"The college was my reboot," said Joshilyn Jackson, an
award-winning novelist now but 20 years ago a bartender, temp and wannabe
actress who was having trouble paying the bills.
Jackson said she had attended "four or five colleges" before enrolling at Georgia Perimeter. "My transcript was a mess. At that point in my life I got serious about education. The college sort of took me in. They let me restart my life."
Her new-found motivation combined with the GPC faculty formed a perfect match.
"My favorite professor was Senor Escalante," she said. "I had taken Latin, German and Spanish and never made it through one semester, but I did four terms with him. I got to take two extra semesters with accelerated options. He know how to make it interesting."
Jackson graduated with honors at DeKalb College in 1991, earned an English degree at Georgia State and also studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Along the way, her pursuit of a stage career morphed into a different cultural pursuit. As her academic life became more structures, so did her artistic taste.
"I found out I was way too much of a control freak for theater," she said. "You have to rely on other people--directors, actors--who won't always see things the way you do. Novels are tightly controlled."
Maybe those directors and actors should have listened to her. Novels under her control have been smash hits. She's written four of them: "Gods in Alabama," Between, Georgia," "The Girl Who Stopped Swimming" and "Backseat Saints."
Jackson passes her love for literature on to today's students. She served as the writer-in-residence for the college's Writers Institute, which seeks to provide the same kind of high-quality co-curricular program found at four-year liberal arts colleges.
"I really do think of it as giving back to the college," she said. "I came out of a bad period of my life there."
She added that she loves "being in the classroom, and I love the traditional college-aged students. To me that's a really neat age. Eyes are turning around and flipping outward. High school kids--even the most talented ones--are limited by their teen-agery."