Rethinking creative writing, rethinking monographs

[Continuing our series of posts on the development of Frontinus Ltd’s professional and academic imprints.]

Our first publication was Rethinking Creative Writing by Stephanie Vanderslice.

Our first contact with the author was when she sent us a very welcoming response to our announcement of the foundation of our Creative Writing Studies imprint. From our subsequent correspondence the idea of this book emerged.

One of the features of our publishing on creative writing was that we wanted the genre of each book to be clear. When we read Stephanie’s proposal it was evident to us that it was suitable for publication as a monograph.

Most academic disciplines have what we might call meta-texts, that is texts that focus not on the phenomena typically studied within the discipline, but rather on the discipline itself — its origins, development, methods, purpose, future, etc. Creative writing does have some of these, but not many. We were pleased to commence our imprint by adding to their number.

We liked the fact that Stephanie was prepared to advance some ideas that might prove contentious or controversial: we didn’t want a book that would be ignored.

We summarised the argument in an abstract, as follows:

Creative writing as a discipline is a victim of its own success. The discipline needs now to demythogize and revitalize itself. Undergraduate and graduate programs need to be further differentiated. Programs over-reliant on the traditional creative writing workshop, with its focus on craft and on building community, are ill equipped to prepare students for the new realities of the creative economy. Programs need not only to improve the workshop experience of students, but also employ a more diverse, outward-looking, outcomes-oriented pedagogy and to make a more direct contribution to the development of a
literate society. Much can be learnt from good practice – including distinctive and visionary programs – developed on both sides of the Atlantic and in Australia.
KEY TERMS
creative writing; literacy; pedagogy; programs; reflective; reform; teaching; visionary; workshop

The publishing of Rethinking creative writing provided, with Stephanie’s co-operation, the opportunity to rethink some aspects of monograph publishing. Specifically:

  1. we developed the notion of a ‘mesograph’ — by which we meant a book round about half the length of a standard monograph (say, 37,500 words instead of 75,000). In ‘From monograph to mesograph‘ we set out five reasons for doing so.
  2. as mentioned above, we included an abstract — something that is standard in journal publishing, but not in book publishing. We provided the reasoning behind this in another post, ‘Abstracts for monographs?’ — which to my surprise remains one of the most consistently read posts on this blog.
  3. The font we used for the prelims (for example, the imprint page) and index was the same size as that used for the main text. Our recently was that we wanted readers to be able to read the material without difficulty.

Stephanie proved an excellent, highly professional, author to work with and I’m glad to say her work was rewarded by appreciative reviews. Beyond library and individual sales, the book has gained one or two course adoptions — something that would rarely happen with a monograph in the UK, but which can occur in America.

Perhaps the mesograph concept contributed to that outcome?

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