The Independent Publishing Resource Center has just announced the creation of a year-long certificate program in "Writing, Comics and Independent Publishing."

The course rests on the premise that if the future of mass-produced content lies with digital readers, the future of books lies with books-as-art-objects (in other words, the McSweeney's model). By that token, if you're interested in actually publishing books—as opposed to just distributing content—it would behoove you to learn how to make those books pretty.

What distinguishes this program from traditional publishing programs—or even non-traditional ones, like PSU's Ooligan Press—is that it's geared toward teaching students to produce high-quality books that contain content that they themselves have created. (Since the IPRC isn't technically a school, obviously this course isn't accredited—and even if it were, with the current state of the publishing industry, the value of an MA in publishing is... debatable.) To that end, a full semester is purely content-oriented, and students will choose between two tracks—one dedicated to creative writing, and the other to graphic novels/comics. Instructors include writers like Kevin Sampsell, Craig Thompson, and Ariel Gore. The second semester, overseen by former Mercury Art Director Mark Searcy, is devoted to production, design, publication, and new media, with courses in letterpress, InDesign, screenprinting, binding, and webdesign + social media instruction.

I asked IPRC director Justin Hocking to expand on that "new media" bit, wondering specifically whether there would be any consideration at all of how digital channels can broaden distribution on the cheap. He responded, via email:

Mark Searcy is doing some really interesting New Media work right now; he’s developing an online zine reader that we’ll try to work into the program. We will also definitely touch on ways to subvert conventional book distro channels by using online distro and sales techniques.

He goes on:

What we’re shooting for is the creation of a new “school” not only in the physical sense, but also a new school of writers, cartoonists and graphic novelists with the skills and resources to independently publish their own work. To me, it feels akin to the local food movement, by which local growers derive satisfaction and a superior product by using local resources and landscape. And this model doesn’t exclude creative success on a broader scale: writers like Ariel Gore, Pete Jordan and many others started out by independently publishing.

The two-semester course is $550 per semester. Full curriculum after the jump.

The IPRC's New Certificate Program in Writing, Comics and Independent Publishing
Curriculum Outline:

Fall Semester*)
1) Core Creative Writing workshop with Justin Hocking (fiction + nonfiction). Will meet once a week for 2-3 hours.
A) Intro intensive weekend with Justin Hocking and Alex Wrekk
B) Guest lectures by Kevin Sampsell, Ariel Gore, Cheryl Strayed and Alex Wrekk
2) Core Comics/Graphic Novel workshop with Jesse Recklaw. Will meet once a week for 2-3 hours.
A) Intro weekend intensive with Dylan Williams: Foundations in creating comics (making time, finding inspiration, drawing from life, history of comics, etc.)
B) Mid-semester: 2 hour workshop with Annie Murphy: comics and personal/historical visual narrative
C) More guest lectures and workshops with Craig Thompson, Nicole Georges, Shawn Granton and Todd Bak

Spring Semester)
A) Intensive workshop in Production, Design, and Publication + New Media facilitated by Mark Searcy. Will meet once a week for 2-3 hours. Final project will be a collaborative anthology of work created during fall semester, published and perfect-bound at the IPRC.
Semester will also include:
1) Five hour letterpress workshop
2) Screenprinting workshop (taught at Em Space Book Arts Center)
3) Beginning and Advanced InDesign courses
4) Perfect binding machine workshop
5) Tours of local printing presses (e.g. Brown, Eberhardt, Stumptown, etc)
6) Pre-press comics class taught by Dylan Williams
7) Webdesign + social media instruction

*Note that students will choose either the Creative Writing Track or the Comics Track, but may take electives in either genre.