From City Times - April 19-May 9 2005

   Culture Soup

City College Literary Press Dedicated to Local Writers

by Jordan Banks

           The best-kept secret at City College is its progressive literary community. A lot of people around campus have no idea that City College is home to San Diego’s only literary press dedicated to publishing local writers.

            In 2003, some of the faculty editors of City Works, the college’s literary journal, saw a need in San Diego for a non-profit vehicle to give local writers a chance to be free from the narrow bottom line and exclusionary ethos of academic and corporate presses. So, with a do-it-yourself attitude, a group of City College faculty along with writers and arts supporters from all over the region came together to form the San Diego Writers Collective.

            With no institutional funding from City College, the Collective opened a non-profit account at the San Diego City College Foundation and began raising funds. In 2004, the venture went in a solid direction when the American Federation of Teachers matched the Collective’s initial seed money. Later that year, Jazz 88 (KSDS 88.3) decided to become a major contributing sponsor. Out of these crucial ingredients came City Works Press, committed to promoting innovative and ethnically diverse local writing, according to their mission statement.

            There are far too many people contributing time and money to list them all. But a few recognizable names from around the campus are Chris Baron, Nancy Cary, Gwyn Enright, Hector Martinez, Donna Watson and Jim Miller. They comprise the City College creative writing faculty, who also produce the literary journal each spring with the English 249 creative writing class.

            Since all revenue generated from sales goes directly back in to subsequent projects, “no one’s making any money,” Miller said, adding that the rewards are purely personal satisfaction of cultural growth in San Diego. 

            “We want a modest literary press that focuses on City College students and local writers to give a non-postcard image of San Diego,” Miller said. “The grit and the glory.” 

            According to Miller, the purpose of City Works Press is not only to publish first chapbooks (a pamphlet-sized collection of creative writing about 20-40 pages) by City College students, but also novels, creative non-fiction and collections of short fiction and poetry by local professional writers.

            The deadline for the annual student chapbook contest was in December. The contest’s first winner was Luis Omar Lopez, who was honored at this years City Works reading on April 23.

            Next up for the press is the Ben Reitman Award. This is a cross-genre competition for emerging writers who have not yet been published. The winner of the award gets up to 200 pages of their poetry, fiction or non-fiction published and distributed with an initial 500-1,000 copy run. The deadline to submit entries for the Reitman Award is June 1.

Another goal of the press is to attract professional writers with some notoriety from around the country to come in and talk to classes and teach their own work.

 “We want to bring those voices to campus, let them know it doesn’t always have to be a four year college (they speak at),” Miller said, adding that he wants to get a real literary stew going at City College.

            The whole endeavor is student and writer centered and all City Works Press writers maintain the rights to their work. 













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