Saddleback College literary journal WALL 2020 wins top national award

The cover of WALL 2020 illustrates how COVID-19 has infiltrated our lives this past year. Lariat/courtesy

WALL Literary Journal was named Most Outstanding College Literary-Art Magazine for 2020 in a nationwide competition for the third time by the American Scholastic Press Association. WALL previously earned this award in 2013, 2014, with special distinction in 2017, 2018 and again this year from the New York-based sponsor.

Staff members donned 2020 glasses to promote WALL before the campus closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From left to right: Brett Cervantes, Gabriella H. Palazzo, Tania Y. Solano Cervantes, Evangeline Brennan, Lydie M. Denier, Beau Hein, Dylan Robinson, Harrison Webb and Aubrie Fuster. Gina Shaffer/courtesy.

Last semester, Gabriella H. Palazzo served as editor in chief on WALL 2020. She began working on a novel and will continue to write this semester, hoping to be published once finished. She plans on finishing her college education in France.

“I loved my experience on WALL,” she said. “Everyone gets excited about holding the title of editor in chief, and it’s definitely a huge honor. But WALL is a collaboration first and foremost and is vital to the magazine’s success.”

She feels privileged to have worked with such amazing peers and faculty advisor, Gina Victoria Shaffer.

“It’s a huge nod to the effort, time, care and love that went into the magazine, especially considering the fact that COVID-19 and the resulting stay-at-home orders forced us to be flexible and work completely online and out of our comfort zones,” Palazzo said. “Regardless, I think we adapted well and very successfully. I’m proud to have been a part of it all.”

Alison Gervacio is a student at Sonoma State University and studies English creative writing. She obtained an Associates in Arts for transfer degree in English literature at Saddleback.

“I went to the WALL 2019 live reading and was extremely inspired by the pieces,” Gervacio said. “The second I got home that night, I wrote my personal narrative, ‘Horns.’ It is a piece based on my time going to Catholic school in the Philippines. I experienced a lot of bullying and discrimination because I did not speak Tagalog and had a huge language barrier.”

“Horns” recounts her experience as a child attempting to fit in at school and details the scenario of her peers pressuring her to take some erasers and perfume from the bookstore and wear her hair down instead of up in pigtails as she was accustomed.

“Having friends was more important than possibly going to hell for lying. Besides, that’s something I can worry about after I die, right?” Gervacio writes in the final paragraph of her story.

She hopes to write short stories based on her experience as an American Filipino in order to spread representation for her ethnicity.

Camellia Taleghani writes with the pen name, Oceanne. She has been at Saddleback for two-and-a-half years and is studying occupational skills in medical insurance billing. She found an interest in the clinical setting and is almost finished with a Clinical Medical Assistant certificate.

“Passionate love inspires me to write poems like ‘Sprint.’” she said. “Once upon a time, I experienced a love story so deep and so profound, which made me live in the moment as if tomorrow did not exist. I was absolutely fearless of the consequences of loving someone so much, and when we parted ways, it was extremely difficult for me to cope with that loss.”

     “Let me depict you a dream

      A dream where time has no power

      and is not invited in my dreams.

      The clocks are melting away.

      Thus, I still stand here

      Embracing the moment

      As if tomorrow did not exist.” (excerpt from “Sprint”)

Professor Deidre Cavazzi of the Saddleback dance department created a choreography and dance interpretation of Taleghani’s poem.

Dylan Robinson was a personal narrative editor as well as a copy editor for WALL 2020. He has been at Saddleback for about three years and is pursuing a journalism degree for transfer to a California State University. He is also obtaining a communications and philosophy associate’s degree.

“My WALL experience was to ensure that the edition achieved its goals by reducing as many errors and highlighting as much quality content as possible,” he said. “I really enjoyed writing my own poetry as I ended up taking that seeming novelty where I now feel confident in my own abilities enough to have submitted again for WALL 2021.”

Robinson’s poem titled “Steel” was mostly derived from his love for movies like “Kill Bill,” where he romanticized the katana as a device for artfully maiming a foe.

“Katanas are just badass,” he said. “Who doesn’t like them? I was fresh off the heels of just having rewatched it and felt the lines of ‘Steel’ flow wonderfully.”

      “Smelted, layered to smite

       Divide between the is and the was

       Steel knows no ally nor foe

       Only worthiness:


       Voracious, pinning for vitality.” (excerpt from “Steel”)

Ann Hymes enrolled in Emeritus Institute classes at Saddleback College when she moved to South Orange County a little over a year ago. She has a degree from Mills College and a Master’s in English. Her nonfiction narrative, “The Politics of Egg Toss,” has a hint of a political message which applies to the current state of affairs in the government.

“Life lessons can have odd beginnings. A game of kitchen egg toss is not enough to direct the course of a child’s life, but the uncertainty of eggs in the air instilled the need to work together — even briefly — for a shared goal. My naive hope would be that a government at all levels faces challenges to peace and individual dignity, perhaps egg toss could be a model for behavior.”

Hymes has authored numerous essays that have been published in The Christian Science Monitor Home Forum page. Her novel, “Shadow of Whimsey: A Cape Cod Love Story,” was published recently by Secant Publishing, and the sequel, “Love and Lies: A Secret Memoir,” was released in May 2020.

“While my two books are fiction, I really prefer the shorter, nonfiction narratives,” she said. “Writing is ongoing learning and finding a voice that fits. I like experiential pieces with a twist or lesson.”

Hymes submitted a nonfiction piece on her experience in the Peace Corps in South Korea in 1967-1968 for the WALL 2021 edition.

Gina Shaffer teaches composition, creative writing, and literature as a professor of English at Saddleback. She previously served on the faculty of UCLA writing programs. She is perpetually inspired by the creativity and innovation of the students who staff WALL and of those who contribute their words and images to it, according to her bio.

“It was a very challenging year with the pandemic, but the staff endured and they were committed to presenting as high-quality a product as possible,” she said. “And I think that they achieved that which has been affirmed by this national award they have won.”

The American Scholastic Press Association has a specific judging process that sends a scoring sheet based on content and design. Each publication goes through scrutiny, and the final scores are sent back to each publication with a certificate of award.

“It’s recognition that WALL has a national profile,” Shaffer said. “We have our campus audience but we are also getting recognition countrywide. We are committed to producing a publication that unifies the students by sharing common struggles, joys, trials and triumphs where the readers get to take in these stories and be inspired by it.”

The YouTube public reading of WALL 2020 was on Oct. 29, 2020.

Submissions for the 2021 edition of the journal are being accepted through Feb. 25. Each work must be an original, unpublished piece submitted by a Saddleback College student enrolled in the 2020 or Spring 2021 semesters. For a submission form and guidelines, please go to the WALL Literary Journal website.

Update: Submission deadline for WALL entries has been extended till March 15, 2020.