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Author: McKenna Maulden
Media Contact: Maddy Elledge
(706) 379-5319, [email protected]

Four Named Finalist at Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Contest

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Four Young Harris College students were named finalists in this prestigious Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Contest at Agnes Scott College. Participants submitted works across many platforms including poetry, nonfiction, fiction and drama.

“Even if they don’t win the contest, it’s a huge accomplishment to be named a finalist,” explained Director of the Creative Writing Program and Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Dr. Chelsea Rathburn.

“When I discovered I was a finalist in the Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Contest, it was one of the few times I’ve been so excited to check my email,” said Senior English major Alejandro Lemus-Gomez, of Young Harris, Ga.  “After revising my poems to bits, sitting down with my creative writing professors, and going to poetry conferences to refine my craft, it’s an incredible feeling to have the hard work pay off.”

Recent graduate Cortney Esco, ’18, of Royston, Ga., was also named a finalist.

“I was at a family Christmas party when the email came, so I threw my hands up in celebration and all my family started asking about it,” explained the creative writing major. “I told everyone and they were all congratulating me and celebrating with me. It was awesome to be able to share the moment with my family.”

Senior outdoor leadership major Paxton Spessard, of Cumming, Ga., and recent graduate Joshua Sharpe, 18,  of Pooler, Ga., both shared that they were surprised to learn they had also been named finalist.

“I was initially confused and thought it may have been a mistake, or just some other junk mail, but I quickly, and happily, discovered I was wrong,” said Spessard. Sharpe continued, “Frankly, I was quite shocked at hearing I was a finalist!”

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Dr. James May noted that, “It’s one thing for us to tell them they’re writing very well because they suspect we’re being nice, but it’s a whole other for them to see their work rise to the top of a blind contest.”

This is the fifth year in a row that YHC students have been selected as finalists in the contest.

Dr. Rathburn’s  explains that the strong quality of the creative writing program coupled with the student’s skills is setting them up for an incredible future. “Previous Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Contest finalists have gone on to enter graduate programs and publish their poems, essays, and stories in national magazines,” said Dr. Rathburn. “This is just the beginning for them as well.”

For more information about YHC’s creative writing program, visit

About Young Harris College
Young Harris College is a private, baccalaureate degree-granting college located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires and empowers students through the highest quality liberal arts education. The College currently has more than 1,100 students across three divisions—Arts and Humanities, Professional Studies, and Mathematics, Science, and Technology. The historic campus in Young Harris, Ga., has completed major campus improvements to accommodate the College’s growth. Recent LEED-certified campus improvements include the 121,000-square-foot Rollins Campus Center, new residence facilities, and a 57,000-square-foot recreation and fitness center. The College is an active member of NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the prestigious Peach Belt Conference. YHC is among fewer than 300 colleges and universities nationwide named to the 2017-2018 list of Colleges of Distinction and is listed as a “Best National Liberal Arts College” by U.S. News & World Report. For more information, visit