When Erik Moellering, an instructor in the A-B Tech English department, came on full time in 2009, the school lacked a feature common to four-year colleges and universities: a student-produced literary magazine. “Literary journals at community colleges are few and far between,” he says, and although A-B Tech had produced such journals sporadically — primarily as faculty endeavors — none had been published since the 1990s.
Moellering, however, wanted A-B Tech students to have a vehicle for their writing. So starting a literary magazine became his first priority. In 2011, he recruited two student editors, and The Rhapsodist — which celebrates the release of its fourth issue with a reading at Malaprop’s on Friday, April 24 — was born.
But there’s more to The Rhapsodist than just getting student submissions (and some faculty offerings) into print. Moellering lists the skills that students acquire producing the journal: layout and graphic design, dealing with printers and publicizing the magazine (including producing videos for airing on the A-B Tech student channel), among other things. “It’s practically an internship,” he says.
In addition, the staff has made innovative use of online tools to routinize the submissions process. Shortly after the deadline for submissions, faculty judges receive a single email with a link to a spreadsheet that in turn contains links to each submission — and provides space to record feedback. The editors use this system, too (though they do meet face to face to hash out what to include in the final issue), and in A-B Tech’s fast-changing environment, this administrative template adds stability to an undertaking that might otherwise require each new set of editors to reinvent the wheel.
The devotion of the student staff has also helped the journal survive the constant turnover of a two-year college. Two early editors, Barbie Byrd and Jeff Horner, have moved on to UNC Asheville, but they still serve as mentors for the current staff. The Rhapsodist has drawn boosters from the wider community as well, attracting volunteers from outside the school and from a wide range of A-B Tech faculty.
According to the students, the journal inspires this commitment for two main reasons. “For me, The Rhapsodist was superimportant,” says Grey LaJoie, one of this year’s editors. “It was a resource for me to recognize that the arts could be valued.” Byrd seconds this. Noting a lack of attention to the arts on campus, she says, “The Rhapsodist tries to fill that hole.”
But the journal also serves a larger function. “We say that we’re the literary voice of A-B Tech,” Byrd says, adding that the journal strives to represent the diversity among the school’s students. Oskar Gambony, another of this year’s editors, elaborates. “The Rhapsodist exemplifies something that’s unique about A-B Tech that I picked up on when I started going here — all the different ages and backgrounds of people at a community college.”
As they look to the future, the editors emphasize this potential to build community out of A-B Tech’s diversity. Byrd says, “I think the community that we’ve created is hugely important. Part of the problem that we have is that it’s such a revolving door on campus. So we want to see people know that we’re there and get involved.”
Moellering concurs. “I love teaching here primarily because of the diversity,” he says, and while life at a community college means a lot of students are in transition, he’s seen The Rhapsodist provide an element of permanence. “There’s a kind of hereditary thing with it,” he says, “an inheritance, a tradition. It’s been fascinating to witness that.”
WHAT: Student poetry and short fiction reading, featuring selections from The Rhapsodist
WHERE: Malaprop’s, malaprops.com
WHEN: Friday, April 24, at 3:30 p.m. Free.