Introducing Pub Club’s two winning manuscript authors for this semester: Haley Souders and DS Oswald

Illustrated+image+of+DS+Oswald+by+DS+Oswald.

Illustrated image of DS Oswald by DS Oswald.

By Maeve Lawler

Junior Haley Souders and senior DS Oswald are this semester’s manuscript winners for Wilde Press, an imprint of Pub Club that publishes two 50-80 page manuscripts per semester.

Gabrielle Jonikas, one of the head publishers and a co-president of Pub Club explained the history of Wilde Press in an interview with The Beacon. 

“Our press has [published] four books per year for nearly 20 years at Emerson. So we have a very extensive backlog of books and it’s been very exciting to help publish them,” Jonikas said. 

Jonikas said that any Emerson student can submit a manuscript of any genre to Pub Club. All of the submissions are read and reviewed by the editorial board and narrowed down to a final four. Then all members of Pub Club vote for a final two to be published each semester. 

Jonikas also explained what stands out to her when reading submissions. 

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“Basically, what I’m looking for in these submissions is something different than what we’ve done in the past,” she said. 

Both Souders’ and Oswald’s manuscripts stood out to Jonikas from the beginning of the submission process. 

In regard to Oswald’s Shrine Maiden, Jonikas said, “I love when we publish fantasy and kind of historical type of novels and it was cool to have a really interesting story compared to something else you might see.” 

When discussing Souders’ Fame and Other Candies, Jonikas said, “A reason why I thought Haley’s stood out so much was because I had never read a story that explores fame the way Fame and Other Candies does.”

Below is a Q&A summarizing each author’s manuscript and writing experiences thus far.  

Manuscript title: 

Fame and Other Candies by Haley Souders

About the author: 

Souders is a junior creative writing major at Emerson and this is their first story published by Wilde Press. Souders hasn’t submitted a piece to Pub Club before, but previously published a short story in Wilderness Literary Review magazine. She joined Pub Club as a general member last semester and worked on the editing team for Letters to Space by Valentine Carr. 

Photo of Haley Souders.

Summary of Fame and Other Candies:

Souders’ manuscript features a series of short stories about various celebrities. 

“It starts more in the 90s when actors were more famous and then it eventually goes on to vloggers and social media types [celebrities],” she said. “So, it’s about the way that fame changes people.” 

Souders explained that the majority of the short stories are about individual characters. However, three of them focus on one character, following them through childhood and then college.

Souders added that “some of [the short stories] are loosely connected,” referencing characters in different stories because they are well-known celebrity figures.

Souder’s writing process: 

The first short story Souders wrote for her novel was for a class last semester. In the months after, Souders “kept thinking of random celebrity ideas” and decided to unite them into one collection of short stories. 

Over this past winter break, Souders decided to submit her manuscript to Pub Club. She said, “Once I was sure I wanted to do that, then I really was focusing more on finishing in about January.”

She found the writing and editing process to be “a lot of fun.” 

When I first wrote, I spent about three weeks very intensely writing it before I submitted it,” she said. Souders went on to work with Pub Club’s editing teams to make changes for the final product. 

Inspirations for Fame and Other Candies: 

After last year’s Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett scandal, Souders was prompted to think about fame and its implications. 

“I kept thinking about fame and how much it, to me, would suck to be famous just because with [the scandal] it was like her music was released and then everyone was hating on Joshua Bassett and then it’s turned now, where people have hated on her a little bit,” Souders said. 

In reference to the hate both Rodrigo and Bassett were facing, Souders said, “it’s just really weird to me because we don’t even know these people.” 

Such celebrity scandals inspired Souders to write her collection of short stories that make a commentary on what it means to be famous. 

Why Souders writes: 

“Just because I enjoy it,” Souders said. 

She added, “I’m always thinking about different characters and scenarios and it always eventually turns into a short story or novel in my head, so then it’s kind of like ‘well, I have to write this down.’” 

When Souders was younger, she was always writing. However, in high school, she found that making the decision to pursue writing as a career was scary.  As college decisions approached, Souders found herself thinking, “I might as well do the thing that I love,” she said. 

Going to college for writing has changed the way Souders approaches the process. This is because she simply thinks about it more. 

“Before it was just any random thing I could think of but I think now I put more effort into it and I’m more purposeful about the stories that I want to tell,” said Souders. 

New writing in process and aspirations beyond Emerson: 

Souders said she is taking a break from producing new stories at the moment. 

“I think my brain is recharging from writing something that big and right now, I’m not actually in any fiction workshop classes, so I’m not really focused on any of that,” she said. 

She is hoping that over the summer, she will begin thinking of new stories to write. 

Souders’ biggest goal at Emerson was to be published by Pub Club and now that she has accomplished that, she is rethinking what she wants to do next. 

In her future beyond Emerson, Souders wants to become a published author. 

“Fame and Other Candies” cover.

Manuscript title: 

Shrine Maiden by DS Oswald 

About the author: 

DS Oswald is a senior creative writing major at Emerson. This is Oswald’s first story published by Wilde Press. Pieces of Oswald’s writing have previously been published in Pub Club’s Generic Magazine. Outside of Pub Club, Oswald’s work has been published in Stork Magazine, Concrete Literary Magazine, and fanzines. They have also published their illustration skills in various zines run online. 

Summary of Shrine Maiden:

“I would call it a fantasy pseudo romance because the characters don’t technically get together,” said Oswald

They go on to explain that two of the characters express their feelings toward each other, yet are interrupted by the climax of the novel. When discussing the plot of Shrine Maiden, Oswald highlights the building tension in their novel.  

“Our main character, Nkiru, is a wandering swordsman and she stumbled across this temple in the middle of a blizzard, and the temple is not supposed to be receiving any visitors,” Oswald said. “She has to stay there because if they kick her out, then she’ll die in the blizzard.” 

The “weird tensions” between Nkiru and her four housemates stem from their unique backgrounds as characters. The temple’s four housemates have never been anywhere outside the temple, making Nkiru, who is a constant traveler, the first stranger they’ve ever encountered, said Oswald

In regard to the setting, “It is a 100 percent fantasy world,” said Oswald. “There are some real-world inspirations here and there, but mostly it’s all made up.” 

Oswald’s writing process: 

Oswald started their novel fall of sophomore year and intended for the alternate universe story to be for a comic they had been writing at the time. 

“I liked the alternate universe so much that the characters became their own thing,” said Oswald. “It just grew from there.”

Oswald worked on Shrine Maiden for about a year, often picking up their manuscript and then putting it down for six months at a time. 

“I would say if you squished all the breaks together, I wrote it in two or three weeks,” they said. 

Oswald fine-tuned their manuscript for submission last winter, with the intention of submitting it to Pub Club. 

They described the writing process as “very fun.” “It was all just me putting in some headphones and being like, ‘alright, I’m ready for this specific mood and so I’m writing this specific mood.’” 

Oswald added “a lot of [the writing process] was motivated by ‘I want to write some sort of homoerotic scene.’ I’d be like ‘I want to write some gay tension. So these characters are going to have gay tension.’” 

Inspirations for Shrine Maiden: 

When asked who inspired their novel, Oswald said, “Big shout out to Valentine.” 

Valentine Carr, the author of Letter to Space, was previously published by Wilde Press last semester. Oswald said after reading Valentine’s novel, they thought it was something their “writing skills would be up to par with,” which encouraged Oswald to submit their work for consideration. 

Oswald’s family and friends inspired the plot of the story. 

“There’s a lot of the book that’s indirectly dealing with the same things that I was dealing with when I moved up here to Boston from my hometown in Florida,” said Oswald.  

As Nkiru is a traveler in a new land, Shrine Maiden deals with “Nkiru’s relationship to her parents and how she misses them but she can’t go back because of the issues in her back story.” Leading her to “develop these bonds with completely new people,” explained Oswald. 

Why Oswald writes: 

“It’s just something that is natural to me, and it’s probably because I decided to be a writer when I was really really young,” said Oswald. “When I was in the third grade I was like ‘I know what I’m doing with my life and it’s this.’ I weirdly just never strayed from that plan very far.” 

New writing in process and aspirations beyond Emerson: 

Oswald has three other novels they are working on and planning to publish. For their last semester at Emerson, Oswald is hoping to have fun and graduate. 

“The thing I most want to do is make more art,” Oswald said. “I want to publish books and I want to animate stuff and publish podcasts, audio dramas, everything I can get my grubby little hands on.” Both Souders and Oswald’s books will be sold at Pub Club’s Spring 2022 Book Launch on Sunday, April 17, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Bill Bordy Theatre. Each book will be sold in paperback version for $8, as well as be available in digital format and be assigned an ISBN number. All of Souders’ proceeds will be going to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and Oswald’s proceeds to the St. Francis House.

“The Shrine Maiden” cover.