Innovative K-State literary editing class releases first book, 'Year of the Buffalo'
MANHATTAN — American Buffalo Books, a nonprofit independent press affiliated with the English department in the College of Arts and Sciences at Kansas State University and run through an innovative yearly class, has published its first book, Aaron Burch's debut novel, "Year of the Buffalo."
Daniel A. Hoyt, professor of English, founded the course English 767 Literary Editing and American Buffalo Books to give students hands-on experience in editing, curating, marketing and promoting literary fiction. American Buffalo Books publishes novels set in or about the Midwest, the Plains and/or "flyover" portions of the West. The press publishes one novel a year, chosen from a free open call for submissions in February to professional writers throughout the world. Only a handful of American universities offer such a class.
"We are thrilled to have 'Year of the Buffalo' be our first book," Hoyt said. "At its core, it's about two brothers, but it's also about video games and professional wrestling and marriage and even bison, which, of course, we love. It's both epic and heartfelt, a wonderful book."
Burch, who has published two previous books, a story collection and a memoir, along with a novella, teaches at the University of Michigan.
"When Dan reached out and asked if I had a manuscript, he didn't yet know the title of my book, much less anything about it," Burch said. "It felt like kismet. The whole process was one of such excitement, joy, encouragement. Together, Dan and his English 767 students made the book so much better, suggesting smart and thoughtful cuts and revisions and pushing me to revise in new ways."
Through the class, students make a lasting contribution to literature, one that will appear in libraries and in bookstores. Zoe Abner, who was a K-State art student at the time, designed the book's cover.
"Students in English 767 do everything professional editors do — from making real suggestions about plot to copy editing proofs to selecting the books we will publish in future years," Hoyt said. "The skills they learn in writing, editing, managing projects and running social media accounts prepare them for a multitude of careers, not just in publishing, but the most important thing they do is help bring art into the world, novels about places like Kansas.
"Students who worked on Aaron's novel are now at top Master of Fine Arts programs in creative writing such as Florida State University and Washington University in St. Louis," Hoyt said. "One has gone on to the Denver Publishing Institute. These students are certainly not done making and shaping art."
"Year of the Buffalo" already has received notice in The New York Times Book Review as the most recent "great novel" author Kevin Wilson has read. The book can be purchased through AmericanBuffaloBooks.org. All profits return to the press to finance future book projects and class-related student experiences, such as working trips to literary conferences and festivals.
"A number of our undergraduate and graduate students in English are interested in pursuing a career in literary publishing, and so English 767 is the perfect addition to our course offerings," said Karin Westman, department head of English. "This high-impact, hands-on experience in literary editing provides pre-professional training while also showcasing talented writers and the complexity of Midwest life."
English 767 Literary Editing is offered every spring through the K-State English department. For more information about course offerings in English, visit the department's website. For more information, visit the website for American Buffalo Books.