SandScript: Evolution of an award-winning magazine

wPg10-SandScript coverBy SHEILA TEMPLETON

SandScript, Pima Community College’s student-produced art and literary magazine, has won numerous regional and national awards over the past 20 years.

Its latest, for the 2011 edition, was first place in the American Scholastic Press Association’s annual contest. Staffers are anxiously waiting for the 2012 awards to be announced.

SandScript showcases prose, poetry and visual art created by PCC students, faculty and staff members. The magazine is produced each spring by students enrolled in WRT 162 at West Campus, under the direction of faculty adviser Joshua Cochran.

Submission deadlines are always Dec.1 for the fall semester and March 1 for spring. Work can be submitted via email at or in hardcopy form to the West Campus arts and humanities department, Room J-111 in the Sentinel Peak building.

SandScript was conceived and co-founded by instructors Meg Files and Ann Tousley in 1990. The pair cited a desire to launch a magazine that would showcase Pima students’ writing and art.

“One of our challenges was fundraising,” Files said. “We used typesetting machines, waxers and layout tables to put the pages together. Now everything is designed on the computer.”

Tousley added, “In the old days, we always had to get outside funding to produce the quality we wanted. We had to solicit sponsors who were willing to donate money or paper stock.”

She believes it was worth the effort.

“One of Pima’s great strengths is its creative writing department, so the magazine always gets excellent submissions,” Tousley said. “The competition for publication is fierce.”

Files and Tousley were pleased when writing instructor Tom Speer offered to take over as faculty adviser in 1996.

Speer agreed to do so because the college provided an allotted budget to produce the publication.

“As faculty adviser, I tried to empower the students to take ownership and put their own stamp on the magazine,” Speer said.

“On one hand, it is a class. On the other hand, it is a product,” he said. “I tried to encourage the students to make it new each year, while still guiding them.”

One change Speer made was taking the class from two semesters to one.

“It creates a lot of pressure because of the deadlines, but it also creates a lot of momentum and makes the class more exciting,” he said. “SandScript is a beautiful magazine and creates an outlet for a lot of very creative people.”

Speer acted as faculty adviser through 2010, when he “strongly encouraged” Cochran to step in.

Files, Tousley and Speer all say Cochran was a great choice, because he has extensive editing and publishing experience.

Cochran greatly enjoys the creative process, and encourages all students to submit their work for consideration.

“It is an absolutely democratic process by which submissions are chosen,” Cochran said. “We maintain a strict ethical line, and even recuse ourselves if we recognize any work.”

Each student in the class has an equal vote on which submissions are selected.

“We wear our hearts on our sleeves, and really fight for the pieces we want to be included,” Cochran said.

The magazine’s acceptance rate is about 20 percent. That’s great for students, Cochran said, since the national acceptance rate for literary publications is 4 or 5 percent.

Cochran has increased the number of submissions by adding the option to submit via email and by reaching out to all Pima campuses. Each campus now has a SandScript faculty representative.

He encourages everyone to submit work, but cautions entrants to pay close attention to the guidelines.

Submission guidelines can be obtained via email at or from Cochran’s office, J-111 in the West Campus Sentinel Peak building.

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