Photo: Brian Railsback leads a discussion during a creative writing class held recently at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Highlands.
A successful effort involving a group of Highlands residents and the dean of Western Carolina University’s Honors College in organizing a creative writing course in Highlands over the past month has led to excitement about the prospect of WCU offering more courses next year.
Dean Brian Railsback, a published novelist, and the students in his creative writing class held their last class meeting Tuesday, June 26. The group met for four successive Tuesday afternoons at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation to work on improving the students’ writing prowess.
Railsback collaborated with members of the Highlands Advisory Board of WCU’s Honors College in planning the course. The board was organized in 2005, and in addition to serving as mentors and advisers for students enrolled in the Honors College, members are working to strengthen ties between the town and university, and to increase educational opportunities for Highlands citizens.
Railsback said he was impressed by the abilities of the 12 students who signed up for the non-credit course, which was administered through WCU’s Division of Educational Outreach. When the course was announced, it filled up immediately and there was a waiting list of others who wanted to take it.
“We had a great variety of writers in the class, from people just starting out to seasoned professionals,” he said. “I was impressed by the collective knowledge of the group, their enthusiasm, and the subjects they chose to write about drawn from tremendous life experience.”
Student Anne Doggett of Highlands said she enjoyed the course and felt that it made her a better writer, and she believes the other students’ experiences were the same. Doggett formerly taught creative writing to college freshmen. A writer of humorous essays, she said she has only recently begun a serious effort to get those essays published.
Advisory board member Dr. Mark Whitehead, a retired urologist, said Highlands is particularly suited for academic offerings such as the creative writing course because the town’s year-round population is increasing and the Highlands community blossoms to about 30,000 residents during the summer. Many of those summer residents are very active older adults who enjoy learning, Whitehead said.
“One of the interests of the board is to have more in-depth courses taught in Highlands, with the possibility of including courses for college credit,” he said. “After the success of the creative writing course, it is hoped that WCU can provide three or four courses on popular topics next year. We hope to get input regarding desired subject matter and format from citizens of the Highlands community.”
In addition to Mark Whitehead, the Highlands Advisory Board of WCU’s Honors College includes Judy Brinson, Carole Light, William Martin, Jack Miller, Hugh Normile, Everett J. Tarbox Jr., Sally Wallace, William Wallace, Kathy Whitehead and Glenda Zahner.
For more information about the advisory board’s work with WCU’s Honors College and efforts in Highlands, contact Whitehead at (828) 526-5370 or Railsback at (828) 227-2101.