Practical Learning

Practical Learning

By: Ellis Carrington

For the most part, undergraduates and graduates will generally follow this traditional style of college course learning: attend classroom lecture, take time to read and reread material outside of class, and prep for mid-term and final exams. While reading and researching provide their own benefits to student learning, there’s simply no substitute for a hands-on learning experience. 

Enter: The Learning Lab. A mode of course learning used by Professor Melissa Scholes-Young for her Literary Editing and Publishing class that combines traditional course practices with an applicable twist. 

“We study the texts, What Editors Do and The Business of Being an Editor, and learn from class visits from local DC literary journal editors, copyeditors, and acquisition editors. We discuss the many paths from prose to publication including, marketing and publicity. Then we take what we’ve learned into the real world of launching a book,” says Scholes-Young. 

You read that right. As part of the course, students enrolled in Scholes-Young’s literary editing and publishing class are expected to assist with a live book launch, and not just for any book either. This spring semester the class has been working tirelessly to promote the release of Furious Gravity, the long-awaited ninth volume of the “Grace & Gravity” series, an anthology whose stories have inspired writers and readers with no sign of slowing down. Furious Gravity will be the second volume in which Melissa Scholes-Young will be the editor and features fifty new and established women writers from the D.C. area.

“More than a decade ago when D.C. author and editor and American University alum Richard Peabody founded the Grace & Gravity book series to highlight the work of D.C. Women Writers, the community response was welcome. Eight volumes later, the book has become a local and national success featuring established authors and emerging writers while highlighting D.C. as an impressive home of artists.”

As the editor of Furious Gravity, Scholes-Young saw the incorporation of a lab element as an excellent opportunity to give her students a hands-on, practical learning experience by having them interact and engage with members of the local literary world.  

“Each student is paired with a contributor and writes a spotlight feature for our website. In this way, students network in our DC literary community and create a publishable sample for their future portfolios. Then we form committees to design the book launch. There is a lot of discussion of the behind the scenes industry standard: cover art, fonts, layout, and budget. We talk about where our readers are and how to reach them. The lab committees include website, promotion, book trailer, media outreach, and book launch, but we had to think creatively about each this year because of social distancing,” says Scholes-Young. 

In combining course readings with applicable circumstances, Scholes-Young successfully creates an enriching learning environment, and the response from her students, both undergraduate and graduate alike, is overwhelmingly positive.  

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