“We want to create that opportunity for students to get their work published because that's not something that a lot of students can necessarily do in an easy way,” Griffin said. “So because we have that ability and power, we want to make that possible for as many people as we can.”
Before her work was published by the editorial board, Campagna, a sophomore, submitted her work to several magazines and was rejected every time. She said her publication in the short story dispensers helped her get over those rejections.
“I know that when my work got selected, I thought, 'Oh, they think I'm a good writer and they like what I've written,’” Campagna said. “That encourages me to write even more.”
More than 75,000 stories have been printed from the machines since April 2019. Arts Everywhere Fellow Moira Marquis, a doctoral candidate in the English and Comparative Literature Department who oversees the editorial board, said the increased visibility the program provides gives students a better chance at careers in the writing or publishing industries.
“It's difficult to get a foothold in creative writing and all kinds of publishing,” Marquis said. “A local author that would get published in the short story dispensers then has a serious springboard to go and talk to literary agents, pursue contracts outside of that and jump start somebody's career.”
For students who may just be getting started with creative writing or don’t have a full story prepared to submit, there is another way to be published in the machines — thanks to a contest on the initiative’s Twitter account.
Participants are encouraged to tweet their best six-word short story using the hashtag #ShortStoryUNC. The best stories will be published in the dispensers.
“We were inspired by Hemingway’s ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn,’” Griffin said.
Campagna said she was partially driven to submit her stories after seeing how a former student left behind a piece of her legacy in the dispensers. She hopes other students do the same.
“A couple of months ago, I went up to the short story dispenser,” Campagna said. “I received a short story from someone who went to Carolina and I thought that was so cool. Even after they graduated, they had been able to leave their mark on the University. I did have a fleeting thought of, 'What if my work was someday in here?' You just have to realize that anything can be an opportunity for you if you go after it.”