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My Experience with UWindsor’s Publishing Practicum

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Last year I had the opportunity to take a pair of courses that MacLean’s Magazine deemed one of the “coolest courses in Canada.” The Editing and Publishing Practicums at the University of Windsor give students the opportunity to work with a real publishing house alongside an industry expert to help develop a fully realized book. I have aspirations of working in the publishing industry one day, so this course was especially meaningful for me. But regardless of your career goals, this class will change your perspective on teamwork and the creative process. 

Marty Gervais, nationally renowned author, editor, and publisher, leads the class during this year-long process that begins with a disjointed manuscript and the task of making a finished product from it. Normally, the class is split into two groups who are each assigned a different book to work on, though the unique twist last year (notably, the first year it was delivered online) was while the class was still divided into two groups, there was only one manuscript we all edited. This way the book received two distinct editing perspectives that were eventually merged together to create the best possible version of the manuscript, and ultimately resulted in some friendly competition between the two groups. 

In the first semester, during the Editing Practicum, there were several roles in each group, such as copyeditors, marketing, logbook, and author liaison. I was assigned the latter role, so my main responsibilities were maintaining consistent communication between my group and the book’s author, the prolific Bruce Meyer. I would meet up with him via Zoom approximately once a week, sometimes more sometimes less, to discuss our edits on his manuscript. This mainly included the inclusion and/or exclusion of certain poems as well as the ordering of poems. It was a pleasure working with Bruce; our meetings were comfortable yet productive and he always made sure to share his immense wisdom with me. Over the course of several weeks I acted as an advocate for both my group’s decisions and the author’s wishes, and ultimately found a happy medium between all contrasting ideas. I learned invaluable skills for both the publishing industry and life in general—the ability to successfully mediate, compromise, and network. 

By the end of the first semester, we had a complete manuscript, including the final title of Grace of Falling Stars. It comprises a set of autobiographical poems that spark joy and brings forth a collective nostalgia. Now, with the internal content successfully edited and pieced together, our team moved forward into the next phase of our manuscripts journey: the Publishing Practicum in the second semester. This stage was more concerned with the physical production of the book, including interior design, exterior design, marketing and social media, and organizing a book launch. 

Even though I have absolutely no background in visual design and I do not consider myself an artist in the slightest, I requested to be part of the exterior design team. My wish was granted and I was involved in the process of designing the front and back covers, as well as the spine and both French flaps. My partner and I created several different designs, varying from bright and artistic to more muted photographs. Our final accepted design ended up consisting of a bright and freeing photograph of a boy on a bicycle with his hands outstretched, imagery reflecting one of the first poems in the collection. The title is an elegant yet casual script font centred on the front cover, portraying the natural fluidity within Bruce’s poems. The creation of this cover was an accomplishment I was especially proud of due to my limited knowledge and experience with design. It taught me that, as cheesy as it sounds, I could truly do anything I set my mind to. 

 Our virtual book launch took place on April 7th 2021, and the memory of this date will always hold a special place in my heart. The launch had been meticulously planned for months by our amazing event team, and included a pre-show that demonstrated how to make cocktails based on Bruce’s poems, musical entertainment, speeches by many prominent figures in the community, poetry readings, and raffle prizes. All of this, shockingly, was done over a Zoom call with over 120 people attending. Despite sitting in my room for the entirety of the event, the entire night was beyond riveting. After the event wrapped up and people filtered out of our virtual room, Marty, Bruce, and my fellow classmates remained behind and basked in the post-event glow of a successful book launch. We toasted our drinks and said our goodbyes, and suddenly the screens went black. It was over, and there was a mixed feeling of relief and disappointment. 

It was an honour and a privilege to take courses as influential as the Editing and Publishing Practicums. If you go to the University of Windsor, I sincerely recommend you take these courses no matter your program. English major or not, there is something to gain for everyone.

Abby is a fourth year English Language and Literature student with a minor in Psychology. She enjoys horror movies, over-priced Starbucks drinks, and a good wholesome meme. After graduation, Abby's goal is to find a career in publishing.
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