The Ramblings: Episode 2
5:05AM Feb 14, 2021
Asher de Forest
So, I also wanted to talk a little bit about the culture and environment at Chanter and the Mac Weekly. I feel like both kind of have this like, cult persona. [Laughter.]
[Theme music.] Hello, and welcome to The Ramblings, a podcast for and by English majors. Today, Kira spoke to Asher de Forest and Lindsay Weber on campus publications, developing a sense of community, and looking back on their time at Macalester.
Hi! I'm Kira, I use she/her pronouns, and I'll be your host today. Today, I'm talking to Asher de Forest and Lindsay Weber. They're both seniors at Macalester, and they both write for our student publications. Asher is on the board of Chanter, and Lindsay is the Editor-in-Chief for the Mac Weekly.
Asher and Lindsay, welcome to Ramblings. Could you guys both just introduce yourselves with your names and pronouns and a fun fact?
Sure, I can go first. I'm Lindsay, I use she/her pronouns, and a fun fact about me is that I used to live in London growing up.
I'm Asher, I use he/him, and a fun slash disturbing fact about me is I have seen episode of RuPaul's drag race, some multiple times.
[Laughter.] Those are really great fun facts. So, one thing that I just wanted to jump off with with you guys, is why you became English majors at Macalester.
Sure, yeah. I went into college not knowing that I would be an English major, or not knowing what major I would do, but I knew I was really interested in writing. And, kind of the funny thing for me was, I... I knew I was interested in writing, but I don't think I knew how interested I would end up being in the other parts of being an English major, because there are the two tracks, but it really is one major, you know. So, this... is this is kind of straying from your question, but... but that was kind of the nice surprise for me, once I figured out I wanted to be a creative writing major, was, oh, I really like doing the literature stuff, too.
Yeah, that's interesting to hear, because I know that like... like, I've heard this just from some creative writing majors, that they wish that they could just take, like, more just creative writing classes and take less literature. But I'm glad that you're with me, and you like the literature classes too.
And I'm also like you in that I didn't know... I didn't know coming into Macalester that I was going to be an English major. And I'm actually a double major--I'm English and political science. And I came in thinking that I wanted to do political science, but then I ended up adding the English major, after I took my first year course with Jim Dawes, that was "The American Novel." I just really... I loved that course, and that was one where we basically read a novel a week, they were all kind of like, classic American works of literature, and it was just a really fast paced class. I really enjoyed the discussions that we had--Jim is a really fascinating lecturer, and we had a lot of interesting discussions. And that's kind of what hooked me, is just like, the kind of classes and discussions that we have. And so, yeah, that's how I ended up being an English major.
Nice, nice. It's interesting that you guys are both double majors, actually, cuz Asher, you're a... a theater major, as well, right?
Yeah, yeah. What's that like to have two majors with English? Like, what do you think that brings to the table?
For... for me with doing English and theater, it's... I've only had one class that it was officially like, crosslisted, which was playwriting, which is now like, the... the main thing I like to do, so that... that really worked out. But I find a lot of like, what I... what I end up being interested in within both majors, does have some crossover. Like, the first English class I took my first year, and as I said before, this was before I knew what I was gonna major in, but... was "Drama, Theater, and Politics" with Andrea Kaston Tange. And, like, you know, it was this English class, but we were going to see plays and we were reading scripts. And then, on the flip side of that, like, in my theater major, one of my favorite things is, you know, script analysis and that sort of thing, which is this very, kind of, literary slash... and sometimes writing... creative writing too, with that. So, I... I like to find the crossover, even when it isn't a direct like, a cross department crossover.
Right, right. And then Lindsay, with poli sci, like, where do you find the crossover with that?
Yeah, I think there's definitely less crossover for sure with political science and English, but I guess just the way it benefits me, being an... a double major in both of those is, I feel like being an English literature major makes you really good at written arguments. Like, really just being able to make a point and explaining why... why you hold certain beliefs, or why you think a certain theme is important in a piece of literature, for example. And I think that that benefits me in political science as well, just because I think that it makes me a better writer, just in that I can be more eloquent and kind of, more... have more of a creative flair, but then also, in terms of the argumentative aspect of it, it helps as well.
Mmm. Oh, that's really interesting. I love that it just kind of, like, augments your other major.
But you still have like, joy in both of them. Yeah, and both of them.
And then, I kind of wanted to turn the conversation a little bit more towards both of your extracurricular activities. So, Asher, you are Submissions Manager for Chanter and then, Lindsay, you're an editor-in-chief for the Mac Weekly. How did you guys get involved with those orgs?
Yeah, I remember actually like, as a prospective student at Macalester, when I visited, I like, went to the little meeting that the Mac Weekly staff was hosting for prospective students. And I just went into the office and like, Asher, you know, because I know Chanter uses the same office as us... and there's like all those like, quotes written on the walls and like.... that are all like, super funny, and all these like, weird photos hung up. And that was just when I knew like, "I need to be on the Mac Weekly when I come to Macalester. [Laughter.] And so, yeah, I've pretty much been with it since the beginning. I started out as a Staff Writer in News, and then I kind of, switched to working more on web stuff and social media. I was the web editor for a while, while also... then I started picking up some news writing too, and that was what I really fell in love with, was the actual reporting and writing of important stories. And then this coming... or this... sorry, this past semester, I just finished up being Editor-in-Chief with my co-editor, Margaret Moran, because we only have... when you're an editor in chief, it's only a semester long commitment. And so... yeah, that's been my Mac Weekly journey. I've loved it.
That's lovely. And then, Asher, how did you get involved with Chanter?
I... kind of similar opening experience... I never visited before I came to Mac, but I remember, probably the first day I was going into my dorm, there was a poster for submitting to Chanter, and I was with my mom, and she pointed it out. She was like, "You should do that!" And so I... I wasn't on... I wasn't in Chanter. I mean, I wasn't in the... why am I blanking on the word for... staff, there it is! [laughter] ....first semester, but I submitted and I got in, and so I went to the... the release party. And that was... it was really just this thing of like, these people seem really nice, and I... you know, I liked... I liked hearing all the writing and seeing all the art. And I hadn't done something like a literary magazine before, but I... I just figured, you know what, next semester, I'm gonna start going to meetings, seeing what it's like.
And yeah.... and so then I was a staff member that semester. And then, early in my next semester, the first semester of my sophomore year, the spot opened for an Associate Submissions Manager. So I did an interview and then I started doing that. And that was kind of a relief, cuz while it was a lot of work, I didn't have to vote anymore, cuz you can't vote when you're... everything's anonymous. So that... that was the kind of... even though it was more work, and it's really fulfilling work... but the.... the big silver lining was, I didn't have to vote, cuz that always stressed me out.
Oh my gosh. So, obviously, like Chanter and the Mac Weekly, like, are very different writing styles, but they're... I think that they're both still very creative. And I was just wondering, like, what some of your favorite pieces that you guys have been able to publish have been in both of those, like, you know, things that you've read that other people have submitted or like, Lindsay, things that you've like, helped work on or seen other people get to publish. Does anything really stick out for you guys?
Yeah, I think for me, an obvious choice would be when we published our special issue, that was called "Colonial Macalester," and that was in Fall 2019. And that was a special issue about the founder of Macalester, Edward Duffield Neill, and basically a lot of it kind of delved into his really racist history, he had some writings that said some really offensive things about Native Americans, among other things, and it was just this kind of, in depth look into him. And then just like, some of the other routes of the school and the way that in some ways, there's... it's been defined by people who were racist. And that was... eventually helped to lead to the changing of the name of what was formerly Neill Hall, now it's the Humanities Building, and they'll be choosing another name for it. I think, February, I think is the latest.... I just heard like, the Board of Trustees is gonna have some kind of a discussion about it. And we worked with people from Pipe, the Native American org on campus, to put that out.
And yeah, I think that that was an important project just in that it kind of helped bring awareness to these problems that I feel like, at the same time, maybe students knew, but for one reason or another admin and the Board of Trustees were not that aware of, in terms of Neill's history. And so, yeah, that was kind of a proud moment for our staff, was when we published that, and we had a lot of really good feedback from people. And I'm glad that that work was able to kind of, make a positive change on campus, for sure.
Right, right. No, I remember when that issue came out... it being like, such a big thing on campus, cuz everybody was talking about it. And then like, the whole issue, you know, like the design of it was also really phenomenal.
Yes! That was all Rebecca Edwards, she is a queen. Shout out to her.
And then Asher, do you have anything like, I don't know, funny or creative that you've seen published in Chanter that you really enjoyed?
Yeah, well, I'm glad you said funny because one of my favorite things is when we're able to publish humor pieces, because I think there is this... I don't know, there's... there's sometimes a stigma, maybe--or at least an association--with literary magazines, and college literary magazines, you know, that everything is... is really serious. And of course, we publish beautiful, serious work that I'm very proud to... to have in the magazine. But when we can get just like, a great, funny piece in there, that makes me really happy. And then in general, I... I really like having variety, having it not just be what... what people expect out of... out of a literary magazine, but with both the art and the lit submissions, to be able to publish an unusual type of art piece, like sometimes it'll be probably discussing the art and we'll all be like, "What is this form? We don't.. we haven't see this before." Or, I'm... with... with things that kind of blur the lines between art and lit... an art piece with text in it, that's always exciting. Or, I'm thinking back to... there was a lit piece that was magnet poetry.
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I do remember that one.
Yeah. So just that sort of thing is... that's always really exciting for me to see.
What I love about that is, I mean, you were just talking about like art and literature coming together. And just as a quick, I guess, bridge back to the piece that Lindsay was talking about, the special issue about colonial Macalester, so much of that was about like, the design of that issue, and obviously, like, the phenomenal research that you guys got to do, but also just about how you presented it in like, such a gravity-filled way. Like, it just had so much weight because it was like, a bigger issue, it had like, those beautiful illustrations, but then it was also talking about something very serious, and very applicable to our lives. And so, like, in that way we... we're bringing together like, art, and also this phenomenal research, kind of in the same way that Asher is talking about art and literature coming together for some of those great pieces in Chanter.
Sure. Yeah, definitely.
So, I also wanted to talk a little bit about like, the culture and environment at Chanter and the Mac Weekly. I feel like both kind of have this like, cult persona a little bit [laughter]... in their... in their own way. And, you know, I love everybody in both of them, but, you know, Chanter has those weird posters, and the Mac Weekly has, like, all the quotes all over the walls [laughter] in the in the editing room. Can you guys just like, speak to the kind of environment or the community for both of those?
I wanna hear about the walls.
You wanna know about the quotes on the walls?
What is the story there?
Oh my gosh! So that's just like... those are the wall... they're just called the wall quotes, we don't have an exciting name for them. And those are just like, things that people say. And it's almost always like, late at night, because our editing sessions that happen every Wednesday night... that's when we lay out the whole paper that comes out on Friday... and yeah, like I was saying, it gets pretty late, people get a little bit delirious [laughter] and say some really funny things. And yeah, when... when something's a wall quote, like, you just feel it, like, you just know that it's a wall quote, and it gets written on the wall. So, yeah, I think that that's emblematic of the community, kind of, and it's honestly been really sad to not have that this semester, because we've been all remote. And we've just been having a newsletter instead of the entire paper. So we've had like, some zoom, like, game nights and things to bond, but it's just not quite the same, I think, as like, all being together, and those wall quote moments that are always so funny. So, yeah, I think that's pretty emblematic of the community that we have there.
I think everyone's kind of very aware of the sort of cultish perception [laughter] that people might have of us, but I really, like... I think that we.... I mean, and I strive for... to help make the Mac Weekly a place that's like, really welcoming to new people, especially because like, when seniors and juniors graduate, there's gonna... we're.... there's gonna need to be people to pass on the torch to, to continue the Mac Weekly on campus. So, to me, like, even though we have a tight knit community, like, I wanna emphasize that, like, it's alll... we always love to, like, have new people join us. And we even were able to have people who joined us while we were all remote, which has been really, really awesome as well,
Going off the the cult thing, I think, also just the the the different experience of being remote... it has been hard, I do feel like some of that is lost. And I'm so happy that we've been able to continue and that, you know, we were able to make this shift, like... like the Mac weekly did, too. And we also we've had a lot of new people join this year, which is exciting... a lot of first years. And it's so great to be able to be working with them, and also be kind of, making part of.... part of their community, cuz I... I just cannot imagine being a first year right now.
But it's... yeah, like not having... we have less regular layout than you guys do, but not having layout in the same way, you know, doing it all on zoom. And not, you know, not having those meetings in person, and... and these different traditions, you know, we had this semesterly tradition of doing a spaghetti dinner at wherever the Editor-in-Chief was living and you know, we don't have that anymore. It's just, you know, those things. It's kind of sad to not have that, but it also... I hope... I hope all those things come back.
Mm-hm. Yeah, me too. I think... I think they will. I mean, everybody who's joined Chanter, at least, I feel like has had some sense of what the community is like. And I can't speak to the Mac Weekly, cuz I'm not a staff member, but it feels like people have this like, energy and like, want to write at some point.
Even if they... yeah, even if they don't have like, the time or like, the like, energy to do it right now. But speaking of writing, so you guys, both write, and I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of the influences on your work, or just like, what kinds of pieces you like to write. I would just love to hear about, you know, what style you're really into, or some of your favorite topics to write about. Like Asher, for instance, I... not to put you on the spot, but I know you did those like, quarantine bake-offs for... writing like, really short plays back in the spring.
That's so cool. I don't know anything about that.
Yeah, I... there were a few students at the University of Minnesota, starting in March, right when everything shut down... once in March, once in April, and once in May, did these, like, about 48-hour, quarantine playwriting bake-offs, where people would sign up, and they would send ingredients to be included in a in a short play, and then you just like, sent... sent the play off to them. So yes, I did those. That was really fun. And I'm... I'm proud of them. [Laughter.] As... as strange as they are, I'm... I'm proud of the... the stuff I... I wrote, and it was just a good... that was a good exercise, too.
And then Lindsay, what have you been working on this semester, or any other time, but you know, what... what are you working on right now?
Yeah. That sounds like a really cool project, Asher, I just wanted to say that as well. But yeah, my writing, I would say, is probably completely different, cuz I really don't do much creative writing at all. That's... I think I would love to kind of, learn more about that, but that's just not... I don't feel like that's my area of expertise, like, I don't think I could do that good of a job. So, I'll kind of talk more about like my, like, journalistic-type reporting and writing. So, something exciting I did this year is, I wrote my first freelance piece for a national publication, and that's called The News Station.
Oh my gosh!
Yeah, so I wrote about... yeah, that kind of like, was a cool opportunity that sort of fell into my lap. It was interesting. And so, I wrote about the District 2 congressional race in Minnesota, where they had a third party politician from the Legal Marijuana Now party, who suddenly died, and it kind of threw the whole... it threw the whole race into this chaos, because there's this 2013 Minnesota law that requires that the whole election gets delayed if someone dies, even though this person was like, a third party person who wasn't that likely to win. So it was just this whole crazy situation, and I interviewed people and wrote about that, so that was cool. And yeah, definitely a worthwhile experience.
And I think in terms of things that I like to write about, I feel like I haven't really figured out like, what beat I want to write as a... like, hopefully a journalist in the future, but I'm learning that that's okay. But I think topics I'm interested in are like, education and politics and kind of, the intersection of those two things. And like, I just kind of I don't even know if I'm particularly influenced by a lot of specific writers, I just, like, read a lot of interesting news, and I like to read like, long-form pieces every once in a while from, like, the Atlantic, and Long Reads, which is a cool website. I think... yeah, that's maybe like, a future goal of mine, is to write one of those, like, really long, like, takes you on a whole journey, sort of magazine-style articles, that's like, a future goal of mine.
Right. I mean, well, you just said that you didn't think you wrote creatively, but I think that that's all very creative, especially like, if you're trying to pull together like, education and politics in your journalism. That's just incredibly cool, especially that you just got published in a national news source.
Thank you so much.
Yeah, congratulations. So, I also wanted to talk a little bit about how your classwork has influenced some of your work outside of class, or maybe what you want to do in the future. You don't have to talk about what you want to do in the future if you don't want to, but, you know, what do you think your experience at Macalester has like, brought to your writing or your research or just your future interests?
I mean, I think directly with... with Chanter for me, I will often submit things that I either wrote for or started in a class... and not always. But, sometimes it's a surprising thing... just this last semester, I submitted a piece that was kind of an edit slash sequel slash rewrite of something I had written for my Intro Creative Writing class my first year, and just, you know, being able to go back to that and see how I've changed as a writer was... it was validating, I guess, but it also was kind of strange... [laughter] but definitely made me look at, you know, my... my time as not just a writer, but as a student writer, you know, and as.. as someone learning through all of these classes, and all of... all of this writing I've been doing these past almost four years. So yeah, I think there's a... there's a direct connection there, because sometimes what I'll submit is either directly something I wrote for a class or something like that, where I've gone back to something and done something with it.
And what... what was that first piece that you wrote, like that initial piece that you were writing the sequel to? What was that about?
The... the piece... the new piece is called Dorothy II. And the... it's a poem... and the original one was called Dorothy, and that original one was... I was writing it at the end of first year. It was May, I was... I had this night where I... I was lying on my back on the football field, and it was lightly raining, and it was just this real like, college poetry experience. And that original one was about, you know, kind of this... this feeling of starting to feel at at home in Minnesota, and anticipating going back home to Washington. And then I found myself... not... not that I ever would have known this back then, but I found myself a student in school, but at home in school. So, you know, I was in Washington, I am in Washington now, and... and having this... this homesickness for Minnesota, so kind of taking.... taking that flip and doing things with that, with the poem.
Oh, that's really lovely that you like, go back, or that you can weave in all of those different feelings of home after... even after four years. And then Lindsay, I mean, I know you're not taking as many creative writing classes as Asher. But do you think that like, any of your policy classes have been like, influencing your work on the Mac Weekly? Or... or that piece that you just wrote? Do you think that was there anything from Mac that really influenced your interest in that?
Yeah, I mean, I think not just in terms of that article, but even though like, I feel like what I study in school isn't as directly applicable to what I want to go into, which is journalism, it's still... I think the like, liberal arts background is like, a really useful kind of leg up, I think, almost in this industry. And I mean, maybe employers don't see it that way. But I know, for example, Howard Sinker, who's a Media Studies professor in journalism... I took news reporting and writing with him, and he always tells his students that he's taught at both the University of Minnesota and Macalester and he thinks that Macalester students are kind of uniquely equipped to be journalists, just because Macalester students who want to be journalists aren't only interested in journalism, whereas at a school like the U of M, where there's a journalism school that's like, everything is just journalism, journalism, journalism, but for liberal arts students... like I... I'm able to study other things and have other interests, and I'm really grateful for that.
But, I'm also really grateful to have taken both Howard's class... and then I also took the class Narrative Journalism with Stephen Smith, who was an adjunct professor, and I don't think he's still teaching that class. But that was kind of really formative for me as a journalist... I kind of felt like that class really whipped me into shape, sort of, in.... just in terms of like, my sort of technical raw writing skills and learning how to write a really compelling piece with a lead and with a structure that kind of draws the writer in, and how to... yeah, how to sort of like, paint narrative pictures almost, in my journalism. So I think all of those things have been really important to my growth as a writer and as a journalist, I think.
Right, right. I think... so, I took Narrative Journalism as well, like last spring.
Oh, with Stephen?
No, no, I took it with, actually, this married couple. [Laughter.]
Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Named Annie and Curtis.
It was lovely, and they're both radio journalists. Yeah, and so, a lot of the emphasis in the class was on radio journalism, which was super cool. And of course, we had to, like, do half of it online. But we got to learn how to do radio journalism online, which is also like, a super cool skill. So I'm so glad that they're kind of... keep teaching that class, because I think it's so cool to especially.... bringing together like... like you said, the creative parts of writing with like, the very journalism driven, like, looking for the story, looking for the truth, and putting that in a format that's really going to be compelling for the reader, which is just so important in journalism. Yeah.
And then one... one question that we're asking all of the people who come on the show, just to kind of wrap up and end the interview, is, what is something that you're proud of? And that could either be at Macalester or outside of school or connected to your school work, or like... it's very open ended. So what are you guys proud of?
I feel like my instinct is to, like, say something related to school, like I'm proud of how like, the Mac Weekly has been able to continue working remotely, and keep putting out our product every week, despite the unique circumstances. But also like, going off of what you said, I'm also tempted to go beyond just like, academic accomplishments and talk about... I don't know, like, because that's not, that's not everything, right, especially like, in a pandemic. So I guess I would say that, like, I'm proud of myself for taking time to also prioritize my wellbeing and like, address that in the new way, especially because of the pandemic and the ways that that's kind of been really terrible for my mental health, and the isolation and everything, so I'm proud of myself for that as well.
Yeah, that's... that's a very relatable feeling. Especially, yeah, like wanting to say something that's related to academia. But then then looking at everything else that we're having to deal with, at the same time that we're dealing with all of our academic, like, needs and all of that. Yeah. Asher, do you have any similar thoughts?
Yeah, I mean, I think I'm gonna take a similar path of... start with... start with academics, and then see where it takes me. I...well, I guess this is kind of both, I... I'm really proud and just happy to have been able to... I don't even know how to phrase this... to have been able to just like, develop these both, like personal but also creative academic relationships. And I think that's something that's been really important for me as a student, and during the pandemic, because, you know, there's people that pretty soon I... and some some already... I won't have seen in person in a year, but I still have these connections with. And, you know, I think as someone who is kind of, is kind of awkward, and is sometimes kind of an introvert... like, to be at... at this point at... near the end of college where, you know, I feel like I know how to connect with people and sustain friendships, but also, you know, connections that feel creatively invigorating, I guess, with Chanter being a part of that. That's... that's something I'm proud of.
That's a beautiful sentiment. You guys both gave wonderful answers. [Laughter.]
Yeah. Is there anything else you guys wanted to say before we close out the interview?
Lindsay, can you give us a preview of anything the Mac Weekly has cooking for next semester?
Ooh, I like that question. [Laughter.] Yes, so I mentioned this, but we're going to be reporting on the college's decision regarding renaming the Humanities Building, so look out for that. But then, apart from that, yeah, I mean, we kind of take a long hiatus for winter break, and then I also won't be Editor-in-Chief anymore. So, yeah, I mean, I don't know... hopefully, maybe at some point, we'll be able to get back into the office... knock on wood.... by the end of the semester, but we'll see how that goes. Oh, wait, how can I forget this? And we're looking at producing a magazine. I think our goal is to have it by March, but I think we'll kind of take this as we go. And that's going to be just kind of looking at, like, how the pandemic has shaped Macalester in the past year. And like, almost as sort of like, a time capsule kind of idea... like, how Macalester fared, how students fared, how the admin kind of handled all these decisions and things related to the disruptions of the pandemic. So, yeah, look out for that. I cannot believe I just forgot, when you asked that, but, yeah.
Oh my gosh! That's so exciting. I love that you guys are looking at it like a time capsule. Very cool. Okay, anything else? If not, thanks for taking 40 minutes out of your Tuesday night to talk and be recorded.
[Theme music.] Thank you for listening to The Ramblings. This week's episode was anchored by Kira Schukar, with assistant writing by Alice Asch and editing by Malcolm Cooke. Our theme song is "Get Jazz," courtesy of purpleplanet.com. If you're an English major senior and are interested in being a part of this project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Thank you!