November 25, 2015, by Linguistics in the Workplace

The Book Sprint

This blog post was written by Dr Spencer Jordan who set ten first-year students a challenge which involved writing a book in just three days.

Could you write, edit and publish a book in three days? That was the challenge I set ten first-year School of English students who applied to my open invitation. The challenge used the methodology of ‘book sprinting’, where a book is produced collaboratively over a very short period of time, normally between three or five days. In part the challenge was a practical examination of academic publishing, as part of National Academic Book Week. But it was also a fantastic way for English students to immerse themselves in the real-life practicalities of book publishing.

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The event took place between the 9th and 11th November 2015. Our room for the three days which the booksprint headquarters. I acted as the facilitator but essentially everything was done by the students themselves. It was decided early on that the book would be a students’ guide to starting university, a sort of rough guide to student life that would complement the existing, more official, documentation supplied by the University and UCAS. Interestingly, it was decided to include factual as well as creative responses, including poems and short stories as well as photographs taken by the students themselves.

As you can imagine the three days involved lots of writing. Everything was done using Google Documents, so that all copy could be instantly shared and collaboratively edited from any networked computer. This saved an enormous amount of time and meant that the students could continue working well into the night, if they wanted to (which some did). By the end of day two we had over 25,000 words, as well as a variety of photographs, poems and stories. Day three was where the students brought all this together into the final format of the document, placing case studies, student profiles and photographs alongside each section. A front cover was completed, with a name – ‘An Insider’s Guide to Starting University’ – aimed at students going through the very experiences that they went through themselves just months before. Harriet Williams was one of the students involved. Her interest in publishing and a desire to understand more about the process led her to volunteer. She said: “Taking part in the Book Sprint was the one of the best opportunities I could have had in my first year here at Nottingham. It was a brilliant way to meet like-minded people in order to write something meaningful and useful.”

Perhaps most satisfying for me was to see the students working together, using and developing skills that will stand them in good stead as they seek to establish themselves in whatever career they decide to follow. It would be great if we could use the book at our UCAS applicant days. I’ve applied for further funding to see if we can publish a hardcopy version. But whatever happens, I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard about book sprinting in the School of English.

 

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