Interview with an Editor: Lauran Jones, Undergraduate Publisher Dedicated to Lifting Black Voices

by Alexa Garvoille

Lauran Jones is a Creative Writing Major at UNC-Wilmington, graduating with a BFA and Certificate in Publishing in May 2022. She is a creative writer, graphic designer, and the founding editor-in-chief of UNCW’s Black literary journal, Seabreeze: A Literary Diaspora. She is also the layout designer for UNCW’s Atlantis: A Creative Magazine. Lauran and I met at Durham School of the Arts, where she served as the co-editor-in-chief and layout editor of the nationally-recognized high school literary and arts magazine Portraits in Ink.

Above: Lauran Jones, founder of Seabreeze: A Literary Diaspora, addressing the audience at the magazine’s first release party. Photo courtesy of Lauran Jones.

Alexa Garvoille: Tell us about your vision for Seabreeze and your journey to establishing the magazine on campus. In the mission statement, you write, “As a staff full of black writers, we were tired of not seeing people that looked like us in our world. We decided to step up and create a space for people that write like us, act like us, talk like us, think like us. We hope that we can uplift our community by thriving in a traditionally white space.” 

Lauran Jones: Sean Palmer, the director of the Upperman African American Cultural Center, came to me with an idea about starting a literary magazine for Black studies. He was envisioning a tiny zine that we would’ve hand folded and stapled. I knew that the Black creatives on UNCW’s campus deserved better than that, and I knew I was qualified to give that to us.

I wanted a space where Black writers knew that their work would be valued and appreciated. I’ve worked on magazines that “don’t see color,” when they are going through the editorial process, but that only benefits white people. Writers of color deserve to have an editor acknowledge their differences—Black writers deserve an editor to say “I see you. You’re valid. Your work is valid.” And it is my personal mission to make sure that everyone who submits to Seabreeze feels that way. 

AG: What were your unexpected challenges or joys of working on a magazine for non-white writers at a PWI?

LJ: UNCW is 92 percent white. That only leaves 8 percent of diversity. The latest numbers will tell you about 900 students on campus are Black— 900 out of just under 18,000. 

That being said, all the Black people on campus look out for each other because there’s so few of us. The Creative Writing Department is small, so I see the same four Black people all the time, we are in classes together all the time. When I pitched the idea to them, they were more than happy to help and submit. Everyone said that my magazine was long overdue! (There are about four different literary magazines that come out of the writing department. And then Atlantis, which is student-run through the Student Media Association)

I wished the joys outweighed the challenges, but they don’t, unfortunately. While I love what I do, and I know the work is important, sometimes it’s exhausting. Having to defend your magazine’s entire existence everyday is exhausting—especially when you’re around professionals 24/7 who should know better. A teacher told me that she didn’t think it was appropriate to ask submitters about their demographics (specifically race and gender) because it’s private information. She was referring to the chart in the back of my magazine where I gave you the percentages of who was in my magazine. 

Above: Seabreeze published a breakdown of contributor demographics at the back of their first issue.

She said she wished another magazine on campus that she works for could do something like this. I took offense. I’m Black and I’m proud. It’s not something I want to hide, I personally would love to participate in a magazine that took a hard look at who they published and what they look like.

The other magazine’s solution to this was to hire a Black editor (yes—there’s only one. But we do love her), and let her solve the problem. 

AG: It’s hard to keep a magazine running. How do you and the Seabreeze staff ensure the magazine stays afloat? (Especially without a line of funding!)

LJ: I have a great support system. Everyone in Upperman has helped me in one way or another. But with COVID hitting, I have felt so disconnected from them. Next semester (Fall 2021) I will be back on campus and I have many fundraising ideas!

Also, as sad as it is, after June 2020, my school is willing to do anything to keep Black students happy. On June 9th 2020, the UNCW Chancellor said that “All Lives Matter” in response to how he was going to help Black students feel safe after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. After that, we lowkey started a revolution. We — the Coalition of Black Student Leaders — brought him a 30-page list of demands. Since then, the Black clubs have seen an increase in funding.

AG: What is your favorite part about working for a journal — either Seabreeze or The Atlantis

LJ: I love designing. I discovered my passion for it in high school. With Atlantis, all I’m in charge of is designing. (You can find our latest issue here). There’s nothing like working for hours in front of a blank InDesign screen, filling it with different design elements. 

AG: How has your work as a layout designer impacted your creative writing?

LJ: When I was younger, writing was a hobby/outlet to help me understand my feelings. Over time, my writing has evolved to something that has become work. While I love writing, and will always be a writer, I’m no longer dependent on writing as a sole career. I can be a layout editor by day and a writer by night. I feel like writing has become about the next deadline, but I can go back to writing for the joy of it–and to share my story.

AG: What changes do you hope to make in the publishing or creative writing landscape? 

LJ: To add color to the writing world, one word at a time. I want to see books with diverse main characters.

AG: What advice do you have to young writers or aspiring publishers who are looking to share their work or publishing vision with a wider audience?

LJ: To writers I say don’t be discouraged when people say no, because there is a lot of that in this industry. You will find a home for your writing, and if you don’t you can always look into self-publishing. 

Also, be warned that workshops can be filled with microaggressions. I’ll tell you what I tell myself: I’m sick of dimming my light to let others shine. I’m amazing, and it’s time I realize it.

***

Check out Lauran’s work at Seabreeze here.

Above: Lauran Jones and Alexa Garvoille, after Lauran’s graduation from Durham School of the Arts. Photo courtesy of Lauran Jones.

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