This is the sixth in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

The power of The Magazine

By Brekke Ferguson

We’ve strived to finish our articles week after week, some of us finishing them sooner than others. Yet, what was in it for us? Aside from a grade, that is. Well, the chance to see our name in print is something that many of us have wanted to see, but never knew where to start.

That was the business of the Literary Nonfiction class this semester. The business of writing feature articles. As a part of the Kennesaw State University’s website, we were giving the chance to have our articles posted issue by issue.

However, what was this publication? The Magazine went live for the first time on November 18. It featured articles on multiple topics, offering something for nearly every reader. To date, issues two and three are also online, giving an even wider variety of topics for readers everywhere.

On the KSU campus, while there are already student publications, there are not online publications like this one. The Sentinel is in newspaper format, and many people who can write simply do not send their stories toSentinel staffers. Talon is the KSU feature magazine, a perfect place for publishing any articles our editorial staff wrote this semester, or any other articles you might want to write.

Who are we, this editorial staff of The Magazine? We’re mothers, fathers, students, businessmen, businesswomen, teachers, and much more. Some of us have no writing experience, while others have been writing for years. Cheryl said, “I’ve been published in hundreds of magazines and newspapers in the past ten years I’ve been writing. The “thrill” of seeing my name in print really has worn off. My desires today are to inform, educate and enthuse someone through my writing. I want to speak to someone’s heart through my writing. If I’ve done that I would feel successful in my writing career.” Rodney, on the other hand, said, “I came back to school because I wanted to have to think and ‘toy’ with writing so I signed up.”

At the beginning of the semester, I had not looked at the course synopsis at the front of the catalog, so I honestly had no expectations. The first night of class, I was absolutely terrified by the sheer amount of deadlines that were on the syllabus. I almost left, but I really did not have that option, so I decided to tough it out. I could do it; it would just take a lot of work (along with the work in my other three classes.) As the semester began, I realized that this class was like none other I had taken.

Because of that, I was curious as to what other editorial board members felt about that. Rodney said that the course load made him “wary.” However, his motivations for taking the class came back to him, “I wondered if I could do it. But again, I wanted to be made to think, so I stayed.”

So, those of us who weren’t completely terrified have stuck it out to the end, and that end is definitely upon us. So what did we gain from this experience? What was it we were supposed to learn? I think Rodney said it the best, in describing how he felt his writing had improved. “I learned the importance of outlining, of scope and finally I have a better grasp of the meanings of theme and subject.” I also know from our board meetings, that Rodney, like many of us, learned the value of CONTROL!

However, knowing what we learned or what we gained just doesn’t seem to be enough, so I talked to some other KSU students, one of who is Interim Editor of The Sentinel. I asked her several questions, and received very thoughtful and interesting responses. Here are a few pieces of our interview.

Brekke Ferguson: Does the page appeal to you visually?

Kirsten Ott: Yes! I really like the organization of the articles.

BF: Will you go back to read other issues once they are online?

KO: Yes, because I’m always looking for writers for The Sentinel and because I’m interested in what my peers are writing about these days. Tony’s piece on technical writing was very useful for me and I was touched by your piece on sexual assault.

BF: Do you feel this would appeal to KSU students in other classes, this idea of having a place to showcase work they do in a class?

KO: Well, yes and no. I believe this is a great place for students to publish articles on topics that interest them, but aside from feature writing classes, these types of articles aren’t the type of papers assigned by English teachers. As far as writing assignments in classes of other majors, I don’t know what type of papers are assigned.

I found this to be an interview that brought hope to budding writers in this class, and also to the concept of the web page itself. I asked Cheryl if she felt that all teachers should implement web pages to showcase students’ work, and she brought up a very good point. “I’m also taking a news reporting class where this very desire was discussed. I think what people want to do is to learn and read writing produced by other people in the class. This can be accomplished by critique groups. Having each professor produce a web site is pretty intensive.” However, Kirsten did say this, “Depends on the class – if it is feature writing, creative writing, writing for the web or careers in writing, I think it would be very valuable for the teachers to introduce this site to their class and get their students to write for it.”

So, the consensus is that this class is definitely a keeper, especially with the “real-world” methods that Jim taught. Rodney and Cheryl both mentioned this in their interviews. Rodney said, “I’ve gained insight into myself and others. I now have a better understanding of some of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve enjoyed the class, though I procrastinate, and believe [Jim Messenger] really had our best interests at heart – i.e. his ‘real world’ approach. Life, as you know, isn’t always easy. It marches on in spite of our wishes.” Cheryl said, “I think the English Department should continuously challenge students to operate in the ‘real world.’ This course challenges students to prepare for publication, so I feel it should be a regular offering.”

No matter how we began the class, those of us left stuck it out, and we survived. Now, the real issue is not so much what we learned, but how we use what we learn. As writers, it is now time to strive forward in our endeavors. We need to send stories out for publication, and what better place to start than here on campus with our student publications. After all, starting at home is “keeping it local.”


Brekke Ferguson is an English major at Kennesaw State University and amateur feature writer.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson. All rights reserved.