A substantive struggle: Pub Club edits two selected student works

by Erica Mixon / Beacon Correspondent • November 12, 2014

Brenna Kleiman

Sophomore Rebecca Crandall was supposed to write a story for her fiction workshop class, but she had no idea what to write about. 

“I said to myself, ‘Okay, Becca, the next thing you see is what you’re going to write about,’” said Crandall, a writing, literature, and publishing major.

She said her eyes landed on her roommate’s necklace, which had a small jar for a pendant. Inside it was a tiny ballerina. The necklace, said Crandall, served as a jumping-off point for her novella, The World From Jar, which features a fairy-like creature contained in a jar, waiting to be made human by a magical carpenter.

The novella, along with a collection of poetry by senior Brenna Kleiman, Hypergraphia, was selected by Publishing Club for its semesterly book releases. By the end of the semester, four student teams—editors, designers, advertisers, and publishers—plan to churn out 100 hard copies of both pieces. The process will culminate in a launch party on Dec. 9, during which the club plans to have the two writers read portions of their work. Undergraduate Students for Publishing plans to sell copies of the books for $8 each and donate the proceeds to a charity of the authors’ choosing. 

Hypergraphia, Kleiman said, is loosely based on her own experiences and includes themes ranging from self-destructive routines to mania and anxiety.

The defining theme of the collection, hypergraphia, is a behavioral condition characterized by an intense desire to write. Kleiman, who said she has personal experience with the phenomenon, wrote that “Hypergraphia may compel / someone to keep a voluminous journal, to jot off frequent / letters to the editor, to write on toilet paper if nothing else is / available, and perhaps even to compile a dictionary.” 

She describes hypergraphia as the “opposite of writer’s block,” adding that while it propels someone to write constantly, the resulting work is not always high-quality. Consequently, she characterized her own writing process as “splotchy and random.” 

“Sometimes my work can be difficult to follow or get on first read,” said Kleiman. “That’s something that I want and am passionate about doing, is making people confused and potentially uncomfortable with what they read.” 

Kleiman said that she doesn’t solely want to make what sells and that Pub Club’s editing process—which examines not only grammar, but also more substantive elements of the work—was a point of contention.

Senior Julia Domenicucci, the co-president of Pub Club, said that when the editing team suggested that Kleiman change the titles of her collection’s sections, Kleiman disagreed because she wanted readers to draw their own conclusions about the organization of the work. According to Domenicucci, they ultimately decided to keep the changes Kleiman made in her second draft.

“It’s a balancing act,” said Domenicucci., a writing, literature, and publishing major. “But it’s entirely up to the author as to what they want to change.”

But she agreed that the substantive editing process is often a struggle for authors, especially due to a tight turnaround time of roughly one week for writers to submit a second draft.

Crandall said, “I wanted to get it in on time, so my entire world revolved around it. I would write all the time, in between classes, during every free second I had.”

One of Kleiman’s past professors, Cecily Parks, noted the difficulty of cutting work, especially that of a sensitive or personal subject matter. 

“When you start opening up and sharing your work with others, it can feel kind of vulnerable,” Parks, who currently teaches at Texas State University, said in a telephone interview.

For The World From Jar, Crandall said she used the literary concept of close psychic distance—an idea that she learned in her fiction workshop class that refers to the degree of a narrator’s interiority—as an important facet of her novella.

“The story is from the jar, so it’s very contained,” said Crandall. “I think that [maintaining a close psychic distance] made the story really easy to write.”

Crandall added that her main character’s containment allowed her every movement to be magnified, like brushing her hair back or biting her nails.

According to Domenicucci, the group requested submissions from Emerson students by Sept. 28 at midnight. The manuscripts that were approved by an executive board of 10 Pub Club members moved on to a voting-based selection process that involved the entire club. Once selected, the authors received edits in the form of a long letter.

“Doing two books in a semester is always difficult,” Domenicucci said. “We just try to handle it as professionally as possible.”