Art by Trenyce Tong
Sienna Solstice is an anti-disciplinary and multimedia journal that "integrates art and science into one cohesive publication". From photography to creative writing, scientific research publications to music compositions, this journal and its inaugural issue have challenged the dominant narrative that the arts and sciences are mutually exclusive. I spoke with editors Lea Wang-Tomic, Rukan Saif, Stephanie Zhang, and Kate Hayashi, who collectively discussed their vision for Sienna Solstice.
Jonathan Truong: Describe your journal in 10 words or less.
Sienna Solstice: An antidisciplinary project to dissolve lines between art and science.
JT: What differentiates Sienna Solstice from other literary magazines? Can you explain the “antidisciplinary” nature of your publication?
SS: Our coining of the term “antidisciplinary” is actually a rejection of the word
“interdisciplinary”. We believe that no system of thought can contain the fullness of the human experience; in this manner, disciplines are not only interconnected, but interdependent. There is no singular foundation that everything connects to; everything deserves to be in the same space — as a result our journal issues are specifically designed such that each page will have at least two different genres all speaking the same truth.
JT: Tell us about the name of your journal.
SS: The name of our journal took on many identities until we created Sienna Solstice. After many “branding” and “rebranding” sessions, we finally decided on Sienna Solstice after the word solstice was suggested during one of our early meetings to describe our mission statement. To us, solstice represents a union between the seasons, representing change and rebirth and sienna as the present dark and earthy toned colors that ground us all. And thus, Sienna Solstice was invented to symbolize the connection between the arts and sciences.
JT: In your eyes, where is the middleground whereby art and science intersect? How do you reconcile the empirical with the creative?
SS: The perceived dichotomy between art and science is one forced by those looking for categorization. Art and science are simply two mediums that explore truth and the human condition. To paraphrase Paul Kalanithi, human knowledge is never contained in one person or disciplines. Art and science are twins, both achieving the same mission of trying to understand the world and humanity in a deeper way. Thus there lies no need to reconcile the empirical with the creative.
JT: According to your website, Sienna Solstice is open to a highly diversified list of mediums, including (but not limited to) scientific research, creative writing, films, music compositions, and podcasts. What do you look for in selecting pieces for your publication? Is there a common thread between accepted submissions irrespective of discipline?
SS: Each issue we loosely identify a theme that allows us as a team to create a unified issue identity and vision. With each submission, we prioritize quality work while also taking into consideration how that piece fits into our vision and integrates with other work we are accepting in our journal for our themed spreads.
JT: As a fellow unaffiliated and youth-driven publication, do you find it harder to earn the respect of older writers?
SS: There aren’t many differences between the feedback we’ve received from younger and more experienced artists. Most people don’t see us for our age—they see us for our passion and our mission.
JT: Talk to me about the process of organizing pieces for your inaugural issue. Is there any cross-collaboration between creators before submitting, or do you select which pieces will appear on the same page? If the latter, how do you make this decision?
SS: Each submission is entirely individual and the pieces are arranged on each spread by an editor. We are often lucky enough that pieces overlap in theme, topic, or even color, but most importantly, how it makes the reader think and feel. We then tie this all together with the actual design of the spread (i.e. custom graphics, spread design, layout, colors, etc.)
JT: What is the role of the author’s biography in your magazine? Do you read blindly? Do you solicit submissions from established writers?
SS: The role of the biography is simply to give our journal readers background into the people who have created their art and are featured in our issues. As editors, we only read the authors’ biographies for the sake of ensuring they are within the word limit. We more or less read the submissions blindly, other than of course seeing the name of the author attached to the submission. I wouldn’t say that we solicit submissions specifically from “established” writers; rather, sometimes we find creators whose art or writing catches our eye for fitting the mission of our journal (being antidisciplinary in nature) or just for being of high quality/caliber. (i.e. for our keynote speaker)
JT: What creatives (artists, writers, scientists, or other) do you look to for inspiration?
SS: Paul Kalanithi, Jericho Brown, Joy Harjo, Maya Angelou, Rene Magritte, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Zora Neale Hurston, Fatimah Asghar, Hasan Minhaj (yardy know), Dr. Christine George, James P Allison, Milan Kundera, Daphne Koller, and the other members of Sienna Solstice.
JT: Lastly, what advice do you give to emerging young writers?
SS: "Don’t be intimidated by your lack of experience; open yourself up to learning from every opportunity, and don’t be too afraid to strive for something that seems out of reach." - Kate
"Your first drafts don’t have to be coherent or beautiful. Write your thoughts on paper, and they will turn into what they need to be. And do what sets your soul on fire!" -Rukan
"The only person you ever need to write for is yourself. Speak when you are ready." -Lea
"If you have an idea, turn it into a project. Write it down, call a friend, and start working on it. That is the only way we can truly create and build something that inspires our soul." -Stephanie
Kate Hayashi, Rukan Saif, Lea Wang-Tomic, Stephanie Zhang
More information on Sienna Solstice can be found at https://www.siennasolstice.com.