Writing and Publishing Diploma program student Stephen Ikesaka. (Photo contributed)

Start the presses: Writing and Publishing program returns to Vernon

An Information Night is planned for individuals who are interested in the program on May 13 at 6:30 p.m. in Room E102 of the Vernon campus.

Publishing isn’t dead – just experiencing an explosive rebirth as storytelling undergoes a digital transformation.

To meet the content needs of the coming generation, the Writing and Publishing Diploma program at Okanagan College returns to the Vernon campus starting in September.

The program infuses the range of English, creative writing, editing and communications material with applied technical skills in graphic design, typography, coding and book publishing, producing students who can publish quality content in a range of media.

For second-year student Jennie Evans, who is writing a mystery novel, the program opened her eyes to a broad range of opportunities.

“I don’t know if I can put into words how much I like this program. I thought I would get into copy editing after school, but my plans have 100% changed,” she said. “In this program we’ve done a lot of fine arts with writing, and I see how there seems to be a lot of jobs in graphic design. In the class, we have projects for real clients. Designing posters for a client like the Red Dot Players is rewarding, and shows real-world application.”

Studying at the Vernon campus takes advantage of the Okanagan College Print Shop, affectionately called “The Bunker” by students and staff. Located in the basement floor, the letterpress print shop features more than 20,000 pounds of vintage printing presses and metal type. Some assignments see students applying their typography and design knowledge by setting type by hand and printing that type on 100-year-old presses.

Although many people only think in terms of digital publishing, instructor Jason Dewinetz said The Bunker experience offers students a unique learning experience.

“I can’t stress enough what working in The Bunker does for students. It’s transformational. When they go back to the computer, they are thinking of things completely differently,” Dewinetz said. “We are all so tethered to the phones, that hands-on tactile activities like this really change their point of view. They’re getting dirty, they have ink on their hands, and then the real benefit comes when working in the three-dimensional world and applying it to the two-dimensional screen.”

This intricate manual work is done in conjunction with training on industry-standard publishing software like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign – preparing students to work in multiple fields.

“We have a large number of business students who take our courses because they are interested in learning the software, and it gives them valuable skills for a variety of industries,” said Dewinetz, adding the technical skills are enhanced with broad understanding in editing, writing and graphic design, as well as what it’s like to work with real-world clients. This program gives students a taste of different disciplines before they specialize, and some have gone on to other programs as well,” he said.

Second-year student Stephen Ikesaka had a specialty, but is also considering switching gears. He has published two novels under the nom de plume S.K. Aetherphoxx, and is currently working on the third in his Fatespinner trilogy. He started his own publishing company with the aim to help other writers, and found the program put him on a steep learning curve.

“There is a really clear connection between good writing and the display of that writing. Things like typefaces, margin structures and how the human eye moves all affect how work is perceived. It doesn’t matter how good your story is, if it’s presented in Comic Sans, it is going to affect my reading experience,” he said. “With writing you can get comfortable, but this program challenges you to get outside of that comfort zone. I have grown a lot, and incorporated a lot of different styles that I wouldn’t have considered before, but it’s made my writing more vivacious.”

Students who complete the Diploma of Writing and Publishing can transfer to many university programs in B.C. to attain a bachelor’s degree in their desired field. Although he hadn’t originally planned to continue his education, Ikesaka said the program has opened those doors for him.

“I’m having a great time learning. I’d like the ability to teach, perhaps as a buffer while I am working on writing projects, so that is why I’m considering graduate studies. For the first time in my life, I think I know what I want to be doing,” he said.

An Information Night is planned for individuals who are interested in the program on May 13 at 6:30 p.m. in Room E102 of the Vernon campus (7000 College Way).

For program information, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/writingpublishing.

Related: Okanagan College seeks to build student housing in Vernon, Salmon Arm, Kelowna

Related: Okanagan College to develop wellness strategy for drug use

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