How It’s Made: Gardy Loo Edition

As someone who has seen exactly one (1) episode of the TV show How It’s Made, I can confidently say that I’m the perfect person to be writing this post about how Gardy Loo submissions are processed from the time writers and artists hit the ‘Submit’ button to when the magazine is finished. This fall will be the start of my third year at Gardy Loo and my final year at JMU, so having been involved in the production of the magazine for this long grants me a tiny bit of insight into the many steps it takes to create those cute, little magazines sitting in the atriums of our wonderful libraries. Welcome to this episode of How It’s Made: Gardy Loo Edition.

Initial Submissions

Receiving student submissions via email and voting on whether or not the individual pieces should be published in a magazine sounds fairly simple, but it’s not quite as easy as we make it look. We strive to always keep our voting process unbiased and the magazine quality as high as possible. During open submissions, the residing Managing Editor (that’s me!) is responsible for keeping up with the Gmail account where we receive every poem, prose piece, and art submission for the semester—which, by the way, are due by October 2nd for our upcoming issue.

The Managing Editor keeps track of every submission and their details. Since the Managing Editor sees submitters’ names while handling incoming submissions and we have a strict blind-voting process, the Managing Editor and anyone else who sees the names are not allowed to vote during committees. As the nature of college students tends to go, we receive a large number of submissions on the deadline day. Never change, JMU.

After the submission deadline passes, Gardy Loo staff springs into action: we sort and vote on hundreds of works within two weeks’ time.

What Do Committees Do?

First, staff members sign up for art, poetry, and prose committees. Each member is required to join at least one committee, but members may sign up for as many as they like, no experience required! Each committee member has the opportunity to lead their group discussion and voting process as a Committee Head. Gardy Loo leadership—which consists of our Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Design Editor, Assistant Design Editor, Events Manager, and Public Relations Manager—chooses the Committee Head based on their written application and experience in the field. Gardy Loo leadership gives Committee Heads a list of submissions in their category. With this, they make an online poll sheet for members to vote by a set date. They send an email to the committee members containing all the submissions. Members read or view all of them and vote on the online poll: this is the pre-voting stage.

It would be difficult to discuss every submission during committee meetings, so members must pre-vote for their favorites. Committee Heads then make a shorter list of the submissions and bring it to the meeting.

Amongst good food and good company, committee members go through each individual work and discuss likes and dislikes for every submission. While asking for final votes on each piece, the Committee Head keeps track of the number of votes each one receives.

I especially like this part of the process because it gives our staff members a chance to step up and lead other staff members, plus there are always plenty of snacks for the voters!

Final decisions are ultimately made after voting and gauging how many can fit into the issue.

Design Week(s)

After staff members pick the submissions, Design Committee—which is the last committee staff members can participate in—takes place over the course of two weeks after staff members have finished selecting which pieces are to be published in the next issue. This is a vital part of Gardy Loo; when it comes to the final magazine, Design is the one thing our staff is completely responsible for. JMU undergraduates provide the content while Gardy Loo designs the magazine cover-to-cover.

Luckily, no experience in InDesign is necessary! Staff take part in member-led workshops early in the semester, where we learn the dos and don’ts of Design and become familiar with Adobe InDesign.

Our lovely and skilled Design Editor heads this committee and keeps track of the hours committee members spend working on spreads, serves as the general go-to for anyone with questions about InDesign, and generally works to make sure the issue is a fluid piece of art in addition to putting in hours of individual work into spread designs.

I have a love-hate relationship with InDesign, mostly because my strength lies in words and not in visual arts, but seeing the beautiful spreads that my peers create helps me appreciate it just the same. I’m still not sure what a pica is.


Our current Editor-in-Chief introduced the idea to create a Copy-Editing Committee, which officially kicked off in Fall 2016. During Design Week, the members of this group meet with the Managing Editor to edit our accepted literature for minor grammar issues—conflicting tenses, spelling, lack-of-Oxford-comma, etc.. Members receive a giant packet of every poetry and prose piece, go through it together, and send emails to the authors regarding potential edits. It takes at least 20 full hours over the course of a week and it’s Katie’s (The EIC’s) favorite thing ever. Seriously. The girl is cuckoo for commas.

The reason this committee was created was because, even though Gardy Loo reserves the right to make minor editing changes in published pieces, we prefer getting feedback from the authors themselves so they can approve or reject edits made to their own piece. It allows us to create a discourse with our submitters and it also allows us to make greater changes with the writers’ permission. We think this builds a stronger relationship between the publisher and published and just makes the overall process more pleasant for everyone.

Copy-Editing members set up one-on-one appointments with authors who respond to the email and go over edits with them, and once all appointments are through the committee goes into InDesign and makes those edits on the (mostly) finished spreads. And Katie is also very proud, and very willing to tell you, that last semester, we met with every writer face-to-face except for a few, and even those who were unavailable to meet were able to approve editorial changes by email.

Final Steps!

After a final read-through of the digital version of the magazine, the Editor-in-Chief and Design Editor send the copy off to the printer. In about a week, the printer sends us a proof—basically a loose-leaf, deconstructed version of the issue—so that staff can go over the pages to make any last-minute changes we might need. When we send the proof back to the printer, that’s it! We sit and wait on the edge of our seats until finally, finally our boxes of Gardy Loo magazines come in.

The magazines are officially released for the first time at our bi-annual Gardy Party. Leadership is responsible for keeping those beloved racks in front of Carrier and ECL full of our freshly-printed pages of the blood, sweat, and tears of Gardy Loo staff members and published authors and artists alike.

Now that you know how Gardy Loo’s submission process works, come and join us every Tuesday night at 7pm in a room that is TBA! New members are accepted up until September 18th this semester. Shoot us an email at with any questions, and follow our Instagram account @jmugardyloo for Gardy Loo updates and sneak peeks!

Even if you can’t join us, please submit, Submit, SUBMIT!

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