Most Principia students are aware of the little cottage located on the Chapel Green called the Mistake House. The Mistake House is known for its historical significance and cherished for its charm.
Principia’s English department has adopted the name for its online literary magazine from this unique little cottage. Mistake House, which is student-run and -motivated, was started by creative writing professor Dinah Ryan.
There were many sources of inspiration for Mistake House. Ryan said, “Literary magazines have fed my soul for many years. The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, VQR (Virginia Quarterly Review), Granta, and Blackbird—among many other journals—are sources of the latest fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.”
She added, “They’re right in the center of our contemporary culture and the writing reflects what we’re thinking about in our world today, but through imaginative, empathetic voices, voices that take our hearts in to the heart of the world we live in.”
Ryan believes the value of Mistake House lies in its ability to have “Principia’s students and our community… participate in [an] imaginative but honest exploration of the world—to be part of the creative conversation that helps us understand who we are, puts us back together again when the world seems rough, or makes vivid the beauties of the world.”
The student role is particularly important to the magazine. Junior Madison Flannery worked on the magazine in its inception. She said, “Together we [the student editors] wrote out a mission statement, figured out the website, planned the layout, and [decided] what we wanted our ‘image’ to be.” Madison enjoyed her time working on the magazine, and said, “I want it to be something that Principia is proud of. I’m excited to work hard and get submissions, [and] really get our name out there.”
Mistake House welcomes poetry and fiction from graduate and undergraduate students all over the country. According to its submission page, the magazine accepts pieces that show innovation, as well as those that are “intellectually stimulating” and which “present new perspectives to the reader.”
The English department sees Mistake House as much more than a collection of writing. Ryan said, “I hope the magazine will be seen as a model of professionalism on campus and a place where students can get valuable professional experience. I hope Principia’s community will associate Mistake House with the relationship between creativity and real world issues. I hope it will be both fun and the basis for conversation about ideas, writers, and artists. And, I hope Mistake House will be another bridge… between Principia and wider, global communities.”
Post-graduate teaching intern Jessica Wingert also hopes to expand the reach of the magazine. She said, “I think it would be great if it could grow… it would be really cool to be… reaching out and bringing [in] international writers. I hope to get a bigger readership [too].”
Mistake House has only one issue published so far. But the Literary Editing class, which is the class in charge of the magazine’s production, is full of students ready to help the magazine grow. While the magazine is accepting student-written fiction and poetry, it also has a professional writer and artist section, making it somewhat unique in the world of literary magazines.
The literary editing class is a team of student editors and developers who spend their semesters helping put out editions of the Mistake House. Ryan said, “The editors of Mistake House see firsthand just how hungry the world is for good writing, writing that sings and “feeds the soul”… Our magazine has the capacity to bring such writing not just to Principia but, because we’re an online journal, to the world.”