Although students officially start Summer School today, it's more than likely that most people won't crack open their first book until sometime near the end of the week.
Not so for the people enrolled in the Publishing Procedures course. For those 80 students, summer school began six weeks ago. At that time they received their first writing assignment: crease three non-fiction book ideas that you believe would sell more than 10,000 copies. Since then, they haven't stopped working.
As Tom Kazanus said soon after moving into his Hollis dormitory--where many of the publishing course students are placed--"it's been rigorous. Most students still have assignments left to finish before school begins."
But then again the Publishing Procedures is no regular Summer School offering. The course and its director, Mrs. Diggory Venn, are almost legendary in the publishing industry.
Every year for the past 29 years a large flock of recent college graduates--relative greenhorns to the publishing industry--has arrived at Harvard in the pursuit of careers in the industry.
Six weeks later those students have ready to tackle almost any assignment in the publishing field. And, more important, they are given the chance to.
A combination of curriculum, connections, talented people and the incredible energy of "Doylie" Venn, as her friends call her, turn a diploma from the world's shortest graduate school into a password for a job in book and magazine publishing.
The statistics for the class of 1975--80 per cent of the class already have positions in publishing--are a testament to the way publishers regard Venn and her charges.
Venn is the course's real magic. From the big publishing names she corrals--this year John Updike '54 and Helen Mayer, president of Dell publishing, will attend the program, to name a few--to her personal interest in getting students placed in fields of their choice, Venn insures that students won't regret the $750 tuition fee.
A look at the way students in the course spend their days suggests just how much Venn packs into six weeks. Within seven days students will meet with university press editors, manuscript editors, authors and publishers. They will learn how to copy edit, proofread, do picture research and book design.
And by next Thursday Venn hopes to have taught students how to write a good rejection letter. "Is there anything more difficult to write than a rejection letter?" the diminuitive Venn asked last week.
The course has changed somewhat over the years. Originally emphasizing publishing house work, Venn now splits the six-week session between magazine and book publishing. Recently she has added helpings in publishing economics to the traditionally more literary offerings of instruction.
Despite recent publicity in Publishers' Weekly the course remains somewhat of a secret. Still there were 480 applicants to fill only 80 spots this year.
Students interviewed yesterday expressed both excitement and confidence that the 29th session would live up to its predecessors. As Winthrop Watson, a University of Virginia graduate, up from Greensborough, North Carolina, said shortly after arriving here. "There are three real attractions to the course: One, it's the only publishing course in the country. Secondly, there are good people from publishing involved. And thirdly, people get jobs. But," he adds, "they are not necessarily ranked in that order."
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