April 25, 2011
English course publishes anthology of student-written work
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Thirteen students are now published authors and nine students gained insight into the world of publishing with a trimester-long project resulting in the publication of an anthology of student work that could serve as a valuable resource for future students and English instructors.
The book, "C.A.T.S.: Composition Anthology for Teachers & Students," was edited by students in Northwest Missouri State University's publication skills course and consists of 18 compositions including personal narratives and research papers written by Northwest students.
The inaugural edition, subtitled "Brave New Binturong," was completed with the help of an Improvement of Teaching and Learning Grant. English faculty members also participated in a focus group and helped to solicit submissions.
"The students in the class have a very realistic publishing experience," said Richard Sonnenmoser, assistant professor of English who taught the publication skills course. "They have to worry about things like how many submissions are we going to get, how are we going to handle them, what's our review process going to be like. They have a project that they know is going to be published, and they're going to have their work judged publicly."
In addition to being a model for future student writing anthologies at Northwest, "C.A.T.S." will serve as a teaching resource for the University's composition courses. Works that appear in the book reflect recent curriculum changes to composition courses at Northwest, including emphasis on academic literacies and writing as engagement as well as research essays, audio public service announcements and multimedia translations of academic work for non-academic audiences.
"For the contributors, they're writing their works and submitting them for everyone to read," Sonnenmoser said. "They're giving a gift of their work so other people can learn. They gain an audience."
Sonnenmoser promoted the idea for the anthology after arriving at Northwest from the University of Massachusetts, where he taught and attended graduate school. UMass students and faculty published an anthology that Sonnenmoser used often, and he thought Northwest students and faculty could benefit from one produced on their own campus.
"If you're teaching a research essay, it's helpful to have a student example," he said. "It's also helpful to have a student example from the school, and maybe somebody who's still around and taking classes. So the idea is that, teaching a class like composition, sometimes you need not a John Updike short story or a Philip Roth essay, but you need a student example of the assignment and one that's good."
Students in Sonnenmoser's publication skills course rose to the challenge. Each student read and voted on the submissions, whose authors were not revealed. Students in the course then were assigned to copyedit two works for the book.
Stancy Bond, a graduate student from Savannah who is studying English literature and took the publication skills course, said choosing the compositions was the toughest part of the process.
"As readers we all come to the table with a different set of expectations," she said. "So refining those expectations to the goal of the book instead of a personal goal was a big challenge, but it's one I think we handled really well. We have such a wide variety of text in our books, something from a literary analysis all the way down to a personal narrative."
The course also added new dimensions to the students' resumes. Matt Tritten, a senior broadcasting major and English minor from Union Star, said the class moved him out of his comfort zone, but it helped him broaden skills he may use in a broadcasting career.
"It was different than anything I've ever done before because in broadcasting it's shooting video and writing short sentences that get the point across quickly," Tritten said. "It was fun to be able to get on the publication side and see what goes into that."
At the book launch ceremony Friday, students provided a sneak preview of the online companion to "C.A.T.S.", blogs.nwmissouri.edu/binturong, which was completed by students in the course, writing for the online age, and contains works that were submitted but do not appear in "C.A.T.S." An exposition also featured the work of students enrolled in composition classes.
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