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Eckerd College senior earns first literary publication with help from campus farm

By Robbyn Hopewell
Published November 30, 2023
Categories: Academics, Awards, Creative Writing, Students

Senior Rachel Shaver stands in front of Fox Pond. Photo by Penh Alicandro ’22

Something about visiting the Eckerd College Community Farm with her British Literature class triggered an amusing memory for Rachel Shaver.

The taste of campus-grown Barbados cherries transported the senior creative writing student, who hails from Fort Myers, back to afternoons smushing mulberries to draw dark war paint and tossing the berries at her friend—creating macabre clothing stains.

The recollection turned into the short story “The Mulberry War,” a class assignment Rachel submitted to the University of Pittsburgh’s Collision Literary Magazine 2023 edition. It was awarded second place and earned Rachel her first professional publication.

“I also won $75,” she says wryly. “It’s been the highlight of my writing career so far.”

Visiting Assistant Professor of Literature Cameron McNabb, Ph.D., offers the Breaking Free: 20th Century British Literature course during the spring that allows students to explore the important role food plays in creative works as well as everyday life, McNabb says.

“It’s an emerging field—food studies—and quite a few classes at Eckerd address the roles food plays in society,” she explains.

The class takes a trip out to the farm for a full tour once during the semester to help students make the connection between what they’ve been reading and what is actually happening all around them.

Rachel says the trip spurred her to use the fruit theme for a short story assignment due for one of her creative writing courses. She then decided to submit it for publication, and the rest is history.

As the daughter of a newspaper columnist, Rachel has always dreamed of being a writer. Her twin sister googled creative writing programs in Florida and when Eckerd topped the results, pushed Rachel to drive to St. Petersburg for a campus tour. “I was sold,” she says.

Postgraduation, Rachel plans to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing with a focus on short stories. “Novels are intimidating. Being able to plan that much is amazing,” she says.

Until then, she can hang her hat on getting her first publication before earning her first degree.

“I enjoyed Rachel’s story very much,” McNabb adds. “It’s an honor for an undergraduate to be published. I have not seen it happen often in my career.”