Literary magazine places third at Southern Literary Festival

The Spring 2023 issue of The Switch Literature and Fine Arts magazine, written and produced by undergraduate students at the University of Tennessee at Martin, placed third in the undergraduate literary magazine category at the Southern Literary Festival (SLF) held April 4-6 at the University of Mississippi.

Dr. Maari Carter, assistant professor of English and faculty adviser to the magazine, said this was not the first placement for a UT Martin magazine.

“I believe (UT Martin) has placed in the past,” she said. “To my knowledge, we didn’t enter (the SLF competition) for a while, and I think COVID also threw a big wrench into things like the festival itself, so it kind of went by the wayside in terms of our submitting.”

Carter said about 50 students made about 95 submissions to the 2023 magazine, adding that there were more than 50 students who made 120 submissions to the 2024 issue of The Switch. She added that the number of submissions to the magazine has risen drastically in the past two years due to promotional efforts.

“I think a few things contributed to the increased visibility of the magazine over the past two years,” she said. “We created a position for a social media editor, which allowed us to publicize the magazine’s submission windows online through various social media platforms.

“We also had a very concentrated ad campaign, where we would post flyers around campus advertising our submissions window being open and inviting new staff members to join.”

Last year’s staff of The Switch included executive editor and current senior Leo Honbarger, a psychology major from Jackson; art editor and current senior Tia Runions, a fine and performing arts major from Hohenwald; social media manager and current senior Ryesa McGehee, an English major from Cordova; and dedicated staff members Clara Adams, a senior psychology major from Jackson; Ava Johnson, a junior English major from Kingston Springs; Alex Martin, a senior mass media and strategic communication major from Trenton; Tre Ruff, a senior English major from Dyersburg; and Amber K. Thomas, a senior English major from Old Hickory.

“Our success at the Southern Literary Festival was all due to our staff and the incredible work of our previous executive editor, Leo Honbarger, and our art director, Tia Runions,” Carter said. “They are the masterminds behind that issue. They were so dedicated not only in curating the work that went in but creating the aesthetic of the magazine that is more in line with the brand that we’re trying to promote.

“I was very excited by the final product, but of course, having other people recognize and acknowledge the hard work that went into it and the talent of our students – that’s the important thing.”

The staff of the 2024 issue of The Switch features McGehee as the executive editor; Thomas as the assistant editor; Izzy Merickle, a senior fine and performing arts major from McEwen, as the art editor; and Johnson as the social media editor.

The magazine contains a variety of writing styles, including fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and dramatic writing as well as art submissions from students in the League of Striving Artists.

Formerly known as BeanSwitch, the renaming to The Switch was part of an updating effort made when Carter became the faculty adviser in 2023.

“I had a conversation with Leo Honbarger, our previous executive editor, and just talked about where we wanted the magazine to go in terms of brand marketing – especially because we were trying to be more present on social media,” Carter said. “We needed to kind of change the perception of the image of the magazine just a little bit, not that we wanted to completely disregard tradition.

“It’s gone through several name changes over the years. We loved BeanSwitch. We loved that name, but we thought that maybe something a little bit more modern, a little bit more catchy would perform well in those digital spaces.”

The staff took a vote on a number of name suggestions and voted for The Switch.

The staff of The Switch had an official unveiling of the 2024 magazine on April 19 in the Dr. Glenn S. Gallien Auditorium in Gooch Hall. Writers read their contributions to that magazine and hosted a reception, and art contributors presented their works from the magazine.

Carter noted that the magazine would lose a number of student leaders in 2024.

“Our executive editor, Ryesa McGehee, is off to law school, and our assistant editor, Amber Thomas, has recently been accepted into the JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) program, so she will be teaching English as a Second Language in Japan,” she said. “Then, in the fall, we will be losing Izzy Merickle, who is our art editor, and Ava Johnson will be leaving us as well as our social media editor.”

Carter said competing in the Southern Literary Festival at the University of Mississippi is a yearly goal and that Dr. Jeffrey Bibbee, the dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, expressed an interest in having the masthead staff attend the festival whenever possible.

“I really want to emphasize the incredible support that Dean Bibbee has shown – not only to me as the faculty adviser but also the magazine,” Carter said. “He is a big champion of our students and providing them opportunities to engage with other magazines and other students and get out there and create relationships.’

For more information about the Southern Literary Festival, visit

For more information about The Switch magazine, contact Dr. Maari Carter at 731-881-7288 or

PHOTO: Shown with their certificate for placing third in the undergraduate literary magazine category at the Southern Literary Festival at the University of Mississippi earlier this month are (from left) Amber Thomas, Izzy Merickle, Ryesa McGehee and Ava Johnson.

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