By Branden Hopper
Take a quick look around you the next time you sit down to prepare for class. It’s possible that some of the students surrounding you are published authors. You’ll find them in classes you might expect to, like english, but you’ll also find them in your math, science and even accounting classes.
For 24 years Cuesta College has published a literary journal that showcases the work of student essayists, fiction writers, and poets. In Tellus, released every spring semester, you’ll find the best writing Cuesta students have to offer. You might also find your next favorite poem or short story — it might even have been written by someone you know.
For the last five years, English professors Thomas Patchell and Roland Finger have steered the ship of Tellus as editors and publishers but they are supported by a dedicated crew of faculty that help produce the journal, including other faculty members as well as Cal Poly students.
“For each category we have three faculty judges and they read them all,” Patchell said. “It’s a blind reading and then they pass their choices on to us.”
To ensure the that student submissions are judged objectively the faculty judges read them blindly, meaning that they are unaware of which student wrote the piece they are reading. After the judges have selected and placed the pieces they want to be included in the journal they are given to Patchell and Finger who then take over the publishing duties.
The complete text is then sent to Cal Poly where every year the visual aspects of the journal are designed by a different Cal Poly graphic design major as part of their senior project. Each edition has a different theme and original art, giving them all a distinct aesthetic.
The process is rewarding for both faculty as well as students and having a literary journal that features student authors and is created locally is something that sets Cuesta apart from other community colleges.
“I think it makes us more like a higher institution of learning,” Patchell said. “These are the things you go to college for, really — these are the extras.
Every spring Tellus holds a reading and an awards ceremony to recognize the featured authors. While it used to be held on campus, in recent years the ceremony has been held at various places around town including, Linnaeas cafe, Kreuzburg, Steynberg gallery as well as The Wine Cellar in Morro Bay.
The journal has been a staple of the spring semester for nearly a quarter century and faculty members like Patchell are always excited and often surprised to see what students submit. Submissions come from students from varying majors and often material that is chosen to be published is written by students that had no idea they might have a knack for writing.
“Seeing people who love to write and who are into it and they’re from all majors and different backgrounds and they publish and they’re very excited, Patchell said. “That’s probably what keeps me coming back to do this.”