Q&A: Brittany Collins of Voices and Visions on the Impact of Women’s Stories

It’s hard to tear yourself away from the news these days, but making a conscious choice to pay attention to the world outside of the chaos can be pivotal. That’s why Brittany Collins, editor-in-chief of the Voices and Visions literary journal, is determined to offer a space to allow women to nurture artistry and creativity.

Based out of the Khan Liberal Arts Institute at Smith College in Northampton, MA, Visions and Voices encourages women from provides a unique space for emerging artists bound by their experiences in female centered educational environments and fosters creativity in a variety of forms.

Ms. spoke with Collins by e-mail about Voices and Visions’ triumphs and challenges, her own experiences as an editor and her hopes for the journal’s future.

Where did the idea for the magazine begin?

Voices & Visions was conceived in 2012 at the Women’s Education Worldwide conference in Dubai. Rosetta Cohen, professor of education at Smith College in Massachusetts, discussed its prospects with a representative body of women leaders in global higher education. At that time, she was also the director of the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute at Smith and brought the concept to the Institute as one facet of a year-long, interdisciplinary research project entitled, “Why Educate Women?” The publication was just one component of the overarching project, but it has since transcended Smith College. Our fall 2016 issue reached a readership in over 44 countries, and we hope to expand our breadth—both of readership and submissions—as we continue to hone and grow our journal.

What made you choose women’s colleges as the primary experience that would link your contributors?

Given our original ties to WEW and Smith College, women’s colleges and universities seemed a natural population from which to begin soliciting submissions. However, we have since expanded to include works from artists and authors who attend girls’ high schools around the world, and our next issue will be the first to feature works of alumnae who attended women’s schools. By widening our scope, we hope to portray the impact that women’s education has on a longitudinal continuum—highlighting the ways in which artistry, education and access inform women’s lives across spans of time, geographical location, or other identifiers like race, religion, or age. A fundamental belief in the ethos of women’s education grounds our editorial work, as well as a conviction that all women—indeed, their voices and visions—are vital to our local and global communities. We highlight women who are educated, but they are the true educators—offering questions, meditations and inspirations that celebrate and challenge all who encounter their work. The wide variety of talent that we have the honor of presenting affirms the need for continued activism in regards to gender equity, in educational spheres and beyond. By highlighting the talents spread around our globe, the journal is contemporaneously an homage to women’s education and a plea for the expansion of that educationof opportunities for women to grow, learn, question, and create worldwide.

There’s such a range of materials in Voices and Visions. What are some of the challenges of the selecting contributions from such a wide variety of fields?

From a practical standpoint, it is a challenge to ensure a diverse reading experience—a balance of visual and written works that flows well and engages our readers. Though something magical always seems to happen during our “compilation stage.” When we are working out the order of accepted submissions, profound connections always arise between and across works—topically, but also in more subtle, nuanced ways that ultimately unite each edition. Our designated themes help with this unification, of course, but similarities often weave the publication together in a serendipitous way that transcend any imposed commonality. The challenge of compilation is also a joy in that every contribution seems a piece in this larger puzzle, and we, as editors, have the privilege of setting each piece into place before sharing the final “picture” with the world.

What’s an artistic format you, as an editor, wish you saw more of?

We have a nascent video performance initiative that allows contributors to read their works and share a bit of their surroundings and selves with our audience. I love having the opportunity to see the faces and personalities behind the works that we feature and hope to see more video submissions in the future—of spoken word poetry or story slams, perhaps, or some other format entirely! Videography adds dimension to each issue. Our spring edition features a poem entitled “Tatanka Oyate,” for example, in which poet Maya Bailey-Clark responds to a video of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. She presents a wonderful example of digitization and the poetics of activism—creating an almost antiphonal sense of interaction between the video and her written stanzas. I hope to see more multi-dimensional works that incorporate various modes of creativity in future issues; it’s amazing to see the ways in which women challenge normative art-forms and innovate through articulation and expression. Their energy is incredible.

What has your favorite theme been so far? Is there one you’ve noticed that’s particularly struck a chord with either contributors or the editorial team?

The theme of “home,” which we ran almost two years ago, resonated deeply with contributors. From the editorial standpoint, though, our latest issue—rooted in the theme of “peace”—presents compelling surprises in that most of the submissions entertain seemingly antithetical topics. Authors and artists acknowledge suffering; cast peace as an elusive entity; disrupt our schemas and expectations. The themes that arose were exciting to contemplate—they inspired inquiry and an examination of the larger contexts within which we, as women, find ourselves situated in this political and social moment—at the personal, institutional and global level.

What’s something you would like to see for the journal in five years time?

I hope to expand our editorial board to include international staff members. It would be wonderful to co-edit the journal with a student from Bangladesh, China, or Pakistan, for example. Rather than limit our globality to that of contribution and readership, it seems vital that our board represent international perspective as well. I hope that this journal becomes global in as many ways as possible. We’re already discussing ways in which to put such ideas into action, and I’m excited by the future that our contributors and readers are helping to create!



Lauren Young is a Ms. contributor. She has a Master’s Degree in European and Russian Studies from Yale University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Russian Civilization from Smith College. Follow her on @thatlaurenyoung.