Fourth Genre is one of only a few strictly nonfiction journals, sharing the genre with literary journals such as Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, and Brevitymag.org. The journal, operating within the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC) department here at MSU, publishes a variety of nonfiction authors with work ranging from essays in all forms to memoir to writer as reader, all written in a variety of styles and voices. Writers published in Fourth Genre include Ander Monson, Brenda Miller, Michele Morano, Ned Stucky-French, and Ryan Van Meter, to name a few.
The great thing about Fourth Genre being housed within the WRAC department is that it affords the opportunity for students to be exposed to and involved with a national literary journal with award winning writers and editors. Students interested in the publishing world get first-hand experience while working with people that have years of experience in the field. I had the opportunity to interview Kathleen Livingston, an MSU graduate student, about her experiences working for Fourth Genre to get an idea of what it is that students can take from this nonfiction press. Continue reading →
This year’s AWP Annual Conference–the major gathering for creative writers–took place in Chicago, IL, from February 29 – March 3. This year was the largest ever, with 10,000 people in attendance. MSU’s CAL & R&W program was represented by faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students. A typical conference “features over 450 readings, lectures, panel discussions, and forums” and is one of the largest literary conferences in North America.
Professional Writing programs are growing so quickly that there are numerous learning opportunities for both students and professors. Dr. Laura Julier, Dr. Jon Ritz along with other faculty Stephanie Amada, and Kathryn Houghton, and undergraduate Catherine McCaffrey presented a panel at AWP called “The BA in Professional Writing: The Other Undergraduate Writing Degree.”
The panel sought to specifically address creative writers and teachers in creative writing MFA programs who are thinking about what kinds of professions their graduates might enter. They talked about professional writing programs as not all that different from creative writing programs, and teaching in professional writing programs as an easy transition for teachers from creative writing courses.
The editorial interns for Fourth Genre took part in the conference by staffing the table at the Bookfair to promote the journal, and to network with other writers, literary presses, and journals. Graduate students Ana Holguin and Katie Livingston, and undergraduates Ziev Beresh, Lauren Ebelt, Kim Tweedale, Christine Scales, Katie Conley, Cat McCaffrey, and Chelsea Beck all pitched in.
Faculty and students working, studying, or just hanging out in the WRAC library located in Bessey Hall are fortunate enough to enjoy a space that’s now home to the work of a local artist.
When first asked by Professor Nancy DeJoy if she’d be interested in creating something for the space, MSU alumna and Lansing-based artist Kate Cosgrove didn’t hesitate. “As a working artist and graduated Spartan, of course I was interested. I’m really excited to have some of my work hanging in the school that taught me to be an artist,” Cosgrove said.
Last week, the department installed four original pieces created by Cosgrove, who describes herself as someone who will continue creating art — and messes — until the day she dies. Cosgrove’s pieces entitled The Means, The Focus, The Collaboration, and The Awareness were all inspired by the mission of the department, and by the words, ideas, and culture that help define WRAC.
“The results were well worth the wait,” said Kathleen Geissler, chair of WRAC. “The department has been looking to enhance the space for some time. It’s the last step in the library’s renovation, and it’s fantastic that a local artist and alumna was able to create it.”
Cosgrove was named a 2011 Individual Artist Grant Recipient by Arts Council of Greater Lansing, and has exhibited in galleries and online. She has collectors across the United States, Canada, Australia, Colombia, France, England, and Switzerland.
Professor Laura Julier, associate chair of WRAC and director of the Professional Writing Program, was recently selected as the new editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. She is excited with the new position because “studying, writing, and teaching nonfiction has been the core of my professional work for a long time,” she says, “so being chosen to edit this journal is a huge and wonderful thing.”
Fourth Genre is a literary journal dedicated to publishing notable and innovative work within the genre of nonfiction. (The title refers to the fact that the traditional canon for teaching literature focused primarily on the genres of fiction, poetry, and drama.)
Under the previous editor, the journal has progressively broadened from its original focus on personal essays and memoir to welcoming alternative forms of nonfiction, including photo essays, graphic essays, and works that blur the lines between genres. Julier says she is committed to maintaining the long tradition of excellence. Works by a number of the journal’s editors and writers have won awards, the most recent example being the inclusion of eight essays published in Fourth Genre in the Notables list for Best American Essays 2011.
Having Fourth Genre in WRAC and having Julier as the editor provides huge opportunities for students in both the Professional Writing and Rhetoric and Writing programs. Julier says, “I’m particularly happy to be able to bring the resources and opportunities that the journal affords to the [Professional Writing] program. The R&W PHD program has a concentration in nonfiction writing, so this also increases opportunities for graduate students.” She also talks about the ways in which the journal complements the PW curriculum: students in the editing and publishing track can gain invaluable experience as part of the editorial staff on a nationally recognized journal through internships.
Six students are currently doing just that: Lauren Ebelt and Kimberly Tweedale (both Professional Writing seniors), Ziev Beresh (senior English major), Christine Scales, (Interdisciplinary Humanities major), Natalie Graham, who’s writing her dissertation in American studies, and Katie Livingston, who’s in the R&W PHD program. Interns read and screen submissions, log and organize manuscripts, and help oversee the production of the journal. Ebelt comments that she is gaining experience in evaluating manuscripts to determine what makes a really good piece of nonfiction writing, a skill that will be valuable to any publishing house.
Working for Fourth Genre, with support from the College of Arts and Letters and the MSU Press, will enable all the interns to travel to Chicago in February to the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. “The ability to provide talented students with this kind of experience, this visibility and a connection to this kind of notable, national publication, in a way that will give them a significant advantage as they seek professional positions in literary editing and publishing,” said Julier, “is absolutely the most satisfying part of being named editor.”