One of the best ways to improve your skills as a writer is to work as an editor, says Teresa Milbrodt, Western State Colorado University assistant professor in Creative Writing and English.
And it’s why a publishing certificate program at the university seemed like a natural compliment to Western's existing MFA programs in Creative Writing.
“You learn more with hands-on experience than you can with further study in writing,” said Milbrodt.“You have to have a basis in craft, but this takes it to a professional level.”
Led by Milbrodt, students from Western’s newest graduate program, the 13-month publishing certification, not only workshopped each other’s writing, but they also founded a literary anthology and served as its editorial board. After a year of hard work, the anthology “ManifestWest: Eccentricities of Geography” is the first edition published under Western Press Books.
The publishing program offers its students hands-on experience in the publishing world, “the business side”of writing, said Milbrodt, including how editors work and think, and how to abide by a publication’s missions and aesthetics.
She said that as an editor going through the “slush” of submissions for a literary anthology, you can often tell by the first page, the first paragraph, whether or not the piece will be usable. As writers working as editors, students can then take those experiences – what works and what doesn’t – and apply them to their own writing.
She said writing and editing “go hand in hand,” because they both focus on “the love of the written word and wanting that word to sound good because you love it.”
Heather Messner, who completed her publishing certificate in July and still serves on the editorial board for “Manifest West,” agreed the hands-on nature of the program – seeing the project through from “inception to completion” – made the program worthwhile.
“The biggest thing I personally got out of it was being able to go through the submission process and figure out what was good and what was crap,” she said. “You could figure it out really quickly.”
Students enrolled in the program met on campus for two weeks in the summer during Writing the Rockies to workshop, scrounge through literary magazines and get to know each other. Then the learning went online and submissions for the anthology began to pour in. The press received more than 250 submissions of poetry, essays and short stories for its first publication.
The publishing students read through submissions and threw out any that were poorly written or that didn’t fit into the aesthetic theme of the publication. The anthology also has two professional writers on board for consultation when the process gets down to the nitty gritty.
The final publication contains 20 poems, three essays and three short stories.
“It’s fantastic that after one year we have a book,” Milbrodt said. “I’m really excited.”
Of the three students who completed the publishing certificate in its first year, two have internships with publishing entities.
For more information about the publishing certificate program, visit the Publishing Certificate website.
To order a copy of “Manifest West: Eccentricities of Geography,” visit: http://www.upcolorado.com/book/New_Titles/eccentricities_of_geography_paper.