A new reading series gives Mercer University students, faculty and staff the opportunity to share their creative work and hear from visiting authors.
On Nov. 16, the Third Thursday Reading Series will feature seniors Eliza Moore and Bryana Whitaker, who will discuss projects they are working on for their honors theses. The event will conclude with an open mic for interested students. It will be held at 6 p.m. in Connell Student Center, Conference Room 1.
“The initial idea for the Third Thursday Reading Series was to feature the literary arts in some way and all the different but fascinating things that members of our community are up to, including students,” said Dr. James Davis May, director and assistant professor of creative writing at Mercer.
Moore, an English and journalism double-major, is writing a poetry chapbook for her honors project. Her poems explore themes of religion, the body and femininity, specifically in relation to the creation story in the Bible’s Book of Genesis.
“I have always been fascinated by religion, so religious themes have come up in my poems over the years,” said Moore, who has tentatively titled her chapbook “Letters to Eve.” “I noticed that I kept going back to this central metaphor of Eve and creation stories, so I decided to keep building on that and exploring those themes.”
Whitaker, a creative writing and neuroscience double-major, is writing a collection of short stories for her honors project. The stories explore feelings of alienation and how inclusivity can be found in unlikely places.
The main character is a teen girl who feels like she doesn’t belong. While on a walk, she comes upon an old house.
“When she gets close enough to the house, it’s almost like the house possesses her and shows her the memories of people who have lived in the house who have experienced similar situations to her,” said Whitaker, who is experimenting with Southern gothic literary techniques. “And so, through this very supernatural interaction, this young girl is able to realize she is not alone.”
The first Third Thursday Reading Series on Sept. 21 featured Mercer professors, who spoke on the topic of “The Making of a Book.”
Dr. Gordon Johnston, professor of creative writing, discussed his fiction project Seven Islands of the Ocmulgee: River Stories. Dr. Elizabeth Harper, Griffith Chair and associate professor of English, shared her experience viewing a medieval book in England. Chelsea Rathburn, associate professor of creative writing and Poet Laureate of Georgia, discussed her process of assembling a poetry manuscript and shared new poems from her work in progress, Lost Houses. Cameron Kunzelman, assistant professor of communication studies, discussed his book analyzing the Assassin’s Creed video game.
“When a faculty member publishes a book, students get to see the end product if they come to the book launch or see the title in a bookstore, but they never get to see us struggle with the same obstacles that they often have to navigate around in class,” Dr. May said.
The reading series allows them to experience that, he said.
The second event on Oct. 19 featured award-winning author Gwen E. Kirby, who visited from the University of the South, where she teaches creative writing and is associate director of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Kirby read three short stories and discussed her writing process in a question and answer session.
Moore said she enjoyed getting to meet Kirby in person and ask questions about her work.
“Also, I like that she said that you don’t have to worry about producing quality work until you’re 30 because it takes a little bit of the pressure off,” she said. “I feel like college students trying to write feel like it has to be perfect, and they have to publish immediately, but that’s not necessarily the case. Writing is a work in progress.”
Whitaker said events like the Third Thursday Reading Series give her the courage to continue writing.
“As a writer, these events show me that I’m not alone. Writing can be one of the most awesome things that you can ever do with your time, but it can also be one of the most difficult things for you to do,” she said. “Going to readings like this where you hear other people say, ‘No, I completely understand that. I share your opinions of the subject, but look how amazing it can be,’ it gives you that little light at the end of the tunnel.
“You just keep going. You keep wanting to do more.”
The Third Thursday Reading Series is part of the Mercer Writers’ Hub, a place for writers to come together and exchange ideas, share their work and develop their skills.