For Charlie Jensen, the UCLA Extension Writers' Program is first and foremost about community – a place where emerging and established writers from all walks of life can come together to learn and grow.
So almost as soon as he took charge of the program in 2016, Jensen started dreaming of a literary journal that would reflect that spirit – a supportive place for artists and authors to shine a light on their work and ideas.
This summer, that dream came full circle with the debut of Southland Alibi, a student-run magazine of poetry, art, fiction and non-fiction featuring original work from contributors from around the globe. For Jensen, a prize-winning poet, author and instructor, the journal is a way to bring a tight-knit artistic community even closer together.
"The Writers' Program has always been a place for writers of all kinds, both in Los Angeles and well beyond," Jensen said. "Our hope with Southland Alibi is that it serves as both an outlet for inspiring work and as a way for our students to engage with editing and curating as a craft."
The journal's inaugural release, which is now available online, features everything from a Zen-style watercolor to a deadpan short story on the dos and don'ts of marital advice to a wistful poem about identity, interpretation and loss. To celebrate the release, the Writers' Program will host a virtual launch party on September 21, with live readings from the magazine's first round of contributors.
Southland Alibi will continue to accept submissions from artists and authors on a rolling basis, and is edited by a team of UCLA Extension students under the direction of Jeanne DeVita, instructor of the literary magazine editing course in which all editors enroll.
"We wanted to find opportunities to transform the classroom experience into real-world experience," said De Vita, who has spent more than a decade in the publishing industry working with aspiring authors and New York Times bestsellers alike. "The journal is a place where students, even those who already work in the publishing field, can contribute and develop as professionals."
For the team of students who selected and edited the inaugural contributions to Southland Alibi, the magazine's publication and launch party mark a milestone on what has been a long journey from idea to reality. Many of them began the project in September 2019 – not knowing that COVID-19 would soon make starting a magazine all but impossible.
"It took time to get here, but the end result just shows the power of sticking to it," said Aleesha Nash, a playwright and visual artist based in New York, and one of Southland Alibi's inaugural art editors. She credited De Vita with helping to keep plans for the journal afloat despite the challenges of the pandemic.
"Jeanne was just so kind, and it was her energy and enthusiasm that kept us all together," Nash said, adding that even after years of hard work and plenty of obstacles, seeing the fruits of their labor – by bringing art to light – has made it all worth it.
"These are the moments we work for as artists. So being able to provide a space for people to share what they do, and to do it as part of the UCLA community, that's pretty meaningful."