SAU Buzz

Literary and Visual Arts at St. Ambrose

by Ryan Sandness
Posted on Oct 04, 2018

QUERCUS – A staple of the creative arts here at St. Ambrose


When Carl Herzig arrived in the English department of St. Ambrose University, he realized something was missing, and not just the sun-filled beaches he left behind in California, but a form of creative expression in terms of a literary magazine.


Herzig first started at St. Ambrose in the fall of 1990. When he realized that he wanted to create a literary magazine, he asked around from department to department to fund the first edition.


The first volume was published at a very basic level at a regional print shop out of Dubuque, IA, something which is still done to this day. As new editions came out, more and more submissions were able to be added.


When deciding upon a name for the magazine, Carl and his team wanted something “quirky and interesting, yet a characteristic of the area.”


He then sent out a call around campus for ideas, and a biology professor came up with the eventual name, Quercus. The name Quercus comes from the genus of the oak tree, something predominant in the Midwest and on St. Ambrose’s campus.


The first volume of Quercus came out in 1992, something Herzig was completely behind. He was amazed at the visual and written arts of the university but had his own vision in mind.


“There wasn’t a full outlet for creative expression in terms of publication,” Herzig explained.


Quercus has two main student-run editing teams, one for artwork and the other for writing. Both teams get upwards of one hundred submissions each. Editors for writing meet and read submissions anonymously five to six times a year. Those editing for artwork go through the same process, but meet once a year.


“Everyone comes to the meetings with an open mind. Sometimes I feel a certain way about a piece, then leave a meeting feeling completely different about it,” Herzig said. “It just takes time to really learn about a piece then to decide and discuss it.”


Herzig said that in terms of submissions, they are not looking to meet certain quotas.


“…it’s not a container that needs filling. It truly varies, but we decide upon a standard at the meetings. There is not a quota that needs to be met. Everything we feel that needs to be published is published. We don’t do it to fill a length requirement nor do we not include something because of space,” Herzig explained.


“There was a base we established, and every year we try to grow, expand, and improve. The more submissions with self-editing and a self-conscious state of mind, the better. The big push as part of Quercus is to encourage students to submit their work.”


Quercus is published every year in late April. During the Tuesday of the last week of classes, the submitted pieces are read or displayed by students, faculty, staff, and alumni at an Arts show in the Lewis board room in Ambrose Hall.