By Anna Dunlavey
After leaving Kenyon, some graduates hear the “calling bell” referenced in “Kokosing Farewell” in the form of a desire to write. Although many Kenyon graduates continue writing long after their years on the Hill, and some even become quite successful at it, others have trouble finding an outlet to share their writing. Now, there’s a place for these writers, thanks to Maggie Jaris ’13 and Frances Sutton ’13.
The Calling Bell is a new online literary magazine started by Jaris and Sutton for the Kenyon community. Current students and alumni alike may submit writing of any kind to Jaris and Sutton, who will post it on the site. Those who submit work don’t have to worry about rejection. Any piece that is submitted to The Calling Bell will be accepted and published on the site without edits.
“When we first started talking about The Calling Bell, we envisioned it as a place for alumni to submit, a warm environment for them to submit work to,” Jaris said.
Sutton said that her intention behind creating the site was to make “a place where after Kenyon alumni or current students could gather and have a writing space together.” The duo settled on naming the site The Calling Bell after making a list with all sorts of Kenyon names. “It’s definitely the catchiest, less ridiculous name,” Sutton said.
The blog started two months ago and has been successful so far. Within the first few weeks, Jaris and Sutton received many submissions from Kenyon students and alumni, ranging in topics and literary styles. Some people sent in prose work, while other contributed poems and even “listicles.”
“I was really pleasantly surprised by how many things people had to send in,” Jaris said. Sutton agreed. “The reaction I’ve been getting from friends and alumni is how happy and thankful they are for this place, even if they’re not in a place where they’re comfortable sharing their own writing,” she said.
Jaris and Sutton are still trying to find ways to publicize the site because it is so new. They have contacted professors and other Kenyon alumni, but are mainly relying on social media to get the word out. Sutton has been in charge of social media operations for the site thus far, and has reached out to members of the Kenyon community through Facebook and LinkedIn. The site also has a Gmail account, through which Sutton sends out weekly newsletters.
“Slowly but surely, we’re building an audience around that,” Sutton said. “It definitely has been a little bit difficult, being in control of our Facebook friends and not necessarily figuring [out], outside of the mailing list, how to communicate outside our own circles.” Jaris and Sutton also encourage submitters to post about The Calling Bell to their own circles of friends, and the word has begun to spread.
Nate Lotze ’14 found out about The Calling Bell through an article by Kenyon’s Public Affairs Office. Since then, he has submitted multiple works to the site. “I think there’s a lot of people at Kenyon who write and we don’t get to see the work that everyone else does as often as we should,” Lotze said. “It’s a cool outlet to be able to share your own work and then see what work other people are writing.”
Jaris and Sutton hope to expand The Calling Bell as they get more submissions. Right now, The Calling Bell is a Tumblr blog, which currently works because, as Jaris said, “It’s easy to be anonymous on Tumblr if you’re not ready to submit.” One day, they might move off of Tumblr and to their own domain name. As long as they are on Tumblr, though, Sutton has a goal: “Get John Green to follow us.”
The Calling Bell is now accepting your submissions. Email stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the blog, go to thecallingbell.tumblr.com.