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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

The Wild Grain returns after an extended hiatus

Basma Bedawi (left) and Essence Ratliff (right), the new editors-in-chief of The Wild Grain, hopes to reignite the publication. Amelia Davis / Thresher

By Ashley Wang     2/13/24 10:37pm

Prior to this semester, if you asked anyone on campus, English major or not, if they had ever heard of The Wild Grain, you’d probably be met with a puzzled look. Co-editors-in-chief Essence Ratliff and Basma Bedawi are here to change that.

The Wild Grain, originally established in 2021 by Assistant Professor of English Alden Sajor Marte-Wood, is an online publication highlighting Rice’s English department, as well as the many creations and achievements of Rice’s English majors. The Wild Grain’s website currently features a wide range of content, including recaps of English department events, alumni interviews, student-written poetry and the recurring series called “A Day in the Life of an English Major.”

Once The Wild Grain’s original editors graduated, the publication was put on hold for several years. In her sophomore year, Ratliff was introduced to The Wild Grain through a class with Sarah Ellenzweig, an associate professor of English. Ratliff said she was eager to revamp what she saw as a valuable resource for prospective and current English majors. 

“We all were on the website together and we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so cool. Why is no one posting on this anymore?’” Ratliff said. “I think after COVID and everything, it kind of died down and no one really came and picked it back up.”

When Bedawi came across The Wild Grain, she was excited at the opportunity to bring attention to Rice’s oft-overlooked English department and to engage in editorial work, especially as an aspiring journalist. 

“I just love presenting information in a way that people not only are able to digest, but want to digest. [To] create a space for people just to learn about different things, in a way that’s enjoyable for them, I love that,” Bedawi said. 

Ratliff and Bedawi both joined The Wild Grain in the fall of 2023, after the English Undergraduate Association sent out applications for the magazine’s editorial board. Both editors-in-chief have found the experience of working for The Wild Grain continuously rewarding — whether they’re attending English department course previews, posting book recommendations, advertising the magazine to their peers or combing through submissions. 

“The more I do it, the more passionate about editing I find myself … I don’t even think of it as a job. I think it’s fun,” Ratliff said.

The Wild Grain accepts a variety of submissions from Rice undergraduates, spanning many genres. 

“We’re just looking for creative talent,” Ratliff said. “We’re taking poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction. Even if you want to do a book review, personal essays — think of [things] of that nature.” 

R2: The Rice Review may come to mind as an already existing campus publication for creatives to publish their work. According to Bedawi, however, The Wild Grain aims to be less selective than R2. In addition, The Wild Grain will provide students a different, and hopefully more accessible, submission cycle structure.

“Every month, we’re doing a cycle of submissions where it will be open for about a week,” Bedawi said. “It gives people a continuous place to submit their work. As they’re writing things for their classes, they’re coming up with new things they can submit and then hopefully get it published.”

Bedawi noted that while English majors are frequently encouraged to submit their work to magazines and get their pieces published, there is often a high barrier to publication. The Wild Grain’s goal is to create more opportunities for students to showcase their work, as well as more opportunities to refine their craft. The editors-in-chief plan to provide feedback to as many submissions as possible, and even pieces that are initially rejected have a chance to be featured the following month after revision. 

“A lot of English majors are told, when you’re [in] undergrad, if you want to do any creative writing in the future, you need to get your work published,” Bedawi said. “But then there’s so few places to get your work published. And the places where you are able to submit, it’s so difficult to get your work published.”

Moving forward, Ratliff and Bedawi said they have many plans for The Wild Grain, including opening up applications for editorial team positions and starting a campus-wide book club. 

In terms of expanding The Wild Grain’s content, they are excited to continue the “A Day in the Life of an English Major” series in a more dynamic, vlog-style format. They see The Wild Grain as an important online resource for English majors and curious non-majors alike, as well as a constantly evolving literary platform.

“The goal with every year that passes is to make it better,” Ratliff said. “Make it better than the last, make it more creative than the last.”

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