Kiera Cleveland and Emelia Delaporte sit in the Silhouette magazine office, flipping through the inaugural issue. Its sage green cover displays a lonesome pine. Scribed in gold, the year 1978 rests at the bottom of the page. The edition houses a medley of prose, poetry, photography, and artistic efforts from Hokies who earned their diplomas decades ago.

Forty-five years later, today’s generation continues to navigate the world through expression. Silhouette serves as Virginia Tech’s biannual student-sourced art and literary magazine. In fact, the magazine recently completed its submission process for the 2023 fall semester.

This semseter, the magazine has received over 200 submissions — nearly doubling submissions from years prior in certain categories, said editor-in-chief Delaporte, who is pursuing dual degrees in multimedia journalism and professional and technical writing.

“A lot of credit has to go to our business manager, Safyque xRichardson," Delaporte said. "She did a great job advertising through social media and getting the word out.”

The team of editors will now carefully curate the submissions. Cleveland currently serves as senior poetry editor, which is consistently the category with the most student submissions. She and a team of seasoned writers will read and review 71 poems in the coming weeks.

“The main criteria we use is how the piece impacted us emotionally,” Cleveland explained. “From there, we delve into the technique. We’re asking ourselves about structure, word choice, and contemplating the message this piece is trying to convey.”

She added that evaluating effective writing has sharpened her skills as a poet as well. Cleveland said she now feels more confident when composing meaningful poetry, and credited the publication as playing an integral role in her process.

The pair of editors also discussed the gamut of academia showcased in Silhouette. The wide-ranging staff of 39 editors and bloggers represent every branch of Virginia Tech’s educational tree. Furthermore, they consistently receive projects from Hokies on campus with no connection to creative writing or design. According to Delaporte and Cleveland, vetting the magazine’s submissions never gets old.

“We feel like this operates as a space to keep creative expression alive,” Cleveland noted. “We’ve also created more opportunities for our community to share that art, either through our blog or our events.”

One of these events is an open mic night at The Milk Parlor, a venue in downtown Blacksburg, which takes place in partnership with other Virginia Tech writing initiatives like the Glossolia literary festival, CreativiTEA student writing club, and Elevate Magazine.

These open mic nights date back to the 1990s, with acclaimed poets such as Virginia Tech faculty members Nikki Giovanni and Lucinda Roy making appearances. Anybody is welcome to attend and share a passion project with a crowd of avid readers and creators. 

Silhouette is gearing up for an early December release that typically pairs with a launch party. Featured creatives will have the chance to discuss their pieces with others and celebrate their published work. This also provides a light-hearted, calm-before-the-storm night before students transition to finals week.

For editors like Cleveland and Delaporte, it is a time to celebrate a job well done, coupled with a time to plan for the magazine's spring installment. Come winter, the Silhouette staff will peruse a fresh batch of submissions, including those that did not make the final cut in the previous round.

“My advice is to always keep submitting,” Cleveland remarked. “Most students are here for four years, so that’s eight different tries to get your work published. Seeing your submission in print for the first time is a super empowering feeling.”

A look at past editions of the Silhouette. Photo by Jacob Sawyers for Virginia Tech.

The magazine has thrived through decades of development and distinct eras. The upcoming fall issue captures a miniscule piece of the Silohuette's well-chronicled history, but also ushers in a new era of artistic expression. More importantly, in a time of artificial intelligence-generated content, Silhouette signifies that human creativity will always provide unparalleled value.

For more on Virginia Tech’s foremost student-led magazine, visit the Silhouette’s website or follows its social media pages @silhouettemagazine for updates and opportunities to join the creative process during the spring semester.

Written by Jacob Sawyers, media content assistant for the School of Communication