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Stack of books written by DePauw alums

From Inkling to Ink: How a book becomes a book

Even avid readers for whom books are an indispensable ingredient of life may know little about how a would-be-author’s inkling evolves into the hefty volume, digital tome or audio rendition that so delights, intrigues, infuriates or informs them.

From authors to agents, editors to ad directors, sales people to publicists, DePauw is well represented in the book world. We asked DePauw alumni to tell us about the work they do to put the written word into readers’ hands. Or ears.

We also asked two English professors: Why is DePauw so well represented in publishing?

“I think that people drawn to publishing love sentences and feel that their work matters for intrinsic reasons: The printed word provides valuable information or exciting ideas or eloquent language – often a mixture of all three,” said Andrea Sununu, who has taught at DePauw for more than 30 years.

“Accordingly, because English majors also like people, they are eager to share this wealth. The many students I have known who go into publishing are readers who take pleasure in discussing literature and who, as either literary critics or creative writers, revel in finding the mot juste in their aim to make their own writing precise, concise and lively.”

She provided an excerpt from an email from a former student who works in publishing:

“It’s kind of a riot to work on a team of people who are as fanatical about commas as I am,” the alumna wrote. “We have incredibly impassioned discussions about punctuation and how to best phrase sentences. My first week here, everyone was gathered around one of the editors, discussing an editing quandary, and I was just sort of listening and smiling to myself. And one of them caught my eye and said, ‘You’re in heaven right now, aren’t you?’”  

Gregg Schwipps, a 1995 graduate who returned to his alma mater to teach, said DePauw’s collaborative and respectful learning style prepares graduates to thrive in publishing.

His writing workshop, in which students write critiques of their classmates’ essays, “forces the students to develop their critical eye. It forces them to be able to put in writing what they think is working in a story and what isn’t working in a story. … In that way, we’re really building editors. We’re building critics. We’re building copy editors, and we’re building readers.”

Schwipps said his gut tells him DePauw graduates “tend to get promoted quicker, and over others,” largely because they’ve learned to offer criticism “without being mean. … We do produce a good number” of such people.

“Those are people that others want to be around. And so, when it’s time to promote somebody, that’s the first kind of person promoted.”

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