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Exit 7 - New Literary Journal

Exit 7 off Interstate 24 in Paducah is significant to West Kentucky Community and Technical College for more than being the path taken from the highway to get to the campus; its also the clever name of the colleges new literary journal that launched its inaugural issue this month.

Exit 7: A Journal of Literature and Art is an annual collection of poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, and artwork that features established and emerging writers and artists from around the country. Its important for our students to have access to quality, professional work to read and edit, said WKCTC Britton Shurley, creative writing instructor and Exit 7 faculty editor.

Shurley and WKCTC students, who learn to be contributing editors for the journal, solicit work from more established writers and also review any unsolicited submissions the journal receives.

"We might suggest a few changes for a piece of work, but what we mainly do is similar to compiling entries for an anthology," said Shurley. "The work that strikes us most deeply makes it into each issue."

Shurley said the students use knowledge learned in introduction to literature and creative writing classes to recognize a good poem or piece of prose.

Current and former WKCTC students Alexis Jones, Tana Williamson, Matthew Curtis, Melanie Reason, Dennis Sharpe and Emily Sutton were contributing editors for the inaugural edition.

David Atherton, 35, of Graves County is one of the five new student editors for the next edition of Exit 7, and he is finally moving toward a life goal. Atherton said he wanted to be a writer and editor for over 20 years, but had to put aside his dream for a different kind of job.

"I just let life slip away, but when I got to WKCTC I knew it wasnt too late," Atherton said.

Last semester he completed Introduction to Literature, taught by English Coordinator and Exit 7 supporter Kim Russell; Atherton is currently enrolled in Shurley's creative writing class. Courses like Shurley's and Russell's teach several of the concepts and techniques needed to be a good editor.

"You don't always know at first why you like something, but you can use the literary skills you learn in class to critique other writers and try to choose the best work for the journal," said Atherton.

Princeton resident Tana Williamson, 22, is bringing her editing experience back to Exit 7. She began with a creative writing course, and then took an independent study class with Shurley before graduating from WKCTC in December 2011. She wanted to leave something behind for other students.

"I begged him (Shurley) to let me write a final paper so he could show other students how much I enjoyed his class. We learned to dig into all art forms and to really appreciate the creativity and hard work of visual and literary artists," said Williamson. She now works in the colleges Matheson Library, and with David Atherton, Danielle Fairfield, Sylvia Hamlin and Sarah Galloway, rounds out the Exit 7 team who will be editing the next edition of the journal.

Many people helped make the Exit 7 vision become a reality and Shurley is grateful for their support.

"I am so thrilled to be a part of such an interdisciplinary project that has produced a high quality, impressive journal. But I would like to thank Dr. Barbara Veazey (WKCTC president) for her constant encouragement and the Paducah Junior College Foundation for funding this project," Shurley said.

Russell agreed. "Exit 7 is another endeavor the college has explored to make us one of the top five community colleges in the nation," she said.

Copies of the first Exit 7 journal are available. Prices, subscription and submission information can be found on WKCTC's website. Anyone who is interested in purchasing the journal or any student who wants to become an editor can contact Britton Shurley at britton.shurley@kctcs.edu or 270-534-3242.

Atherton said the editors will continue to work hard to make upcoming editions as good as the first. "We have to do a great job with Exit 7," he said. "Not just for us, but for future students."