Southeast Review Online Editor Laura Smith enjoys her “cheerful work” for the literary publication

By Melissa Kindma

A diverse team of graduate students manage The Southeast Review, which has been publishing creative works as Florida State University’s premier literary and arts journal for 40 years.

Among this year’s managing staff is online editor and English department graduate student Laura Smith, who plays an important role in carrying out the masthead’s developing mission of expanding the SER’s online presence and emphasizing online publication.

Smith has been the magazine’s online editor since the start of the Fall 2018 semester. She knew she wanted to work for the SER as soon as she arrived on FSU’s campus in the summer of that year, but Smith hadn’t considered the position of online editor until she attended a general informational meeting for the journal.

Her original plan was to be a reader for the fiction section. When the position of the online editor was presented, however, Smith quickly realized that the role would be a good fit for her.

“I did a marketing internship with a local theater in Columbia, South Carolina,” she says. “In that position, my job was a little different, but it gave me experience with using online platforms, communicating with authors, and managing website content. I was able to take a lot of what I learned and transfer it over to this new position which was wonderful.”

As a graduate of the University of South Caroline with a bachelor’s in English, Smith gained experience as a writer and editor through coursework, workshops, and working with other students. As the SER’s online editor, Smith is responsible for organizing and maintaining weekly publications posted to the magazine’s website.

“I communicate with section editors about what pieces they’ve accepted for online publication,” Smith explains. “They send the materials to me and I make sure all those materials go up on the website and are available for everyone.”

She says her job is “very cheerful” since she gets to ask the editors what they’re excited about in terms of writing, what they want to go up on the website, and then she works to make that happen.

“All of the editors we have at The Southeast Review are just as excited as I am about getting great pieces up on the website and making sure we have great content,” Smith says.

She says that she was attracted to FSU’s acclaimed graduate program because of the unique opportunities it offers to students.

“I felt that FSU was a place where I could learn and grow as a scholar and as a researcher,” says Smith, whose graduate program focus is in 20th-century literature. “They have really great opportunities for master’s students to teach, which not all programs offer. I could teach, I could take all the classes I wanted, and I thought the professors here sounded really amazing.”

“I felt that FSU was a place where I could learn and grow as a scholar and as a researcher.” — Laura Smith

After being accepted into the graduate program, Smith took the leap with her husband and moved from Columbia to begin their new life in Tallahassee, Florida. During the summer of 2018, she completed instructional training in order to teach the composition class, ENC 2135. Even after she started teaching that course in spring of 2019, Smith continued to take classes for her degree, and she had the opportunity to work one-on-one with students as a tutor in the English department’s Reading-Writing Center.

She says the most challenging aspect of her position with the SER is ensuring the success of the journal during busy times of the semester, when she and other managing staff juggle multiple roles.

“Everyone on the masthead, including myself, are in graduate school and teaching as well,” she says. “We’re all really busy. It can be challenging to make sure everything is running smoothly.  With a weekly publication comes an accountability to audiences, which is really important.”

Smith’s role with the SER is key to the journal's success with the fairly new approach of expanding author representation and readership through its weekly, online publication. The magazine publishes creative works such as literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Also included in the publication are sections dedicated to interviews, book reviews, and art.

“We only started publishing online content in the spring and summer of 2018,” she says. “We’ve developed a really nice groove in what we’re publishing, so we’re getting a good mix of new pieces, reviews, and also print publication to feature online to get extra attention to those pieces. Overall, we’re really going for work that speaks beautifully and has something new to say. I think that we’re succeeding in that. The amount of quality work that I receive from the section editors is just astounding.”

Since joining the FSU community as a student, instructor, and SER staff member, Smith has also managed to complete and defend her master’s capstone essay. She says the interactions she has with students help to inform her own writing.

“Working with students in the classroom and the Reading-Writing Center reminds me to focus on those foundational elements of communication when I’m writing, so that my writing is clear and communicates my point well,” she says. “It was really exciting [to defend my capstone essay] because I got a lot of great feedback from my committee members. Whatever level of writing you’re at, that feedback from other people is what helps us grow.”

As Smith continues to work toward earning her English master’s degree, she hopes to stay “cheerful” in her many roles at FSU.

Melissa Kindma graduated from FSU in December 2019 with her bachelor's degree in English.