Erika NguyenSecond year English language and literature student Erika Nguyen reacts after seeing the finished version of "1967: Centennial Year" for the first time on Monday, March 27. Nguyen and her fellow classmates in the editing and publishing practicum worked with two authors to take their unedited manuscripts through to publication.

Students bring written works to printed page

One of the University of Windsor’s “coolest courses” is giving students the opportunity to take two books from an author’s unpolished manuscripts through to publication.

The English department’s Editing and Publishing practicum allows students to work directly with authors and participate in every aspect of the editorial and publication process.

Instructor Marty Gervais said it’s the only university course he knows of in North America that provides students with this sort of hands-on experience with an author.

“As an English student, whatever books you are handed for your course, whether it’s Tennyson or Wordsworth, you accept it as a work of art. You don’t challenge it,” Gervais said. “Now, you have a chance to look at a book and say, ‘I’m going to help make this a work of art.’”

The course is so unique, in fact, that Maclean’s magazine singled it out as one of the University of Windsor’s “cool courses” in its 2016 rankings.

For honours English literature and creative writing student Maeve Keating, the practicum is what drew her back to Windsor.

“I have actually been waiting seven years to do this,” said Keating, who returned to Windsor from St. Catherines in 2016 to finish her degree. “This class to me not only represents the apex of my academic career in reaching for a position in publishing, but has also offered me the opportunity to finally get a taste of the industry which can be so elitist and competitive.”

This year, the students worked with Georgian College professor Bruce Meyer to publish his book 1967: Centennial Year and University of Windsor drama professor Barry Brodie to publish Tom Thomson – On the Threshold of Magic.

1967: Centennial Year is a book of poetry about Meyer as a 10-year-old growing up in Canada and celebrating 100 years of confederation. The poems depict everything from a young boy who missed the Toronto Maple Leafs last Stanley Cup win because of a strict bedtime, to Lester B. Pearson’s dentures falling out on stage.

Tom Thomson – On the Threshold of Magic contains Dr. Brodie’s play Threshold of Magic: The Death and Life of Tom Thomson along with journals and poems illustrating the author’s journey from the page to the stage.

Although it is his first book, Brodie said he believes the final product is better for having been helped along by the editing and publishing students.

“I knew I would be at the mercy of 12 millennials in this process ... and it was very interesting to see what resonated with them and what didn’t,” Brodie said. “It turned out to be a very enlightening and rewarding experience. Bottom line, I’m thrilled.”

Gervais said the practicum also engages the help of the Odette School of Business; two fourth-year business students enrolled in the course to assist in the fundamentals of marketing.

The books are published by Black Moss Press, which has published more than 400 first editions since Gervais founded it in 1969.

The finished volumes arrived from Black Moss Press last week. A free public reception will officially launch both books Thursday, April 6, at the Caboto Club, 2175 Parent Avenue.