Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler and U.S. Poet Laureate Emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera will appear as judges in a live Subnivean virtual soiree that will celebrate the finalists for the student-run publication’s writing award at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, via Zoom. 

The Subnivean Awards ceremony, held virtually via Zoom, has no admission fee and requests online registration via this link

Handler is the author of the popular “A Series of Unfortunate Events” book series which has received both a movie and TV adaptation.

Herrera was named the U.S. poet laureate in 2015 and currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of American Poets. 

This will be the first time these writers have interacted, which holds the potential for a captivating and in-depth discussion, organizers said. A reading by this year's finalists will follow this meeting of literary giants. 

The finalists for this year's Subnivean Awards are Avtar Singh, Alicia Rebecca Myers, Zach Swiss, Artemisio Romero Y Carver, Melissa Brown, Moni Brar and Lauren Holguin.

Based in classes taught by Soma Mei Sheng Frazier of the English and creative writing faculty, Subnivean has become internationally known, receiving submissions from over 50 countries, including recent entries from Brazil, Myanmar and Ukraine. They received submissions from every state in the U.S. except for North Dakota. 

Subnivean has also garnered its share of acclaim in its relatively short lifespan. Last year, the magazine was one of four finalists in the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses’ 2021 Firecracker Award in the category of Magazines: Best Debut. 

As for the upcoming virtual event, the student co-editors in chief, Mads Pearson and Julia Browne, expressed excitement for the quality of participants, hoping that Subnivean also would be able to draw upon an increasingly diverse pool of judges in future ceremonies. 

What do they look for in submissions? “I mainly look for if I am drawn in or affected by the work,” Pearson said, adding that if a piece seems to lack an emotional hook, then both they and the readers of Subnivean could lose interest in what is being expressed. 

Online advantages

They also spoke to the benefits of being a publication that largely works online as it allows the team to view and go over more submissions than if they solely stuck to in-person discussions and meetings. 

With this online approach comes the opportunity to garner more diverse voices. “Someone outside of our familiar domain could see a different kind of beauty in a piece that could have been ignored due to our lack of understanding,” Browne emphasized. 

Browne furthered this sentiment by referencing the current conflict within Ukraine and how Subnivean had received a submission from a Ukrainian citizen. 

“There’s something powerful about getting to showcase the work of a Ukrainian author who can give the world an insight into their struggles and experiences and can allow their voices to be heard,” said Browne. She added that spreading insight from such communities and countries in crisis is a necessity as it helps those outside to at least attempt to understand their circumstances. 

Recently some of Subnivean’s present and past collaborators –- alumni Shannon Sutorius and Pamela Toussaint, current student Edward Sourby and Frazier –- presented at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Philadelphia. Their session, “Total Strangers: Undergrads, Authors, Editors on Amplifying International Voices,” also featured award-winning author Arisa White, a Subnivean contributor. While the event was described as overwhelming, due to the typical attendance of around 12,000, the presenters still found it a positive experience. 

For more information on Subnivean, to learn more about the awards or to view some of its many literary pieces, visit subnivean.org.

-- Written by Bryce Levac of the Class of 2023