Under the Sun journal produced at TTU consistently earns national recognition

When it was first published 11 years ago, it was only the second literary journal in the country devoted exclusively to creative non-fiction, and one of its essays was featured in Haughton Mifflin’s Best American Essays annual anthology.

Every year since, at least one essay from Tennessee Tech University’s annual Under the Sun publication has received notable recognition from the definitive anthology, which puts those selections in the same category as others from such distinguished magazines as The New Yorker and Harper’s.

“When it was first created, Under the Sun was a leader in its field, and it continues to be a nationally recognized publication,” said Heidemarie Weidner, editor and professor of writing and composition at TTU.

Under the Sun features writers from all across the country and around the globe, in fact, with submissions coming from English writing authors from as far away as Germany, Hong Kong and the Middle East.

But the acclaimed publication had a humble beginning in the 1995-’96 academic year, as a class project in professor Michael O’Rourke’s art of the essay course.

“There were only six students in that course, but their work was so impressive, I felt it deserved publication,” he said.

With $100 from TTU’s English department and some technical assistance from a few computer-literate students, O’Rourke was able to have two professional-quality copies for each student printed at the university’s Printing Services office.

“I called it Under the Sun in reference to my favorite definition of an essay, which is ‘a short piece of prose in which the writer reveals himself [or herself] in relation to any subject under the sun,’” O’Rourke said.

The publication soon took on a momentum of its own and, while produced at TTU, has no direct funding from the university.

Today, Weidner said she usually receives more than 100 submissions to consider for each edition, which will ultimately include only 20 to 25 essays. Submissions are accepted and read from August through January, and each annual edition is published in mid-summer.

“Creative non-fiction has to have — for me at least — a kind of reflective quality, the ability to juggle many ‘balls’ of a story or thought,” she said. “I like those essays best that take unexpected shifts and turns and show connections between events and ideas I had not thought of but find surprisingly satisfying and right.”

The publication’s editorial board includes Suellen Alfred, Ann Lewald, Linda Null and Andy Smith, and its technical editor is Glenda Pharris. Its cover design is by Christopher M. Schmidt, and web site design is by Alexis Twyman, maintained by Erin Phillips.

“I appreciate the assistance each of these people continue to voluntarily provide, and I appreciate the support of Arts and Sciences Dean Jack Armistead and English chairperson Kurt Eisen as well,” she said. “Without them, Under the Sun could not exist and be the successful publication that it is.”

Among the 23 titles selected for publication in the current edition are Jennifer Brice’s “In Praise of the Perfect White T-shirt,” Anne Canavan’s “Packrat,” and Randy Cunningham’s “Sledding in the Dark.” The subject matter of each essay in the volume varies from serious to light-hearted.

An excellent holiday gift for the avid reader on everyone’s list, Under the Sun is available for $12 per copy, which includes shipping and handling.

For ordering information, submission guidelines and sample contracts, log on to the Under the Sun web site at www.tntech.edu/underthesun.

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