Tennessee Tech literary journal among 'Best American Essays'

It's almost like hitting a home run on your first time up to bat. One of the twelve essays in the first national edition of "Under the Sun," Tennessee Technological University's literary journal devoted to essays, will be included in the 1997 edition of "Best American Essays."

Lukie Chapman Reilly's essay, "My Father," appeared this fall in "Under the Sun," a journal devoted exclusively to creative, non-fiction essays and edited by Tennessee Tech assistant professor of English Michael O'Rourke. The editors of "Best American Essays" review hundreds of magazines and journals each year to select about 20 outstanding pieces for the annual series.

Robert Atwan edits the series with this year's guest editor Ian Frazier. In past years, the collection has included works by such notable authors as John Updike, Annie Dillard and Tom Wolfe. The essays often come from such magazines as "The New Yorker," "Harper's," "Atlantic Monthly" and "Esquire" and from established literary journals such as "Southern Review."

"This is the highest honor that 'Under the Sun' could possibly have received," says O'Rourke. "For a magazine that we are putting together on a shoestring budget - and a magazine this completely brand new -- recognition of this magnitude is something just short of phenomenal."

When O'Rourke sent "Under the Sun" for consideration for "Best American Essays," he wrote, "Thank you for looking past the fact that we still have a way to go, cosmetically, and just reading what we printed." Not only did Atwan and Frazier do just that, but they plan to include O'Rourke's comment in the foreword to the collection. "I thought it would be encouraging for lots of writers writing for the smaller literary journals," said Atwan.

Of the essay "My Father," O'Rourke says, "It's a terrific piece. It's long and slow and rich and, finally, very powerful. It moved me to the bones and still does."

Reilly grew up in New York City and studied art at the Art Students League, the National Academy of Fine Art and the Pratt Institute. She exhibited and sold her paintings all over the country before turning to writing in recent years.

"She's got a large store of life experience behind her and is obviously very intelligent, so it doesn't surprise me that she writes so well as a 'new' writer," says O'Rourke. O'Rourke selected Reilly's essay from a pool of about 300 submitted to "Under the Sun."

O'Rourke notes that most literary magazines are devoted to poetry or fiction, and almost no other journal is devoted to this kind of essay -- works with a personal, narrative tone.

The second issue of "Under the Sun" is in production and should be available by this summer. Submissions are welcome from August through January.

Copies of "Under the Sun" are available at Cookeville area bookstores or by sending $6 to Editors, Under the Sun, Department of English, Box 5053, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN, 38505. For more information, call O'Rourke at 615/372-6118 or e-mail him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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