May 14, 2014

Merced College Press publishes 1st title

The Print Services department at Merced College has printed its first book, a collection of writings from students and members of the community. The department’s director said in a time when many professors are moving to paperless classes, transforming the department is a better use of resources.

A newly printed book that features the writings of students, faculty and authors marks the beginning of a new endeavor, and could be a sign of new life for Merced College’s industrial printers, according to staff.

“Merced River Literary Review” is a 140-page collection of fiction, nonfiction, dramatic and poetic writings from Merced College students and authors from around the state that was printed by Merced College Press – a first of professional quality, according to school staff.

An event to celebrate the launch of the book and the press is planned at 7 p.m. Friday at Coffee Bandits, 309 W. Main St., in Merced. It’s free and open to the public.

Richard Manifest, the college’s lead graphic artist and supervisor of the printing room, said there’s a demand for a place for professors to print their books. He said the school’s administration was supportive of the project. “It’s maybe one way we can add a little prestige to the college, as well as maybe bring in some other revenue,” he said.

The college’s Print Services department is in charge of printing the school’s promotional materials, forms, business cards and certificates, to name a few. It averages more than 7.2 million color and black-and-white impressions in a year.

Like many schools, Merced College is moving toward becoming digital.

With that in mind, adding the ability to print limited-edition, high-quality books is a good way to make the most of the school’s industrial-size printers, Manifest said. “We’ll be a lot more valuable and we’ll be around a lot longer,” he said. “That was another reason for wanting to start the press.”

The Merced College Foundation, a tax-exempt educational corporation, put about $1,000 into the project.

When the college began to float the idea for the book, English professor Meg Withers, a published poet, was first in line.

She said she wanted students in her creative writing program to get practice in all aspects of publishing, not just getting published but also editing, promoting and designing a publication. “This was the hardest-working bunch of students I’ve ever had,” she said.

The book is primarily made up of student writings, Withers said, but also includes entries from Merced College faculty, visiting writers and a handful of Merced County high school students. She said projects that bring the college and community together, like the book, are part of a college’s “job.”

One of the editors for “Merced River Literary Review” was Mercedes James, 22, of Merced. The English major says she enjoyed the experience so much, she’s considering positioning herself for a career in publishing as she plans to transfer to Azusa Pacific University in the fall.

James said she found it fulfilling to be able to see every step of the book. It also appealed to her “perfectionist” sensibilities to edit line by line while keeping each author’s vision in place. She said the editors hope to see many sequels to the book.

“We want it to be viewed as a beginning of something amazing, not only for the Merced College community, but for the community in general,” she said. “It’s kind of been the open door for creativity and creative minds here in Merced.”

Friday’s event is co-hosted by Modesto Poet Laureate Gillian Wegener. Copies of “Merced River Literary Review” will be for sale for $20, according to the organizers. Proceeds support future publications of the journal and Merced College’s Visiting Writers Series.

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