The Publishing Laboratory

MFA Publishing Courses

Students are required to complete 15 credit hours from the course list below. After completing CRW 520, The Publishing Process, a brief application is required.

CRW 520 The Publishing Process (3 credits, required for all MFA students)
This practical course is designed to illuminate the path to book publication, making it more accessible and comprehensible to emerging authors. We will begin by establishing a foundational knowledge of the publishing industry, from the Big Five to independent presses, and then will examine how debut authors navigate the industry to usher their books into the marketplace. Students will hear from professionals who will help guide them through each step along a book's journey from writer to reader, from signing with an agent to navigating the editorial process and beyond. They’ll gain hands-on experience—from writing their own query letters and developing researched lists of potential agents and editors to critically evaluating sample book proposals. Each student will also come away from the course with an enhanced author platform; a plan for submitting to journals and magazines, as well as for applying to residencies, fellowships, and other opportunities; and an outline and draft of a book proposal.

CRW 522 The Editorial Process (3)
This course introduces the strategies and conventions for editing and editorial communication, with an emphasis on copyediting, fact checking, style guides, and style sheets, and an overview of the full editorial process, from acquisitions to developmental editing to proofreading.

CRW 523 Bookbuilding (3)
This course offers intensive hands-on training in book design and production using desktop publishing software in a Macintosh lab. Students develop skills through a progressively more complex series of design projects, culminating in a finished chapbook of their own work, in a small edition. Students should gain from this course basic software skills, a heightened design aesthetic, an understanding of how books are produced, manuscript to bookshelf. The course meets for three hours a week, but students should allow ample additional time to complete assignments in the Publishing Lab outside of class hours.

CRW 524, 526 (magazine), or 560 (book) Publishing Practicum (6 total)
For depth of experience students must enroll in two semesters with the same entity: Chautauqua, Ecotone, or Lookout Books. Over two practicum semesters, students will take on a larger-scale project under the direction of the practicum instructor. Choices for project might come from editing, grant writing, design, marketing, or promotional undertakings, as proposed by the instructor. 

CRW 524 Magazine Practicum (3)
Students in this course become part of the editorial team. The coursework consists of reading manuscripts and working to help bring out an issue of the magazine. Each practicum member is responsible for reading and commenting on a number of submissions per week. Staff members also fact-check work for upcoming issues, draft run order, write front-matter copy, and proofread. Additional work may include planning promotions for the magazine. This practicum provides context and resources both for making a literary magazine and for sending out one’s own work. We’ll engage with ongoing questions of equity as they apply to the magazine’s work and to literary publishing overall. We will read widely, both to cultivate an understanding of the magazine’s aesthetic and where it sits in the literary landscape, and to find new voices the magazine might publish. MFA students may repeat for credit without limit, space permitting.
CRW 526 Advanced Magazine Practicum (3)
Editorial apprenticeship for a national literary journal. This course may include a range of assignments, such as managing submissions and readers, top and lead editing, and serving in a leadership role on the editorial staff of the journal. Advanced examination of the practical business of running a magazine, including editorial, marketing, and promotion.
CRW 560 Book Publishing Practicum (3)
A select group of graduate students supports the work of the department’s award-winning publishing imprint, Lookout Books ( This practical course functions primarily as a hands-on internship at an independent press and provides experience in everything from evaluating manuscripts to fact checking, from designing book interiors and pitching cover concepts to developing marketing plans in support of the imprint’s forthcoming titles. The Lookout experience will prove valuable for students interested in furthering their understanding of literary publishing, whether they want to enter the industry or learn about it toward their aspirations as authors. Alumni have gone on to found imprints and to lead at HarperCollins, Graywolf, W. W. Norton, Hub City Press, Orion, and Southern Humanities Review, among many others. The apprenticeship also surveys editorial and publishing practice and explores the independent press as a way to disrupt and reimagine unsustainable systems. The imprint staff meets weekly and works independently in and outside of the Pub Lab for approximately 6 additional hours weekly. Taking the course over two semesters is recommended to experience the complete lifecycle of a book. MFA students may repeat for credit without limit, space permitting.

CRW 525 Special Topic in Publishing
(Though not required, we recommend taking at least one special topic in publishing. Additional courses may be taken for elective credit.)
Intensive examination of a special area of publishing, such as book arts, book marketing and publicity, electronic publishing, editing poetry, access in publishing, grant writing, or a course taught by a guest instructor. May be repeated for credit under different subtitles.