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Farewell to the First Press Reading Series and Chapbook Publication Programs

The close of the 2024 school year also sees the termination of two pathbreaking campus literary programs, in addition to Verse Come, Verse Serve: The First Press Reading Series and the Chapbook Publication Program (formerly “Writ in the Whit”).

The First Press Reading Series is MORIA Literary Magazine’s flagship event. Founded in 2017 by writing professor Dr. Linda Dove, MORIA is Woodbury University’s national literary magazine and one of the most important class offerings on campus, providing students with a holistic understanding of the publishing process. The magazine’s original student editors chose the name “First Press” for the reading series to complement the meaning of the term “the Moria,” which is the ancient olive tree planted on the Acropolis by Athena, the goddess of wisdom. This symbol of learning and collaboration was also chosen to recognize our campus olive trees, which are the remaining fragments of eighteenth-century rancho orchards. The term “first press” refers to the oil extraction of the olive harvest by processing the fruit in screw or hydraulic presses. The paste was subjected to increasingly high pressures with subsequent degradation in oil’s flavor of the oil. Thus, the “first press” of oil was considered the most flavorful and desirable.

Dr. Dove envisioned the reading series as a way to bring nationally recognized poets and writers to campus to interact with Woodbury’s students through readings, discussions, book signings, and workshops. Originally produced four times a year and, more recently, just twice a year, the series resulted in 26 events across its seven years and hosted over 33 award-winning poets and writers. The First Press Reading Series gave students an opportunity to attend workshops with these nationally recognized writers and read their own work in an open mic, alongside the professionals. The student editors also interviewed the writers and reviewed their books, which resulted in dozens of student essays published on MORIA’s sister-site, ATHENA, and enabled many students to become published authors for the first time.

This year also sees the termination of the Chapbook Publication Program. Started by Dr. Linda Dove in 2018, the program led to eight, self-published, perfect-bound chapbooks of poetry by our undergraduate students. Chapbooks are small collections of poems and sometimes fiction, which are more tightly focused than a longer book. Some students completed a chapbook as part of their major thesis work in the Professional Writing program, while others submitted chapbooks for their Honors Program thesis. The process involves working for a year or more creating new work and revising it under the mentorship of a creative writing professor. The final chapbook is a polished set of poems that revolve around a particular theme. In every case, the students had individual pieces in the chapbook published in professional journals and magazines. To end their college career with a published book in hand is an exceptionally unusual achievement for an undergraduate.

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