Many Atlanta residents are not familiar with The Wren’s Nest, but many people are familiar with the Brer Rabbit stories. The Wren’s Nest was home to the author of the Brer Rabbit stories, Joel Chandler Harris, and it’s now the oldest house museum in Atlanta. Along with tours and special events, The Wren’s Nest also offers a summer publishing program for high school students – the final project for the students is to publish a literary journal. Gas South has teamed up with the nonprofit to help raise awareness about the program and to help fund the journal. We recently spoke with Sue Gilman, executive director of The Wren’s Nest, about the 2015 Optimist Review high school publishing program.
What is your organization’s mission?
The Wren’s Nest serves as an educational resource for the community, the greater Atlanta area and visitors from around the globe by preserving the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris and the heritage of African American folklore through storytelling, tours and student publishing.
Is there an upcoming initiative you would like to highlight?
Our Optimist Review high school publishing program has produced a literary journal for the past eight summers. This summer we have eight editors in the program who come to the Wren’s Nest twice a week to learn about the publishing industry from professional writers, designers and editors. The students are also exposed to businesses, careers and behind-the-scene tours at local organizations such as CNN, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creative Loafing.
This summer students are from Woodward Academy, Wesleyan School, DeKalb School of the Arts, Decatur High School, Dunwoody High School, Carver Early College, Georgia Cyber Academy and Riverwood International Charter School. The editors have already determined the title of the journal, Even After This Brief Eternity, which will focus on human rights and social justice issues. In order to be published in the journal, high school students from around Metro Atlanta submit fiction, nonfiction, poetry and visual art pieces. The final product is edited and curated by our student editors and then released at the Decatur Book Festival on Labor Day weekend. Participation in the program is free, but very competitive, for editors and contributors.
Why is your mission important?
Students who have been editors in this program have gone on to pursue English, journalism and creative writing degrees at Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Brown, Harvard, Kenyon and Wake Forest. A handful of our first year editors recently graduated from Emory and the University of Georgia and now work in the Atlanta area.
Kalin Thomas, program director added, "It’s a joy to work with such intelligent and creative young students. They all have excellent writing and leadership experience, from editing their school journal to writing for the yearbook. When I sit and listen to them brainstorm and debate the issues of today, it gives me confidence that our future is in good hands.”
How has Gas South’s partnership benefitted your organization?
Gas South’s financial support allowed the Wren’s Nest to extend the program for another summer. The sponsorship covered the cost of printing the journal and helped us to recruit and secure a great team of student editors, from a variety of high schools, to run the project.