This is my fourth year to teach creative writing and my first year to have a Creative Writing 2 class. Some of the seniors I currently have in CW2, I had as freshman in CW1. When I began teaching CW, I inherited the task of sponsoring our high school’s student anthology of poetry, prose, art, and photography, humorously titled The Red Line after Microsoft Word’s grammatical error signal.
My first year as adviser, I worked alongside some great students who produced a book much like ones from the past. The Red Line 6 was the size of computer paper (8.5 x 11), and we had it printed and bound at FedEx Office. The end result had some fine content, but I was not very pleased with the tape binding of our book. It seemed like something that could have been done 10 or 15 years ago. I wanted something better because the work our students produce is so good.
I was pleased to learn about lulu.com in a session at the National Writing Project’s Annual Meeting in Orlando the next school year. With Lulu, we still created the document, but we used their template, which automatically numbered pages for us. We went went for a much smaller book size for the 2011 issue of The Red Line (volume 7) and to save money we included the best art on the cover, but we kept everything in the book black and white–including all the other artwork and photographs.
Last year I attended a workshop on high school literary magazines with Paul Stevenson at the Nimrod conference at Tulsa University. Paul has been at the helm of Eyrie, the student journal of creative expression of Edison Preparatory School in Tulsa, for quite some time now. Their work is remarkable and gets high honors in the PRESLM contest sponsored by NCTE. Paul shared some good pointers and even gave me a copy of Eyrie to show as a model to my students. It was decided we would do a full-color book, even though it would be more expensive. The end result was quite nice, and The Red Line 8 cover looked amazing thanks to the desktop publishing skills of one of my seniors. I uploaded a digital version of RL8 using FlipSnack if you’d like to give it a read. The downside of this book was its cost, and we just told published and interested students to buy their own book from the Lulu website. That procedure definitely needed some improving.
This year we continued our full-color book tradition but decided to sell ads to offset costs. My editor Katie and I called area businesses. To be honest, neither one of us was expecting to get any sponsors. To our surprise, we got some affirmatives over the phone as well as some potential interest. Plus, we had some connections with a fellow CW student and our photography teacher’s wife’s business. Our sales pitch was rather last-minute, so we’ll definitely need to begin that process earlier next year. In the end, we sold $440 in ads and got a $50 donation from our school’s principals. I took down orders from students, and ordered the copies of The Red Line 9 with a school credit card. Now instead of having to pay $22 for their books (the price on the Lulu website), students will only have to pay $10, a much more affordable price for a 60-page full-color book. Here’s a preview of The Red Line 9 if you’re interested.
What about you? Do you sponsor a student anthology of writing? What advice or questions do you have?