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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Soling students to celebrate writing, editing, designing, publishing a book during single semester

"Before Our Eyes" anthology explores changing world of publishing

Jan. 19, 2012, by Sara Miller

"Before Our Eyes" book cover
"Before Our Eyes" book cover

Is it possible for a group of undergraduate students to write, edit, print, publish and market a book about the publishing industry all in one semester? Yes, as 10 intrepid Soling Program students recently proved—and that's a good thing because as their book illustrates, the publishing industry is changing just as quickly.

On Friday, Jan. 20, these 10 traditional and nontraditional undergraduate students will celebrate the launch of their new anthology, "Before Our Eyes: Inside the Changing World of Book Publishing" which is the result of the fall 2011 semester course "The Evolution of Book Publishing," offered through the Soling Program in The College of Arts and Sciences and taught by Robert Colley, instructor and associate dean of University College

"Before Our Eyes" was written and published by these English and writing students to provide a first-hand perspective on the various facets of the changing book publishing business. Through interviews with writers, publishers, editors, book agents, booksellers, printers and others in the industry, the students each provided a chapter of the book. The result is a collection of essays featuring expert commentary from people in all phases of the business. 

"Each student chose an area of the book trade to explore, interviewed key people involved in that area, and assembled their findings into a fairly comprehensive inside look at publishing as it is practiced and promoted in the second decade of the 21st century," says Colley. "One interesting thing, and good thing in my opinion, about the collection of 10 finished chapters is how distinct they are, one from the other. Reading carefully, one can begin to see the emergence of each student's authentic writing voice. And then to turn this collection of essays into an actual book is a defining Scholarship in Action experience for them." 

The Jan. 20 book launch event will be held in room 301 of the Tolley Humanities Building from 5:30-7 p.m. The event is open to everyone, and all proceeds from the sale of "Before Our Eyes" will be donated to ProLiteracy, the Syracuse-based international nonprofit organization dedicated to helping adults and families improve through literacy. 

The student-authors and members of the Soling Collective are: 

  • Jayme Brown, a writing and rhetoric major in Arts & Sciences;
  • Brianna Edgerley-Dallal, a writing and rhetoric major in Arts & Sciences, and an entrepreneurship & emerging enterprises major in the Whitman School of Management;
  • Therese Hon, a writing and communications major studying through University College;
  • Hayley Kang, an English and textual studies major in Arts and Sciences;
  • Kirsten Alexis Maggart, an English and textual studies major in Arts & Sciences;
  • Myles Stavis, an English and textual studies major in Arts & Sciences;
  • Elizabeth Vogt, an English and textual studies major in Arts and Sciences;
  • Rachel Weiser, an English and textual studies major in Arts and Sciences;
  • Victoria White, an English and textual studies, and writing and rhetoric double major in Arts and Sciences; and
  • Jessica Wiggs, an English and textual studies major in Arts & Sciences, and public relations major in the Newhouse School. 

"I can tell you it was quite an experience!" says Wiggs, who wrote a chapter titled "The Good Work We Do" after speaking with several book editors. "This course offered a fascinating look on the world of book publishing. It was definitely a group effort—everyone had to pull his or her own weight in order for the book to be a success. Not only did we have to write a chapter, but we were also editing each other’s pieces, helping in the design and creating an online network." 

The students also formed a nonprofit press, which they named Snowdrift Press, to help advance future publishing projects by SU students. And arrangements were made with literacy arts organization Small Press Distribution in Berkeley, Calif., to help distribute "Before Our Eyes." 

In addition to learning the rigors of actually publishing a book, the Soling course content also focused on both traditional and developing facets of the publishing industry, from typefaces and design, to paper and ISBN numbers. 

The Soling Program seeks to stimulate creative and independent thinking among undergraduate students in all schools and colleges at Syracuse University. The idea for a course in book publishing was also supported by the SU Humanities Center.

The book will be available at the Jan. 20 launch event, and can also be purchased through Colley at The students are also working to make the book available at local booksellers, as well as in an e-book form.