Telling stories: Studying creative writing

I wrote in the 200th post on Monographer that I would be using this blog more to tell some of the stories behind publishing decisions. Today’s post, then tells the story of our latest publication in our Creative Writing Studies imprint, namely Studying Creative Writing, edited by Sharon Norris.

When we were preparing to launch the imprint, we asked various advisers – notably our editorial board – what we should be publishing. And. perhaps even more valuably, we consulted them over what we shouldn’t be publishing. The answer to the latter was that we shouldn’t be publishing more genre-based how-to guides (e.g., how to write a short story)  – primarily on the grounds that there was no shortage of such guides.

The question arose then, what sort of resources would be useful to students? And we decided the solution lay in trying to solve the problems that students of creative writing commonly encounter.

Our market research rapidly revealed a number of recurring problems. For example:

1. creative writing tutors tend to be well aware that their students need to read widely, but students don’t always appreciate the point (“Why do I need to read? Isn’t this a course on writing?”);

2. many courses are based on workshops, but students don’t always make good use of them. For example, they may dismiss other students’ perceptions and criticisms; or they may not give their peers’ work enough attention;

3. students often undervalue the processes of redrafting, revising, or editing their work (“I’ve finished writing it: why do I need to write it again?”): they may lack the patience to do so, or see methodical editing as contrary to the spirit of romantic conceptions of inspiration, or equate revising with proofreading;

4. students may not understand how their work will be assessed and so may fail to take the implications of assessment sufficiently into account;

5. on many courses, students are required to submit not only a ‘creative’ text (e.g., a collection of poems), but also some form of reflection or critical commentary on their writing. Students often under-perform on this accompanying piece – and some tutors feel less confident about teaching students how to write such a piece;

6. students may be required, as part of their course or beyond the course, to read their work aloud (or may well wish to, for example, at a poetry slam), yet may undersell their work because they lack the necessary performance skills;

7. an increasing number of courses include at least some element of online learning: this method makes it own particular demands on students which, as with ways of learning through workshops, requires some explanation;

and so on.

The thinking behind Studying Creative Writing, therefore, was to deal with these kinds of problems. That is, rather than produce a certain guide to a certain genre of writing, we’d seek to help students by showing them how to meet the general demands of the course and how to avoid pitfalls.

One can think of the resulting book as a kind of lever: by helping students to learn more proficiently in general the book can help them to perform better whichever genres they work in.

The market for student guides is a classic dual market: the end user is the student; but many students will buy books only when recommended by their tutors.

We have, therefore, designed Studying Creative Writing to help tutors as well as students. Many of the kinds of study problems we’ve outlined above are sources of frustration to tutors and, in some cases, tutors feel less confident about how to handle these areas.

If you’re a talented novelist, for example, you may well feel confident about helping students to develop their fiction-writing skills: it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’re feel as confident (or a skilled or perhaps even as interested) in explaining, say, how to participate in workshops.

 Our strategy is to publish library editions first, which allow tutors the opportunity to become familiar with the book before using it on their courses.

Bibliographic details

Publication: September 2013.

Formats:

  • hardback (ISBN 978-1-907076-42-8);
  • ePub (978-1-907076-39-8);
  • PDF (978-1-907076-40-4).

Full information is available from our publishing site: http://pandhp.com.

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