On April 23, the University of New Mexico Student Publications Board selected senior Sierra Martinez as the new editor-in-chief of literary arts magazine Conceptions Southwest. Martinez brings editorial experience, refined taste and a bold vision for the future to the historic magazine.

Beginning in 1978, Conceptions Southwest is UNM’s premiere annual fine arts and literature magazine that accepts submissions from all members of the UNM community, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni. Conceptions takes submissions in poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, visual art, photography and open media, an open-ended category that ranges from short films to sculptures — anything otherwise difficult to publish.

Martinez, a fifth-year student majoring in English and women, gender and sexuality studies began her time with Conceptions her second year of college, right before the University closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, she has served as a staff member and managing editor on Scribendi, a national fine arts and literature magazine centered out of the UNM Honors College, and as a staff member on 2022’s issue of Conceptions under Editor-in-Chief Zoe Perls.

Her prior experience with Scribendi has been essential in preparing her to edit on the 46th edition of Conceptions, according to Martinez.

“I learned how to be a leader, and I learned how to be a resource to people who weren’t as knowledgeable about the way that certain things work in the publication process,” Martinez said. “Good leadership is giving the people that you’re in charge of the space to cultivate their own skills and their own path forward and to make the experience fun and interesting, even to people who decide this isn’t for them.”

Martinez hopes to expand the reach of the magazine, which has predominantly received more submissions from the undergraduate English department than any other area. 

“There’s a lot of untapped potential across the University. Students, faculty and staff, everyone has their hobbies and their interests that might fall in line with what we do at Conceptions … (I want to) get the word out to the STEM people because, while maybe they’re not pursuing a degree in something relevant to the publication, a lot of them still have interests outside of school, whether that’s art or writing or whatever else,” Martinez said.

Martinez also looks forward to encouraging new staff, welcome from any department, alongside returning staff members, in their UNM publications journey.

“My primary goal is to extend the reach of the magazine, not only in terms of contributions, but also people being interested in participating as staff and future editors. It’s a really great opportunity that people just don’t know about,” Martinez said.

Perls, who has known Martinez since kindergarten and worked above her as editor on both Scribendi and Conceptions, praised her organization, warmth and ability to work with a diverse group of people.

“She has this attention to aesthetic and detail that is very pointed. She has this need to make things beautiful, both in a harmonious and aesthetic sense, but also in a people-existing sense,” Perls said. “She cares a lot about (publishing), and she knows a lot about it … She’ll bring inclusivity and warmth to teaching these skills to a new staff.”

Outside of Conceptions, Martinez is involved at Zimmerman Library and the Arita Porcelain Studio. In her little spare time, she enjoys hanging out with friends and family, specifically her two dogs, Ruby and Blossom, and finding artistic inspiration in her publishing work.

After graduation, Martinez plans on combining her publications experience with her degree in women, gender, and sexuality studies to make the publishing sphere a more equitable space for women and gender-nonconforming artists. Martinez hopes to highlight their work in her piece selection along with other outward advocacy efforts.

Students wishing to get involved with Conceptions Southwest can stay updated by following them on Instagram @conceptions_southwest and keeping an eye out for information regarding the first meeting, staff applications and this year’s submission deadline. Copies of last year’s edition can be found in Marron Hall and the UNM Honors College.

Spenser Willden is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @spenserwillden