Student writers publish their work


Brendan Heffernan

Mel Dunnuck holds a copy of her debut book “Mantras, Meditations, and Math” Nov. 1, 2021 in Monroe Library. Dunnuck self-published the memoir Oct. 30, 2021.

Beneath the oak trees and high brick walls of Loyola’s picture book campus you’ll find many students working to build careers writing stories of their own.

Loyola provides students interested in literary publishing with chances to hone their writing and editing skills while getting hands-on experience with the business side of publishing. Students are launching their careers by working with Loyola’s English department, leading student organizations and taking inspiration from Loyola’s campus and student body.

Abbey Hebert and Ahnia Leary first met after they each traveled across the country as high school students to attend a creative writing workshop at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Three years later, when the pair became roommates at Loyola, they knew they wanted to find a space where they could continue to grow as storytellers. 

Last fall, Leary, sociology junior, and Hebert, journalism junior, founded Meraki, an annual student-run literary magazine for Loyola students of all majors to showcase their poems, short stories, visual art and photography. Leary and Hebert now serve as the co-chief editors of the magazine.

“When we did find out that we were roommates and started talking about it, I knew that I wanted Loyola to have something similar to what we experienced at Kenyon because our experience was so great,” Leary said. “I really love how (Meraki) does portray all the different talents of Loyola students that you really might not have known if there (wasn’t) an avenue or a platform for them to produce their work.”

“Meraki” is a modern Greek word which describes putting a piece of yourself into your work. Hebert and Leary say the name functions as a mission statement for the magazine.

“We just thought that was a very applicable term because the people who send in these submissions have put a piece of themselves into it,” Hebert said. “They’re sharing that with us, which is being like very vulnerable. And then it’s also like we’re putting a piece of ourselves into this literary magazine.”

Meraki has a staff of 23 students and will finish taking submissions for the 2022 edition of the magazine Dec. 10, according to Hebert. After publishing the first edition of the magazine at a time when in-person student organization events were suspended, Hebert and Leary said they’re looking forward to connecting more with the broader Loyola community and spending more time with their staff in person as they put together the magazine’s second edition.

“(This semester) is like a debut, for sure,” Leary said.

Leary, Hebert and the Meraki staff are just a few of the many Loyola students pursuing literary publishing opportunities. 

Senior Mel Dunnuck self-published the memoir “Mantras, Meditations, and Math” Oct. 30, 2021. 

Dunnuck said the memoir connects her struggles with mania, anxiety, and psychosis. The memoir also reflects on her years as a collegiate swimmer, her love of math and the mindfulness meditation practices that have helped her overcome adversity.

“What I want readers to get out of this is basically that you don’t know everyone’s story,” she said. “That’s something that comes up in my math chapter where I talk about how being kind to people is not a multiplication situation. So the reason I say that is because if someone is mean to you, you shouldn’t be mean back to them because a negative and a negative does not equal a positive in this situation because it’s like addition. So it just equals another negative going into the universe.”

Dunnuck said that while she’d never considered writing a book before last year she’s proud of “Mantras, Meditations and Math” and plans to write more books in the future. 

“I find writing to be a form of meditation I love it and I want to continue doing it,” Dunnuck said. “I don’t have any idea for the next book that I’m going to write, but I think it’ll come to me.” 

MaKayla Tappin, English junior, had the opportunity to learn and grow as a writer and editor with the university’s support while interning for Loyola’s Center for Editing and Publishing. The Center for Editing and Publishing oversees a number of projects where Loyola students can submit their writing and gain professional editing experience. 

Tappin said her favorite part about the internship was the opportunity to work closely with Loyola’s English faculty.

“I definitely think the professors are just like, they’re awesome, really dedicated to their jobs, smart people,” Tappin said. 

Tappin worked closely with Loyola English professor Sarah Allison throughout her internship, assisting Allison by working as an editor and research assistant on one of her projects. Allison said she’s used the center’s student interns for several projects and that these internships allow students to focus on the skills they’re most interested in developing.

“Every one of these internships starts the conversation with the student with what they want to get better at,” Allison said. “Any work that we do for the center grows from what they want to be able to do when they graduate.”

Alumni of the program have gone on to fruitful careers as writers, editors, and educators and one former student even founded their own publishing company, according to the center’s director Christopher Schaberg. Schaberg said the center gives Loyola’s undergraduate students unique opportunities to gain hands-on experience with editing and publishing in the perfect setting.

“You might get that in a master’s program in creative writing or editing and publishing, but for an undergraduate to get that experience is very rare,” Schaberg said. “I would also just say being located in New Orleans we’re just more able to have a kind of imaginative, creative vibe.” 

Tappin, who wants to be a screenwriter, said that the internship helped put her on a path to achieve her goals.

“Since coming to Loyola and being in the English department, I’ve improved my writing so much, and I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better English department.”