Audrey Love

A handful of upperclassmen in Eastern Oregon University’s English/writing department have taken advantage of a unique opportunity. Students enrolled in Writing 351: Professional Editing and Publishing were handed the reins in constructing the late Thomas Madden’s posthumous volume of poetry as this semester’s sole curriculum.

“I think everyone has a lot of pride in their work and in what we’re doing,” said Kaley Cope, senior English/writing major. “Just (being) involved is a great honor, seeing a real outcome that goes beyond the grade — knowing that what we’re doing is something greater.”

Cope is among the students in EOU Professor David Axelrod’s upper division writing course tasked with editing, designing and marketing former EOU English/writing and journalism professor Thomas Madden’s currently untitled third volume of poetry, to be published sometime in December through Basalt Press.

Madden’s career at EOU stretches from the 1970s until his retirement in 2000. In addition to teaching, he served as an adviser for the student newspaper, The Voice (formerly The Eastern Beacon), as well as authored two books of poetry, “Graves in Wheat” and “Lessons for Custer.” Axelrod is working closely with Madden’s family on the publishing project as well as the EOU Foundation to establish a memorial scholarship in his honor, to be funded by proceeds from the book’s sales.

“These students, of course, never met Tom, but here he is teaching them another lesson from ‘beyond the grave,’ as it were, and we’re going to make this beautiful little book,” Axelrod said. “It just seems like a win for everybody. This is the kind of learning experience the university wants students to have.”

Madden left a body of unpublished work behind following his sudden death in June 2017, and his wife, Suzanne, agreed to Axelrod’s idea of compiling some of that work into a third volume of poetry as a project for the bi-yearly class.

“Madden’s passing last year provided an opportunity for this class to have a hands-on, community-involved project to work on and (produce) a real result,” Cope said. “That’s what makes this class different — we get to see our skills and things we’ve worked on in other classes actually come to life in a product, start to finish.”

Students divided into four groups — editors, page design, copy editing and marketing — to tackle the project for the duration of the fall semester, joining the group that played most to their strengths and interests.

“Each group works in that specific part of the editing and publishing process,” Cope said. “A lot of (major) decisions are made within the groups. Axelrod respects our input and what we decide as a (collective) group and in our individual groups. He may give us some advice, but he’s really trusting us to expand on our ideas and use our skills. He gives us a lot of freedom.”

See complete story in Friday's Observer