Clovis Resident revives literary journal: The Story behind The San Joaquin Review’s resurgence

“The editorial team behind the San Joaquin Review celebrates a successful relaunch alongside the four curated readers for the event.” “From left to right – Joseph LeForge. Dawn Parker, Katie Quigley, Haley McNeely, Taylor Seals, Allyssa Lucero, Brandon Xiong, Madylin Garcia, Ellis Brewer, and Daniel Celaya. (Photo Steven Sandage, Clovis Roundup)

May 11, 2024 – Established back in 1963, the San Joaquin Review is an annually published literary journal featuring the poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and visual art of Fresno State students. Serving as editors and editorial assistants, students are also responsible for all phases of creating the journal–from selecting the work to producing the final publication. The journal went on hiatus in 2020, another victim of the pandemic.

Now, in a cozy corner of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Student Union at Fresno State University, the air hums with anticipation for the revival of the beloved literary journal. Senior and Clovis resident Haley McNeely sits poised alongside her team of editors for the SJR. With an air of professional warmth, she adjusts her glasses, exuding confidence and sincerity in equal measure.

Room 207 comes alive with over sixty eager souls, united by a shared love for literature. Professors, students, friends, and family members converge, eager to witness the SJR come back to life. This afternoon, as the relaunch party unfolds, McNeely’s eyes sweep over the crowd with contentment, her gaze lingering on her team of editors with gratitude.

Four chosen voices will take center stage, each one a student at Fresno State and each one breathing life into the pages of the San Joaquin Review: Daniel Celaya’s captivating fiction, Ellis Brewer’s resonating creative non-fiction, and Madylin Garcia and Allyssa Lucero’s stirring stanzas of poetry.

In a candid conversation the day prior to the event, McNeely reflects on her journey from Clovis East High School. “Being from Clovis and coming to Fresno State…has really helped me gain an appreciation for Fresno and Clovis writers,” she shares, a sense of pride evident in her voice.

As the editor-in-chief of the San Joaquin Review, McNeely’s zeal for the arts knows no bounds. She has taken on dance classes, featured roles, and ensemble roles in multiple Fresno State theatrical presentations, including “4,000 Miles” and “Comedy of Errors.” Now, in her final semester, she leads the relaunch of the literary journal. “I love the arts,” she confesses, a spark of enthusiasm lighting up her eyes. “I’ve just been trying to be as involved as possible without losing any sanity.”

It was with the help of her friend Mia Hernandez that McNeely embarked on the ambitious journey to revive the San Joaquin Review after three years of hiatus. “I have to give credit where credit is due,” McNeely acknowledges, gratitude coloring her tone. “We wanted to bring back that general space for all writers.”

The mission of the San Joaquin Review is as diverse and vibrant as the Central Valley itself. “It’s a reflection of every identity, every culture, every part of the Central Valley,” McNeely explains, her words resonating with purpose. Indeed, the journal’s mission statement echoes this sentiment, “Our mission is to encourage writers and readers to reflect on and share unique perspectives that examine the society in which they live.”

For McNeely, this moment is the culmination of a journey marked by passion and dedication. “I feel so lucky,” she confides, her gratitude evident. “I am so grateful for all the resources that Fresno State has given me.”

As McNeely prepares to embark on a new chapter of her journey in East Lansing, Michigan, working at another literary journal, her commitment to Clovis remains steadfast. “Honestly, I didn’t grow up anywhere else,” she reflects, a sense of nostalgia coloring her words. “This is where my roots are.”

As the first reader of the afternoon thanks the audience, returning to their seat amidst a beautiful tambour of applause, McNeely’s gaze lingers on the gathering, a smile playing at the corners of her lips. She helped revive not just a literary journal, but a home – a place where writers of all backgrounds can come together to celebrate the power of storytelling.

McNeely’s accomplishments serve as a reminder that Clovis is more than just a town; it’s a wellspring of talent and ambition. Her story is our story, echoing the spirit of independent perseverance that defines Clovis.