Second issue of Tennessee Tech's acclaimed literary journal features local writer

The first issue of Tennessee Technological University's newest literary endeavor, the journal Under the Sun, is a hard act to follow, but editor Michael O'Rourke hopes the second issue meets as appreciative an audience.

The 1997 issue hits the stands a little later this month, and its readership is likely to have high expectations. That's because the inaugural issue, published last summer, contained an essay that went on to win acceptance in Houghton-Mifflin's 1997 Best American Essays. But O'Rourke, assistant professor of English at Tennessee Tech, says he feels good about the follow-up.

"This year's issue is a lot better looking than last year's. Our inaugural was a book that was high quality in content, but not as reader friendly as it might have been. This year's issue is a fully professional-looking publication in every way," says O'Rourke.

"I was very grateful to Robert Atwan, series editor of the annual Best American Essays, for overlooking the fact that our inaugural issue wasn't perfect cosmetically. And I'm still amazed that an essay from our very first, tiny issue is going to appear alongside essays from such powerhouse magazines as The New Yorker and Harper's."

The latest issue of Under the Sun, a journal devoted to informal essays, includes a piece by Baxter resident and Tennessee Tech alumnus Martha Highers. "Under the Sun is a national publication, so we've received submissions from practically every state in the union and several foreign countries. But 'national' also includes Tennessee, and I'm happy to include a Tennessee writer. Highers' piece, 'Father Figure,' is terrific."

Under the Sun occupies a niche shared by few -- if any -- journals in this country. The publication devotes itself to the informal essay.

"There's only one other literary journal that I know of, called Creative Nonfiction, out of Goucher College back East, that has a similar focus, but I think ours is 'purer' because they do interviews and special issues that we decided from the beginning to avoid. We just publish the best informal essays that come into us each year, period.

"Another thing that sets Under the Sun apart is that we publish highly readable, likable stuff, the kind of writing that any intelligent reader should be able to appreciate. Our writers write about everyday concerns, feelings and events that are a part of every person's experience. That's what makes the essay a unique literary form and Under the Sun a unique literary magazine."

Under the Sun, while produced at Tennessee Tech, has no direct funding from the university, and donations, says O'Rourke are more than welcome. Patrons contributing $10 or more will be acknowledged in the next issue.

Under the Sun accepts submissions from August through January. Copies are $6 each and available in the University Bookstore, at BookWorks in downtown Cookeville or by writing to Under the Sun at TTU Box 5053 (please specify issue No.1 or No. 2).