Alba Alonso Palombi is a Warwick English and Creative Writing alumna who collaborated alongside staff and fellow students writing for Reinvention Journal’s special issue “Reeling and Writhing.” She is currently studying a Publishing MA at UAL and working as a Rights Assistant at Nosy Crow. The Reinvention team thought she would be the perfect person to ask about her experience working and publishing with the journal, from the perspective of a student and someone external to the editorial team. Join us in reading this fulfilling and insightful conversation (despite the poor zoom connection) in which I talked to Alba about everything from her journey as a creative writing student, her Spanish roots, to the importance of undergraduate research.
How did this project start?
In my third year I took the Creative Writing module, Reeling and Writhing. In this module we explored myths, figures, and tropes and after, we would have to write a poem about it using specific structures and rhymes.
And the poems that I liked the most [that I wrote for that module] were the ones published later in Reinvention. They were the ones that, because of the subject matter or their form, really resonated with me.
Can you tell me more about the creative process of creating and putting together your poems?
Yes! Out of the poems published, I really like “Mandorla”, because that one is about the Virgin Mary, and we were looking at how her myth could be reinterpreted in different ways. It was supposed to be a shape poem, which is why I chose the Mandorla shape. It was a great [working] space because Gulia, who was the tutor at the time, is an amazing professor. She would really encourage us to defy the norm a little bit, she was always encouraging me to include my Spanish language and giving me an extra creative push. I really enjoyed it and it was a great experience. When I had to submit specific pieces, I did review them and make changes, but the main creative process was sitting down with the readings for that week and coming up with something.
How did you come up with the visual concept of the Mandorla poem?
I came up with that before I had the words for the poem, it was supposed to be a shape poem. “Mandorla” is the art history term for depictions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, there is always that shape behind them. As a circle, it is supposed to represent her reproductive organ and allude to how she is the mother of God, and that really bothered me in some ways because, why is she often reduced to just a circle? So I thought: “we can definitely do something with this,” and then I filled in the words. And obviously the name María is very Spanish for me.
Could you tell me a bit more about your research article?
It is actually a funny story; I had not seen the film [Jennifer’s Body] until that year. And after watching it, I was her for Halloween! I also studied [the module] American Horror Story, and that definitely played a part in what made me interested in the film. I mixed that with the femme fatale. It was just looking at how the villain in the story, Jennifer, is also the victim at the same time and that is what I found super interesting. Also, [I found interesting] the relationships between women in the film and the use of the abject (the disgusting or gore). It is a great film.
We had to do a presentation before the essay and that is how I started getting really interested in it. I would have never considered it as an essay topic until I had to do a presentation. After some more research I realised, there’s definitely material here.
I love how in English literature you can take something you are obsessed with and bring in other subjects (like the femme fatale) and make something out of it. The research process was mostly watching the film, and reading a lot about femme fatales, post feminism and other film examples.
What can you tell me about your experience and your take on co-creation with staff?
I think it was a wonderful experience. It foments very intelligent academic conversations and makes you feel like you are on the same level as them. Being able to call or email my tutor, like: “Hey, I want to talk about this,” is different from when you are just their student, and they really help us and care about our work. Even writing that introduction article [in the special issue] was very nice. Challenging but very fulfilling.
Do you think it would have been different without that element of staff-student collaboration?
It would have been a whole different quality, [collaboration] does make it feel more professional. It does make it seem more curated and important.
Do you see value in publishing undergraduate research?
I think it is super important that undergraduates get this chance to publish. Not only does it make you take your work very seriously, when you are researching or writing an essay or whatever, but the possibility of being able to publish, it was always looming over me. But also, I think that undergraduates (it sounds very cliché) are the future of academia in some ways, right? Not all of us, but if we do not get the chance to explore that now, when are we going to do that? That is not something you decide out of the blue: “Yes, I want to research for my entire life.” You have to be given some sort of segue into it and I think undergraduate research is part of that.
Also, we are in touch with topics and subject matters that graduates or professors may not be as close to. And even if our research technically is not as good as theirs, because they have been in the field for longer and all of that, it could bring up something to them. Like “this person wrote this, it is super interesting, it needs to be more nuanced, but let me explore this topic.”
That is collaboration, we bring those ideas, and it is important that we get the chance to do that, and I have also found that when I am writing and researching, a lot of the times when they are very specific subjects, I end up reading a lot of undergraduate papers, which is not as prestigious, or the most academically rigorous source, but it still a very useful source of information. Because people put a lot of work into their papers, and even if the paper itself is not something that you end up using, their sources very often are. I think it is a great thing that we are given this chance and are encouraged to keep writing.
What do you think about the interdisciplinary element of Reinvention? Did you take it into account when preparing to publish your work?
I did not take it into account if I am being 100% honest. English literature always allows for a lot of that jumping back and forth between film and literary texts. However, I do think that the fact that it is interdisciplinary, firstly appeals to a wider target audience, and secondly it is very interesting to see how people from different fields can converse in different ways. Their ideas on a specific topic, the different angles they take. It is super interesting for a journal to have that wider spectrum, it could put people into contact for collaboration, etc.
Did you know about Reinvention Journal before being encouraged to publish?
I had never considered it before, it felt a bit daunting. I was not very clear on how I could apply, what I could send. It would be useful to be more explicit about how “easy” it is to submit, if you think something is good you can submit it, and worse-case scenario you get a no. For me, the biggest factor [that led me to submit] was that I had Gulia behind me. Getting that support from tutors is very important, but also being reminded that it is there.
Something you can consider: (because I wrote my entire degree using the MLA referencing format), to submit I had to change it to a very specific form of Harvard that you guys use. I think it would be very helpful, if you could offer some sort of support, for referencing and writing an abstract, which is also something that if you have never published before you have never done. Shreya did help me a lot after submitting though, that was very helpful. I think it is just those first steps which make it quite daunting.
Interested in publishing your research with Reinvention as well? Find out more at Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research (reinventionjournal.org) or get in touch via email@example.com