create / 2019
LARB/USC Publishing Workshop
Our Publishing Workshop is committed to recruiting and training underrepresented students looking to start careers in publishing. We increase access to an industry traditionally centered in New York City and built on unpaid internships, legacy connections, and workshops that offer little to no financial aid. By contrast, we work to ensure that all qualified participants can participate regardless of their finances. We concentrate especially on building the publishing industry here in LA.
What does your organization do?
LARB is dedicated to promoting and disseminating rigorous, incisive, and engaging writing on literature and the arts, and to increasing access to and diversifying the cultural conversation.
Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.
- University of Southern California
Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.
Our Publishing Workshop has made a difference in many lives, helped place its graduates at the Hill Nadell Agency, Les Figues Press, Red Hen Press, Prospect Park Books, and Amazon Books, and has helped found Podcast Review, Soap Ear, BookSwell (an LA literary calendar and community forum), Tint, The Los Angeles Press (a press for women), and a number of other journals and publishing houses. Outcaste Press is a publishing house we helped develop in 2017. Earlier this year founder Varsha Ayyar reflected, “I am a triple Dalit: a feminist in a highly misogynist country, an ‘untouchable’ in a deeply hierarchical society, and a Brown woman from the Global South,” and “LARB embraced me, my proposal, my dream.” With the help and encouragement of the LARB/USC Publishing Workshop, Varsha’s dream of building the first anti-caste feminist press based out of India became fully realized as one of LARB Books’ very first imprints. Outcaste is the first international Dalit feminist press committed to promoting anti-caste principles worldwide and to bringing global attention to Dalit women’s writings.
We at LARB have likewise helped jump-start and sustain the careers of many hundreds of local writers and artists who have written for us and who we have featured in our pages. As an organization, LARB has grown from a tiny operation in our founder’s basement and a simple idea—that the world needed to find a replacement for the dying newspaper-based book review—to one of the handful most important reviews of books and culture today, with an audience in virtually every country in the world. We have received congratulatory messages and accolades from people as different as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Cameron Diaz, Alain Badiou, Tom Hanks, David Lynch, Lena Dunham, and professors at Yale and UC Berkeley law schools; organizations like the National Book Critics Circle, the Columbia Journalism Review, and the NEA; periodicals like Forbes, Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Yorker, New Republic, LA Times, NY Times, Slate, and others; and authors Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, James Ellroy, Ta-Nahisi Coates, Joyce Carol Oates, Pico Iyer, John Green, Juan Felipe Herrera, and many others.
Which of the create metrics will your submission impact?
- Employment in the creative industries
- Minority- and women-owned firms
- Arts establishments per capita
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- Central LA
- County of Los Angeles
- City of Los Angeles
How will your project make LA the best place to create?
The LARB/USC Publishing Workshop is a three-week course on book, magazine, and online publishing, followed by a five-week Project Incubator. We are dedicated to increasing access to a creative industry traditionally based on the East Coast. Comparable courses focus primarily on New York, provide scant financial aid, and replicate the troubling homogeneity of the industry at large. (The Columbia Publishing Course, for example, was 85% white in 2016.) LARB celebrates West Coast publishing and awarded scholarships to 89% of our 2018 cohort, half of whom are people of color. Maintaining this commitment requires constant fundraising and outreach. LARB has worked primarily with local universities and foundations to create 16 full scholarships this year; we have unmet need for another 30.
The Workshop features 50+ leaders in publishing from the LA Times, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Buzzfeed, Coffee House, UC Press, local presses, big New York houses, and academics studying digital culture, and more; a visit to a local press; and seminars in everything from designing books to building budgets. We will also host the inaugural Little Literary Book Fair, a one-day, public celebration of many exciting, diverse local presses, such as Kaya, Tia Chucha, Tsehai, and World Stage. We match our Incubator Fellows with industry mentors who guide the development of their proposed ventures. We have helped launch projects such as Tint, dedicated to ESL writers; BookSwell; and Outcaste Books, an Indian anti-caste feminist press.
LARB works with alumni year-round, even as we prepare for a new cohort of fellows.
In the fall, we revise the curriculum and marketing materials; reach out to universities for recruitment and scholarships; and apply for grants. In the winter, our application portal, ads, and social media campaigns go live, and we visit local colleges. By April, we review applications, determine financial aid, and finalize enrollment, speakers, and the schedule. In July, we welcome 50-60 participants, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s, to our program. The majority are local, but we also welcome participants from all over the country and world.
LARB reaches 7 million readers in 170 countries. Using our global influence to celebrate the LA cultural scene is central to our mission. Amplifying the creative opportunities LA affords, the Workshop will increase employment in creative industries, minority- and women-owned firms, arts establishments, and LA’s soft power globally. In addition to our course, we offer an extensive directory, local networking events, a biweekly newsletter with job listings, and continued mentorship. The percentage of local students that remain after graduating will also increase through the tools and networks we provide. UCI has even reported that our collaboration has assisted with recruitment for their doctoral programs. More impact is discussed in the next section.
In what stage of innovation is this project?
Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
To gauge the impact of the grant and program on the literary community, we will track the job placement of our all of our alumni, as we have for the past two years, through faculty outreach, networking events, surveys, and our alumni newsletter. All 60 students we anticipate admitting in 2019 will be invited to participate in written or video exit surveys upon completion of the program. LARB will also evaluate program planning and efficacy overall through quarterly performance evaluations by LARB leadership of program staff; student, speaker, and faculty surveys assessing the program and personnel; and program review by an outside observer, our USC faculty liaison, David St. John. As of this year, the Publishing Workshop has hosted over 110 visiting speakers and panelists, trained 101 total students and provided the resources and support for eleven ongoing publishing projects founded, run and sustained by the students themselves. We plan to incubate 8-10 new projects in 2019, bringing our total output to roughly 20 new literary ventures, and will continue to keep track of and promote all successful publications that come out of the workshop. This year, with a larger student pool and expanded curriculum, we expect to help usher even more innovative, cuttingedge publications and publishing enterprises into the world.