Welcome to Student Group Spotlight! Every month, we will feature a different student group to demonstrate the many diverse groups we have at MacEwan and how they all contribute to a vibrant, thriving community on our campus.
Meet The Bolo Tie Collective! We sat down with two of their members to discuss their upcoming anthology, the origins of their group name and the community they have created through writing.
SAMU: Welcome to Student Groups Spotlight. Can you introduce yourselves to our readers?
Molly: Hi, I’m Molly Staley. I am the President of the Bolo Tie Collective, and this is my second year being the President! I am majoring in Journalism and minoring in Professional Communications.
Jo: I’m Jo Dawyd. I am the Executive Vice President of Communications for the Bolo Tie Collective, and I’m brand new to this role. I’m in my third year, majoring in Professional Communications and minoring in Journalism, the opposite of Molly!
SAMU: What is the Bolo Tie Collective? What does your club do?
Molly: We are a MacEwan Writing Community founded back in 2015. Fun fact: the founder of this group works in the MacEwan English Department now! The purpose of this club is three-pronged; we help students create, edit and publish work. Through that, we have become a go-to place for writing on campus. Every year, we put together an anthology of student work that is professionally published. Our anthologies are also ISBN-registered books, so that we can sell them in any store or through an online shop! Our last volume had 62 pieces and 32 MacEwan authors in it.
SAMU: What is an anthologie for those who might be unfamiliar?
Jo: Anthologies are collections of pieces written by different authors with various styles and types of works. It allows the reader to get a taste of various styles and pieces. Traditionally, we have accepted poetry, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, which is more of personal essays and work that has gone through the process of fictionalizing a bit, and then short stories. But, this year, we are excited that we are further engaging with communication students by accepting articles and op-eds!
SAMU: Wow, that is really interesting! Why did you two decide to join the Bolo Tie Collective?
Molly: I joined because I was looking for writing opportunities, especially editing! As a student, any chance I get to have an opportunity to write and edit something that isn’t classwork is good practice. When I joined, I didn’t realize that this would be something that could transition into being published; I thought my writings were just silly things I did at home, a million thoughts in a notebook. However, I saw that the Bolo tie was looking for a new executive member, so I first joined as an Events Coordinator during Covid, and I helped plan and organize the online workshops. I am passionate about the Bolo and its potential, and the President at the time saw this and thought I’d be an excellent fit for President! So. I stayed on, and when we got back to in-person classes, I took over as President.
Jo: I enrolled at MacEwan in the winter 2022 semester, so I was excited to see what MacEwan had to offer! Before classes started, I saw they had a writing club, The Bolo Tie Collective, and there was a call for editors! I love copy editing especially, so even before attending my first class on campus, I applied to be an editor and was accepted! This year, I submitted some pieces to the anthology and was also an editor for it. Once the collection was on its way, I was asked if I’d be interested in joining the executive team, and I accepted!
SAMU: Where did the name “Bolo Tie Collective” come from?
Molly: The name came from inspiration from Grant MacEwan himself! He was a very studious, classy man and would walk around the university in a full suit and tie. A bolo tie was his favourite kind. So, our group name is an homage to him and his legacy!
SAMU: What is your favourite volume that you have published from the anthologies?
Molly: In terms of favourite, I have a bias for the last one. That was when I got to take the reign with my new and eager team! We looked at what boundaries we could expand on, and a big part of our messaging was to fight the status quo and experiment with the type of work we got. The design of the last volume is also very different from past volume. This one includes illustrations within the book. We hired a designer and illustrator who are both students here, and this was also the first book that was 100% student-driven! I’m very excited for volume eight because the tone of volume seven has excited people. Now, we have a few new executives on the team who share in our vision, and we’re just going to keep messing around and pushing the barriers for future volumes!
SAMU: Speaking of illustrations, tell me more about the characters that are in the anthologies?
Molly: The original Bolo team created these characters, so we only know a little about them. However, they have been consistent throughout the volumes and act as transitions between book sections. The acorn head one is also our unofficial mascot! We have begun to expand on these characters with our illustrator. These characters have aged and grown, and we want to show that and work to develop it in our upcoming volume.
SAMU: Have you had any successes from previous anthology contributors?
Molly: Two executives and three editors have won awards at MacEwan for their work, some of which they started while attending our workshops and working with us! Our Executive Vice President of English expanded on some of his submissions to our anthologies and won a short story award from MacEwan as well. Several Bolo-related people have been recognized, leading us to our goal of ultimately expanding this club outside the walls of Grant MacEwan.
SAMU: Do you have any events coming up?
Molly: Yes! Every second Tuesday of the month at Towers, we host Bolo Live, an open mic, and students are invited to read works in progress, published pieces, and just anything that’s theirs. It’s usually hosted by one of two of our executives, and we have built a nice base of people who come regularly. At the beginning, our executive Derek is usually up there for five minutes. Once people start to feel brave, they start signing up. By the night’s end, we’ve had over 20 people perform. It’s great! Anyone can come. You don’t have to be a Communications or English major. In our last volume, we had some Nursing and Psychology students contribute work, which was great to see!
SAMU: Wow, that’s amazing. Do you often get contributions from students in other departments?
Molly: Bolo has predominantly been made up of Communications and English majors, but this has been something we have been pushing for. Students typically submit work they write in class or out of school. Still, they have never considered that they could be published because they aren’t English majors. We actually had a Science student who told me that she used to love writing but went into science. She ended up submitting work and then asked if she could be a poetry editor because she loves poetry. So, Bolo has been her escape from her very vigorous Science program, and we hope to accomplish that for many more students!
SAMU: What other events do you have coming up?
Molly: We host workshops once a month, and the themes are announced on our website. In February, we are hosting a ‘drag your ex’ speed dating event where you have to sit down and bring up some old pieces about your broken heart. And then we’ll press an alarm, and you go to the next table and so on. There’ll be prizes at the end also! It’ll be like a little stamp bingo sheet of who had the darkest story and things like that, and this is going to be at Towers as well!
SAMU: What’s your advice for someone considering submitting work for your eighth volume?
Jo: The first thing that comes to mind is to give it a shot, even if you don’t know if your piece will be accepted. If this is your first time sharing a piece with anybody, try it out live first at our Bolo Live events because people often read works in progress there. It’s a great place to test the waters and get feedback. Give it a shot, be brave and keep trying! If something doesn’t get through one volume, try on the next. People can submit as many pieces as they want. However, we have decided to put a maximum of two pieces per author that can be published for our next anthology because we want to encourage newer writers!
Molly: Yeah, we want to encourage Nursing, Science, and just any students who love writing to submit. In terms of process, what would happen is that the executives go through a blind submission process to avoid bias, and from there, we figure out how many pieces can fit in the book. Suppose a piece is to be rejected for any number of reasons. We think, what other opportunities can we provide those people, and what kind of feedback can we give them to keep our network growing and happy? I never want to turn anyone away from writing because they were rejected once. In the real world. Rejections come more than acceptances, and we want to encourage people to keep coming to our events. As well as talking to our executives, using our workshops to better their writing skills and learn how to channel what they want to talk about and write about.
SAMU: What would you say to someone considering joining your student group? Or just student groups in general?
Molly: I don’t want the writing and editing to cast doubt on anyone because it’s such an open environment for collaboration. It is a collaborative process. The experience with the editors and the authors is very fulfilling on both ends. So, I don’t ever want the idea of writing or creating or feeling like your work has to be perfect to be a daunting thing for students. Come in and work on it. Come to workshops and try things. We will never tell someone that their work isn’t good enough to develop more potentially.
Jo: Bolo Tie isn’t a demanding club to be in. There are no mandatory meetings, and you come as your schedule allows! Joining clubs helps you connect with people in and out of class, giving you a built-in discussion topic!
You can connect with The Bolo Tie Collective on social media through @thebolotiecollective on Instagram or their website at thebolotiecollective.ca The submissions for their 8th volume opened on November 7th, and close in January 2024.
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