plan, prepare and execute the school’s literary arts magazine.

And they are becoming quite good at it.

Blutopia recently won a prestigious Tar Heel Award from the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association for the fourth year in a row. Only two literary magazines in the state received the distinction in 2012. The other was Providence High’s “Roars and Whispers.”

“They spend countless hours working on this,” said Lori Davis, Blutopia advisor. “There’s so much ownership because they create it. This is theirs.”

Earlier this year, “Blutopia” received a Silver Crown , an award presented by Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association to the top student publications in the country. Blutopia was one of 22 to receive the award.

“We were so excited, but at the same time, it was a long time coming,” said Ali Prow, now a sophomore at Vassar College in New York and 2011-2012 Blutopia editor. “Our team worked pretty well together.”

To make Blutopia possible, two to four editors start by pitching their magazine to students in ninth through 12th grades in August, asking for submissions of short stories, memoirs, poetry or artwork. All decisions about the publication are made by the student editors, Davis said.

Typically, the group receives more than 100 submissions, then spends a Saturday sorting through and ranking the entries, with help from English and art faculty members.

Students’ submissions are blind during the selection process, meaning all names and grades are unknown, Davis said. Editors play a role in editing pieces for mechanical issues. They also may work with students to develop pieces that have strong ideas but lack in content.

“(The teens) already have a love for reading,” Davis said. “They know great work when they see it.”

As part of the magazine’s mission, editors do not censor submissions, Davis said, adding that so far, students have tackled tough subjects but seem to respect the publication’s policy.

“Pushing the envelope for our kids usually involves some language and some personal information that we feel could end up embarrassing the student or his or her family,” Davis said. “We always get parent permission to print anything that seems like it might affect others around the student.”

From the pieces they’ve chosen, the editors try to find a theme. Last year’s was dreams; the year before, childhood.

Choosing cover art that captures emotion and establishes a theme is one of the group’s biggest challenges, said rising senior Noor Kaur, a 2012-2013 editor.

“The theme is supposed to set the tone for the magazine,” Noor said. “You want to elicit an emotional reaction.”

Student editors estimate that they spend 50 hours per week on the magazine, often staying late into the night editing pieces and laying out pages in the software program called InDesign.

New editors Carolina Lim, a senior, and Noor were introduced to the layout program this summer at NCSMA.

“We went through (other) magazines for inspiration,” Noor said about the NCSMA. “You don’t want to copy someone else’s pages, but you want to get ideas for your own.”

The teens have just one laptop and one desktop to produce the entire publication, which they deem a challenge. They want to have the magazine complete by February, a month earlier than in years past, so they can have time to polish the publication before it goes to press. To do so, they are logging summer hours in the office.

When it’s finished, about 200 to 350 copies of the magazine are printed, enough for about 60 staff members, 140 high school students, members of the public and to submit for critique, Davis said.

Richard Rankin, headmaster of Gaston Day School, is one of the publication’s biggest fans and has several of the group’s awards framed in his office.

“There is a pattern of student apprenticeship ... as older students train and indoctrinate younger students. (They) can build upon and extend previous successes,” he said.

In order to create a successful publication, Ali’s advice to the upcoming editors: “Be opinionated, but don’t be attached to a single idea.”

Arguing about concepts wastes valuable time, she said. And, “Stay calm under pressure.”

Penland: 704-358-6043; Twitter @BrittanyPenland
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more


Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
CharlotteObserver.com