“Writing With” in Action by Erin Duenwald

When I registered for Introduction to the Drake Community Press, I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited to be part of the publishing process and to hold a book I helped create, but I knew almost nothing about the Drake Community Press or how a small press like this one would function differently than a traditional press. Nevertheless, as an English major interested in editing, I was excited to see where this class would take me.

The first few weeks of the course consisted of learning about the DCP’s inner workings. We researched the DCP’s publications over the years in small groups for several weeks, then presented our findings to the rest of the class. It was really cool to dive deeply into my book, The Ones I Bring With Me, and to learn about other DCP projects like Above and Beyond Cancer and Zakery’s Bridge. Something that really struck me as I learned more about these books was just how true the DCP’s motto of “writing with” turned out to be. 

The first time I heard this motto, I wondered where the second half of it was. Writing with who? I quickly realized the sentence isn’t finished because there are so many ways to fill in the blank. Take The Ones I Bring With Me, for example. This book was made in partnership with the nonprofit Al Éxito and is composed of stories directly from the mouths of the Latinas the nonprofit works with. The DCP did not “write for” or “write about” these women, although those options may have been easier, but instead “wrote with” them.

Beyond the subjects of their books, the DCP “writes with” students. In the class , we work closely with the director, Professor Spaulding-Kruse, and the intern team, as well as the upcoming book’s non-profit partner, Iowa Environmental Council. I expected to be “writing for” the press—thrown into working on this book without much prior knowledge—but we have spent a lot of time getting to know the DCP’s past publications and core values. It is this knowledge of what the DCP stands for that connects me to the press in a deeper way than if I was simply “writing for” it.

“Writing with” encompasses the importance of collaboration within the DCP. The class is very heavy on collaborative project-based learning—every student has their own role in the creation of this book, and we all depend on each other to move the project forward. It has been really great to build relationships with other students in the class and lean on each other as we forge our own way in this new class. 

The future of this class is not set in stone, but I am excited to see where it goes. I have already learned so much about things I didn’t even expect to encounter in this class. I’ve learned about small presses and the DCP, but I’ve also gained applicable work experience. I have learned about local nonprofit organizations, and I’ve built relationships with other students. Most importantly, I feel that I’m working toward a meaningful  end goal. When this book is published, I believe it will have a tangible impact on the Des Moines community, and when that happens, I will know I played a part in making that happen.