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Faculty Spotlight: Jotham Burrello

November 20, 2012

By Chris Terry (MFA '12)

After 10 years of teaching the research-intensive Fiction Writers and Publishing class at Columbia College Chicago, Jotham Burrello found himself with a stockpile of information and an idea.

“It became apparent that students didn't know where to send their work,” says Burrello. “No one knew anything besides the glossies. I realized it'd be great to give people the resources the students had researched.”

So Burrello worked with Fiction Writing chair Randy Albers to convert a spare office into the Publishing Lab, a student-managed resource center that catalogs information on literary journals, and uses it to help writers find homes for their stories. “We’re trying to get students to use the resources at the college,” says Burrello. “Getting students to communicate, and share their work.”

“The fun part about being in the arts is collaborating with people,” says Burrello, who puts this mantra to work with the Story Week Reader, an annual collection of under-750-word “precise prose.” While the Publishing Lab publishes the SWR, the featured writers hone their stories with student editors. The final product is released every March during Fiction Writing’s Story Week Festival of Writers.

Burrello is no stranger to the publishing world. While getting a Fiction Writing MFA at Columbia College Chicago in the ‘90s, Burrello and a friend started a leisure-centric literary journal called Sport Literate. Since then, Jotham has become a member of the resident faculty at the Yale Summer Writing Conference, and started teaching Fiction Writing courses like Creative Nonfiction, Fiction I, Small Press Publishing, and the market-savvy Fiction Writers and Publishing. He publishes a title a season through his press Elephant Rock Books, including the award-winning short story collection The Temple of Air by Fiction Writing faculty member Patty McNair. All of Burrello’s work has an end product in mind. He says, “The audience cares what comes out of the speaker, what's written on the page or performed on the stage. Artists have to be more goal oriented in that regard.”

Between teaching and publishing, it can be hard to imagine Burrello taking time to even sleep. But, says Burrello, “As an entrepreneur or artist you work on your own terms, but you have to hustle and work hard every day.”