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Mercer students launch new literary journal

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Students in Mercer University's College of Continuing and Professional Studies Program are putting their literary works on display.

The group of student-writers, mostly non-traditional undergraduate students at Mercer, recently joined forces with the seasoned writers on Mercer's faculty to publish a literary journal. The journal, "Regeneration: A Journal of Creative Writing," debuted late last year.

"It's the first literary journal in the country, I believe, that is produced by non-traditional students," said Karen Lacey, an assistant professor of English at Mercer.

Lacey, who teaches at Mercer's Henry County Regional Academic Center in McDonough, also contributed her own works to the journal.

"I think that it gives great satisfaction to our students who are working very hard on their writing and don't really have a venue to have it shown," she said. "Now they have an outlet for their creativity. They have a place to take their papers and see them published. I'm so proud to be a part of that."

Lacey and Thompson Biggers, a professor of communication at Mercer, helped edit the journal and assisted Associate Professor of English Margaret Eskew, who spearheaded the journal project a year ago in one of her English classes.

Eskew said the drive to publish the journal began during the 2008-09 academic year, with a group of 12 students on the university's Macon campus.

"It was the class' idea," Eskew said. "They accosted me about creating a separate writing class."

Eskew said discussions among students in her English class, about creating the writing class, led to the idea of producing a literary journal -- one almost exclusively geared toward the works of the non-traditional students.

She said the group of students, dubbed the Regeneration Writers, quickly grew to include some 50 students at five different Mercer University locations, including its Henry County Regional Academic Center in McDonough.

Those students contributed about 100 different literary works to the 288-page journal, Eskew said. The journal includes essays, poetry, short stories and art. It also features works by Mercer faculty and staff members, and words from Mercer Chancellor R. Kirby Godsey.

"This book is a landmark publication in undergraduate, adult education," Eskew said. "It is the first journal produced by undergraduate adult learners in the United States, and we are extremely proud of that. We're also very proud of this work because it features a diversity of voices and it has told the story of adult students who come to complete their education in a personal and unique way."

Janet Crocker, a student from Warner Robins who graduated in May 2009, more than 30 years after she first began college, said the journal project was a unique writing experience.

"Dr. Eskew pulled talent out of people that they never realized they had," Crocker said. "She renewed a latent interest in people who haven't written in years. She taught us ways to find stories and the importance of creating an effective location to write."

Eskew said the journal has prompted the project organizers to establish the Regeneration Writers Press, to publish forth-coming volumes of the literary journal and other works.

"We didn't set out to create something that was completely new, but when we looked for models to follow, we just couldn't find any," Eskew said.

Priscilla Danheiser, dean of the College of Continuing and Professional Studies at Mercer, said the project is a hallmark for the university.

"This effort supports the commitment of Mercer University to ensuring that all of its graduates are proficient in written communication," Danheiser said. "It has been remarkable to watch these students who, for over one year met with Dr. Eskew on weekends, and often after their evening courses, to write and edit this powerful body of work based on their own life stories."

Students from the Regeneration Writers group will hold readings in Macon, Atlanta, Lithia Springs and McDonough as part of the journal's launch. The group plans to host a reading at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, at 160 Henry Parkway in McDonough, on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m., in the academic center's library. The reading is free and open to the public.