Student writers find outlet in creative campus publication

Unfortunately for my editor, the Record was not my first love in the world of Williams publications. I remember walking around the Purple Key Fair and stumbling upon a little magazine called Monkeys with Typewriters while signing shares of my soul away. Writers for this little magazine include Williams students all over the world, JAs and even a few first-years, and the essays range from the philosophical to the personal. I sat down recently to question the editors Jay Cox-Chapman ’09 and Lily Zhou ’10 about their magazine, which published another issue earlier this week.

Jay, Lily, people are just dying to know – what is Monkeys with Typewriters?

Jay: Monkeys is a magazine of non-fiction essays. The title comes from the old speculation that if you give enough monkeys enough typewriters you’d eventually come up with the exact text of Hamlet. Statistically, it’s not true, but it’s a funny image.

How did the idea for Monkeys with Typewriters come about?

Jay: I spent Winter Study in India in 2007, and on my way back was thinking about ways to communicate that experience – and hear about the interesting experiences and ideas of my friends – and together with my friend Jon Earle ’09, came up with the idea of a journal of short, self-sufficient essays.

Why do you think it’s important to have this kind of publication here at Williams?

Jay: The tone falls between the formal academic essays we write for class and casual journaling or e-mailing. It’s interesting when people get to communicate their ideas a little more loosely and creatively, as well as have an outlet for their stories.

Lily: I just like the feeling of writing for fun, I don’t think of it as academic. I think of it as finding a way to capture a thought, or an experience and to get to share it. I would also hope that it gets the readers thinking . . . maybe even talking?

What hopes do you have for the future of Monkeys?

Jay: We’re looking at putting together a Web site where we can archive back issues, and of course are always looking for new writers and perspectives. Later, we might look at raising the quality of the printing; photocopies get tiresome after a while.

What are you looking for when you read a submission?

Jay: We’re looking for an essay that’s above all 1100-1300 words and non-fiction. Beyond that, we look for quality writing, an interesting take on a topic, interesting questions.

Lily: A piece that has a feeling and a voice behind it. Something interesting. Consciously written.

And after that?

Jay: We edit collaboratively. The luxury of relatively long deadline-publishing intervals is that we can meet individually with each writer, discuss each piece, and hopefully help them improve the essay.

Lily: I think that it’s also important that ultimately, the voice of the essay is the author’s. We are editors, but in the end, it is the writer that should be coming through.

Do you have a favorite essay you’ve written for the magazine? Essay you’ve read?

Jay: There’s this guy named Chris Fox who’s a pretty big baller.

Lily: This is a silly question.

Where can I get one? And when does the next issue come out?

Jay: We published an issue just this week, and copies are available in Paresky, Sawyer and Schow, or from Lily and me. Essays for the fourth and final issue of the year will be due after spring break, with a publishing date in mid-April.

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