University Press Week

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“COMMUNITY”

Author Sean Kirst discusses today’s theme

Eight years ago or so, when I began working with editors at the Syracuse University Press on “The Soul of Central New York,” the entire goal – and the success of the book – hinged on the notion of community.

At its heart, the book was a collection of columns I had written over what would turn into 27 years as a staff writer and columnist with The Syracuse Post-Standard. The idea was capturing – as a guy who first arrived here years ago from somewhere else – what I had sensed and hopefully shared over many years with readers about Syracuse and Central New York: It is a place of extraordinary physical beauty, heritage and shared experience that had – through decades of economic, environmental and cultural struggle – sometimes forgotten its own gentle but resounding claim to the extraordinary.

The idea of putting together such a a collection sounds simple. As I quickly learned, It was not. My early attempts contained too many columns, too many repetitive themes and too little of a focus. The first concept involved roughly 150 columns. In the end, in close partnership with editor Alison Maura Shay of the SU Press, she wisely convinced me to almost halve that number and create a narrative thread binding it together, with the first sentence connected to the last.

‘The Soul of Central New York’ offers accounts of some high-profile figures whose personal lives in some often intimate way had intersected with Syracuse or the region: Famed children’s author Eric Carle, then-Vice President Joseph Biden, anthropologist Jane Goodall, Onondaga Nation faithkeeper Oren Lyons, longtime Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim.

Yet they were simply part of the core notion of the book, which was illuminating how a network of seemingly everyday tales from a multitude of experiences – some involving the region’s defining and ongoing connection with the Onondagas – meshed together in a living definition of community.

Thus the fate of an elderly man who falls on a bitterly cold day on a downtown sidewalk, or the tale of a child raised amid struggle in a housing project whose chance encounter at a newsstand helps him ascend to a career as a bank executive, or the account of a woman born with cerebral palsy who formally turns out the lights of an institution that once overwhelmed her life …. these narratives became the spine, the foundation of the book.  

All told, it took five years to put together, and the process demanded that I jettison some of my own early preconceptions and focus on making it tighter, smaller and, hopefully, significantly more effective. The outcome was a reaction that I don’t think any of us expected: It became the fastest-selling book in the history of the Syracuse University Press, and a book intended to make at least a small and lasting statement on a sense of place, of joined identity.

For that, I am grateful to the editors and staff at the SU Press. Through their patience, and their belief in the larger theme, we attempted to create a quiet reminder of how struggle, pain and love, the core forces in any solitary life, are also the elements that forge true community – and provide the strength to last.

Sean Kirst, author of ‘The Soul of Central New York,’ was the recipient of journalism’s 2009 Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing; he is now a columnist with The Buffalo News.


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“Speaking Up and Speaking Out”

Author Kelly Belanger discusses today’s theme

I’m in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this week for a conference on Community Writing, a relatively modest-sized gathering of about 350 professors and local community members who see speaking out and speaking up on social issues as part of their personal and professional callings.

I find my colleagues’ commitments and passion inspiring, yet I don’t usually think of myself as an activist. I identify first as a writing teacher and a writer. I have spoken out on inequalities for women in sports by using my academic research skills and persisting in my quest to piece together a little-known history. I discovered how and why courageous individuals decided to speak out in the 1970s movement for gender equality in athletics. This movement took off in the 1970s when Congress, through Title IX, made sex discrimination illegal in federally funded schools.

Like some of the women I wrote about at Michigan State University, Temple, Brown, Texas my personality type is best described as introverted. Like Rollin Haffer at Temple, Marianne Mankowski at MSU, or Peggy Layne at Vanderbilt, I don’t typically seek public attention, and I prize harmonious relationships with friends, colleagues, and family. I value studying a problem from many angles, often waiting for others to speak and take the lead before offering my perspective.

But writing Invisible Seasons Title IX and the Fight for Equity in College Sports reminded me that social change movements require a symphony of voices, perspectives, and divergent rhetorical styles. Speaking up and speaking out is a responsibility. It’s a necessity. It has consequences and demands courage. When each of us, with our different styles and strategies, steps up to play our part, changes for the good of us all can begin.

Kelly Belanger, author of Invisible Seasons: Title IX and the Fight for Equity in College Sports is a professor of English and director of the university writing program at Valparaiso University.


University Press Week 2016

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University Press Week highlights the extraordinary work of nonprofit scholarly publishers and their many contributions to culture, the academy, and an informed society. This year from November 14-19, the focus of University Press Week is community: “from the community of a discipline to a regional home and culture, from the shared discourse of a campus to a bookstore’s community of readers.”

Syracuse University Press illustrates community in many of our works, but most notably in Sean Kirst’s The Soul of Central New York. This collection of stories by Kirst beautifully showcases the love, resilience, and heartbreak within the community of Syracuse.

University presses across the nation are also participating in UP Week. Check out works by other presses that highlight community here.

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Stop by our University Press Week display at the SU Bookstore!

 


The Importance of Regional Publishing

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In the spirit of partnership that pervades the university press community, Syracuse University Press and 36 other presses unite for the AAUP’s second annual blog tour during University Press Week. The tour highlights the value of university presses and the contributions they make to scholarship and our society.

Schedule your week’s reading with the complete blog tour schedule here http://bit.ly/HjQX7n.

Today’s theme is the importance of regional publishing, discussed by one of our favorite regional authors, Chuck D’Imperio.

Regional publishing is a wonderful source of information, data, traditional stories, reflections, memories and history.  Although in many cases the parameters can be small, their importance cannot be denied. Not every author can write a serious piece on the nuances of global affairs or the ramifications of economic turmoil.  And not every writer’s heart beats with the longing and sentimentality of a romance novelist.  We can’t all be adventure writers or cookbook authors.  We cannot all come up with clever mystery twists and turns.

But we can all become regional writers.  Why?  Because we all have stories to tell, no matter how provincial or how far-flung.  And these stories, these observations stand the test of time serving an important purpose for the past, present and the future.

Centuries ago familial tales were handed down in oral testimonies from grandparents to grandchildren.  Stories of hardships endured and triumphs enjoyed.  Of bitter harvests and sharecropping, of transoceanic flight and new beginnings.  Of shadowy injustices and illuminating liberations.  Of slavery.  Of migration.  Of life on the dusty prairie as well on the teeming sidewalks of immigrant America.

 These stories, eventually written down in small books and disseminated by small presses, have served as some of the most important tools in any writer’s arsenal.  Read the legendary works of Herman Melville, Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, Pearl Buck or Mark Twain and it is apparent that at the heart of each of these writers’ opuses lies a work of regional scent.  Though disguised as great literary epics and tomes it is still clear to any reader that these authors (and legions more) are simply writing about what they know, where they lived and what they did.  Many of the settings of the famous American novels or short stories reflect the simple concept of a regional book masked in the patina of “great literature.”

 Story placements as varied as family farms, the sea, a rural Main Street, unpronounceable places abroad, on the river, in the big shouldered cities and more all are the regional backdrop of some of the most familiar works of American writing, from Tara to Cannery Row to “Our Town.”

 I am proud to be a regional writer.  I have six books currently in stores exploring the width and breadth of my own backyard, Upstate New York.  I have written of the great legends of the Hudson Valley, the history of the small towns in the high peaks of the Adirondacks, the whimsy of the tiny museums of the Finger Lakes and the verdigris- covered war memorials which dot the Leatherstocking Region.  These books are small, yet timeless.  My readers can identify with the stories and tales I have told whether they come from the busy streets of our capital city, Albany or from the bucolic bosom of the Schoharie Valley.

 Anybody can be a regional writer to some degree.  To paraphrase Grandma Moses, it’s easy.  Just pick up a pencil and start writing.

Unknown Museums of Upstate NY


SU Press Book Display at SU Bookstore

Stop into the SU Bookstore to view the special SU Press book display in honor of University Press Week,  last week (November 11 – November 17).  The display will remain up for the entire year.

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UP Week Blog Tour Round-Up: Day 5

Today wraps up the final day of the University Press Week blog tour. SU Press is proud to join fellow university presses in the celebration of this honorable week.  To learn more about the importance of university presses visit the AAUP website.

New York University Press: In Celebrating the regional pride of University Presses, Author and NYT editor Connie Rosenblum writes that one wonderful feature of university presses is their desire to publish books about their home turf. She also touches upon the importance of university presses in bringing cutting-edge research to broad audiences.

Columbia University Press: Columbia’s first guest blogger Sheldon Pollock, the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia University, reaches out to the university and faculty to attract greater support and attention to university presses. She talks about how they must insulate themselves from the vagaries of the market and need assistance from the university to do so.

Jennifer Crewe, editorial director and associate director at Columbia University Press, discusses how university presses started with a mission to publish the work of scholarly research and goes on to describe the astonishing degree of innovation and growth they’ve accomplished over the years.

University of North Carolina Press: UNC Press director John Sherer, in his guest post, discusses his recent transition from New York trade publishing back to UNC Press.  He describes the abundant pressures university presses are dealing with today and the many changes they’re adopting such as taking on more risks on the editorial front.

University of Alabama Press: University of Alabama Press first time author, Lila Quintero Weaver, tells us “Why University Presses Matter” by discussing how they open their doors to non-academic writers, as they did for his memoir, and play a leading role in the encouragement of scholarship and knowledge.

In an additional guest post, Jennifer Horne, editor of Circling Faith and All Out of Faith, writes that university presses matter because they make books better. She describes the level of experience, quality, and continuity that goes into the publishing process at the University of Alabama Press and the invaluable role university presses play in scholarship and disseminating knowledge.

University of Virginia Press: University of Virginia’s adored author Catherine Allgor, who wrote the award-winning Parlor Politics and The Queen of America, discusses her publishing journey and the level of excellence, integrity, and commitment the University of Virginia Press staff dedicated to the completion of her book. She describes this process with UVP as an ‘exercise in holistic business.’

Oregon State University Press: Intern Jessica Kibler describes her memorable experiences working at a university press as her time at OSU Press draws to a close. One of the most important things she learned during her internship was that university presses give ease to sharing information. She states, “This breadth of knowledge and the ability to share it with the world is one of the most beneficial things about the existence of university presses.”


UP Week Blog Tour Round-Up: Day 4

Princeton University Press: Co-owner of Princeton’s academic and community bookstore, Labyrinth Books, Dorothea von Moltke answers questions on university presses and her business.  She describes how the ambition for Labyrinth Books is to carry both a broad range of front list titles and deep backlist titles from university presses and trade publishers.

Indiana University Press: In University Presses: An Essential Cog Within Our Society’s ‘Sophistication Machine,’ former IU Press intern Nico Perrino discusses the importance of university presses through a student’s perspective.  He states that without university presses the marketplace of ideas for scholars would be hindered and professors and society would be solely confined to past knowledge.

Fordham University Press: Fordham University Press Director Fredric Nachbaur refers to university presses as ‘the pillars of knowledge.’  He proves his theory by discussing how the tragic hurricane Sandy crisis led the media to university presses for expertise as they are detectives for finding quality authors and sharing critical information.

Texas A&M University Press: Author of The Man Who Thought Like a Ship Loren Steffy, also Houston Chronicle columnist, writes about his personal journey of becoming an author and the lasting impact of TAMU Press both on the field of nautical archaeology and on his family.

Georgetown University Press: Georgetown University Press’ post covers how university presses are uniquely talented in creating scholarly material for less commonly taught languages (they produce books for learning Chinese, Urdu, Uzbek, Pashto, Tajiki, Kazakh, Portuguese, Turkish, Japanese, and Arabic). They conclude their post by listing all of the LCTLs represented by university presses.