NMS’s Literary Magazine Cited For Excellence

Newtown Middle School’s literary magazine, Opus Optima, has been selected by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) for the rank of “Highest Award” in the 2013 NCTE Program to Recognize Excellence in Student Literary Magazines.

The 2013 edition of Opus Optima is the first edition of the publication to earn the award since its 1996 edition.

“This is just such a wonderful award,” said NMS art teacher Claudia Mitchell.

Ms Mitchell, art teachers Arlene Spoonfeather and Ellen Diker, language arts teacher Abigail Olsen, and reading and writing teacher Karen Blasko recently gathered to discuss the award and the 2013 edition of Opus Optima.  

Ms Olsen received the announcement about the award from the NCTE.

According to the announcement, “NCTE’s Program to Recognize Excellence in Student Literary Magazines (PRESLM) cites students, teachers, and schools for producing excellent literary magazines. The program’s mission is to encourage all schools to develop literary magazines, seeking excellence in writing and school-wide participation in production.”

A certificate proclaiming the 2013 Opus Optima as the Highest Award choice, signed by NCTE President Ernest Morrell, was also sent to Ms Olsen.

Opus Optima is published annually and sold during the school’s Celebration of the Arts night, set for April 28 this year. A limited number of copies of the 2013 award-winning edition are still available by contacting the middle school, and the 2014 edition will be sold at the Celebration of the Arts.

The middle school’s literary magazine has been published for more than 30 years. Students in two clubs, Literary Magazine Editors and Literary Magazine Artists, work to create and oversee submissions for each year’s edition.

Ms Blasko said editors work to interpret different fonts and the layout of the publication.

According to Ms Spoonfeather, roughly 130 students take part in creating the magazine each year, but the 2013 group was smaller than most.

Writing is submitted from the entire school, Ms Spoonfeather said, and the works are chosen and edited before going before the student artists, who create illustrations for each work of writing.

Ms Olsen said the writing collection this year included short stories, poetry, and nonfiction memoirs.

“It’s such a collaborative effort,” Ms Mitchell said.

Martien Leroux prints the publication for the school.

A dedication page to retired NMS principal Diane Sherlock, an “In Memory of” page for those lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 12/14, and the 2013 edition’s cover all stood out for the teachers.

Student Katherine Humber drew the cover for the 2013 edition.

“This artist was outstanding,” Ms Spoonfeather said about Katherine, “and I think she will continue to be outstanding.”

“This year’s Opus Optima is dedicated to our wonderful principal, Diane Sherlock, who is retiring his year after being our leader for 14 years,” the dedication page reads. “Mrs Sherlock has supported the arts at Newtown Middle School in many ways. One of the strongest supports has been for our literary magazine. Every year she has checked on its progress, contributed her principal page, and made it financially possible for us to publish this award winning magazine.”

The “In Memory of” page shows hands coming together to form a pink heart around the name “Sandy Hook,” and reads, “2012 was a year that will remain forever in our memory for those whom we lost in Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14. Our lives have been changed forever. We are thankful for the outpouring of love and support from all over the world. God bless the 26 angels that now watch over us.”

Each edition of Opus Optima is different, Ms Blasko said, and each year the teachers think they will not be able to “top it.” But they always do, she added.

Opus Optima is sold for $10 for students with work in the publication and $15 for regular purchasers. Money generated from the sale of the publication, according to Ms Mitchell, is put back into producing the next edition.

“We’re very, very proud of the kids,” Ms Mitchell said, explaining how impressive it is that the students can produce work on the level of Opus Optima.

A listing of all ranked magazines in the NCTE Program to Recognize Excellence in Student Literary Magazines is available at ncte.org/awards/student/PRESLM. According to Ms Olsen, the NMS literary magazine was one of 26 magazines in the country to earn the rank of “Highest Award.”

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