Created in room E215 and catalyzed by original thought, Midtown’s literary magazine “The Unmasking” provides a creative outlet for students.
The Unmasking was founded in 1988, as a platform for sharing literature, photography and art created by students. Thirty-four years later, the literary magazine has continued its mission — but in a post-pandemic form.
“When we initially went bankrupt with Covid in 2020, we had to abandon our print book,” said Maddie Hoffman, senior and editor. “Then the following year we had to not make a book at all and completely switch to a website platform. That meant we basically had to revamp the class in a new way. That led us to think about different options that we could really do with the program in the future.
At home during the 2020-2021 school year, students were unable to access Adobe Cloud software, which is a crucial aspect for building the print magazine. Due to the lack of an in-person classroom, The Unmasking website was born. This school year and in the future, the staff will continue to produce a paper book and content for the website simultaneously.
In addition to redesigning the magazine’s physical format, staff faced a learning curve due to the pandemic. English teacher Mary Elizabeth Villapalndo has been an advisor for “The Unmasking” for four years. Tackling that hurdle has been one of the biggest challenges the magazine has faced this school year, Villalpando said.
“One of the biggest challenges was that we usually had editors train and teach new editors coming in, to show them the ropes and how to work the programs,” Villalpando said. “However, with Covid there has definitely been a learning curve. There was mostly a fresh start, as opposed to someone who just arrived and already knows how to make everything work.
This current school year offers staff a chance to get a foothold and function as they did before the pandemic, Villalpando said. Hoffman also addressed the challenges that have come with the current year – but how adversity has forced the staff to grow.
“This year it was very important for us to get back to normal,” Hoffman said. “However, we had a lot of trouble with InDesign, and a lot of things were happening with programs that weren’t working properly. After recovering the same programs after shutting them down for so long. However, it really allowed us to redesign our way of doing things, and it also allows me to teach younger generations to get on and off.
Going back to the normality of the year, a typical week in Lit Mag is categorized by the submission of assignments and comments, “Lit Shares”, where the class writes about a certain prompt and the working days. Junior Skylar Sweet cited this, with the help of current management, as a significant factor in the midst of a new year.
“For my grade, in particular, all the juniors in the class, I think they did a great job of getting us into the class in the first place, and managing and getting everyone started during Covid,” said Sweet. “They are working to prepare us for next year, and they are doing very well. There will only be a few people next year, and it will be difficult, but they are doing a very good job.
The current theme of the latest print magazine “The Unmasking” is a gallery, reflecting the art collection curated by the staff. The magazine is due out after spring break.
Besides creating something physical, the literary magazine also provided unspoken benefits to students. `
“I think this (‘The Unmasking’) really showed me what leadership takes to really empower people to listen and be able to work with others,” Hoffman said. “I think it’s really important, especially to go to university, because I want to take part in leadership positions at university in the future. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to make this happen at such a key time in my life, where I am transitioning from school to higher education.
Sweet has high hopes for the future of publishing.
“Hopefully new people next year,” Sweet said. “We only have a second-year student in the class this year, and I really hope we get more people. I’m also going to enjoy being a senior on the team, because it will be interesting to to be in that position as “highest” editors.
Even with the challenges presented by Covid and a post-pandemic world, “The Unmasking” has found ways to reshape and grow for future generations of staff to come. In the present, it offers students a space to explore their academic and creative sides in Midtown.
“There are so many options for students here — they can learn graphic design, Photoshop, Indesign, all creative cloud, photography — there’s so much they can learn,” Villalpando said. “We also have Lit Shares, where students can share things that have inspired them and share with the class. It’s journalism, but there’s a really fun and creative side to it.