Detroit is a cultural haven for artists of all fathomable mediums. Wayne State University Press, as the city’s oldest and largest publishing house, plays a critical role in supporting the artists and writers that comprise our local literary scene, with far-reaching results.
University presses are known for their rigorous evaluation of manuscript submissions in the areas in which they specialize. In Wayne State’s case, the Press has an international reputation of excellence in publishing scholarly books in, among other areas, Fairy Tale studies, Media studies, and Jewish studies. While many university presses have regional publishing programs, they often focus on the local history and ecology—cooking, hiking, or architecture, for example, and Wayne State does have an extensive regional list of this kind. But few specialize in building lists in regional creative writing, which is also, unfortunately, often ignored by mainstream trade publishers who seek primarily to invest in publishing bestsellers. Acutely aware of the need for a reputable forum for up-and-coming creative writers, the Press launched the Made in Michigan Writers series in 2006. The most provocative poetry, creative non-fiction, and essays appear under this imprint after undergoing the same exacting assessment standards applied to our esteemed academic publications. Outstanding regional writing—and in our case, Great Lakes literature—is now the bailiwick of smaller publishers, independent houses, and scholarly presses.
The advent of digital publishing changed our practices concerning sales and distribution, but not in terms of the quality and creativity of our content or our commitment to high standards of print production. We use materials that are sustainable and beautiful and create a satisfying, tactile experience for readers. Design is never an afterthought, nor is our employ of local artists, compositors, and printers to complete the final package. The Press makes a statement with this process: books matter, local sourcing matters, readers matter.
In fact, Detroit’s entire artistic community matters. There is so much emphasis today on place, identity, and what the sense of place means: how it puts ideas and stories in context. Writers, painters, photographers, printmakers, dancers, puppeteers, and musicians create from within this particular place, which makes for a distinctive voice and product. Midwestern literature is among the best at illustrating place, capturing it vividly, whether it is the geography or its inhabitants and what makes them tick. At the Press we believe it is our responsibility to connect to and with this community, in addition to providing an outlet for authors. In fact, we foster authors we don’t publish, emphasizing the importance of literary arts beyond our four walls. For three years we have sponsored the Midtown Literary Walk, a free event in which twelve writers are hosted by five different venues in Detroit’s vibrant Midtown neighborhood. We also host literary and book events in partnership with a diverse group of organizations like the Detroit Drunken Historical Society, Literary Detroit, and the Book Club of Detroit, promoting a broader book culture in our city.
We are grateful to Transmission for recognizing the value and currency of Detroit’s literary scene. We return the praise. Like the Press, Transmission incorporates a broad range of scholars, writers, and artists to present an expansive platform where they can share space. The voices that emanate from our region are just one of a multitude of creative happenings that we are staunch in furthering, and it is affirming to see this journal highlight them in this special Detroit issue.
To view a history of beer in Detroit, an event held by Wayne State University Press and the Detroit Drunken Historical Society, visit http://wdet.org/news/story/history-of-beer-detroit-020414/
To learn more about Wayne State University Press, visit http://wsupress.wayne.edu/