UW-Green Bay’s Teaching Press celebrates launch of new nature journal | The Press Times
On Monday, Dec. 12, The Teaching Press at UW-Green Bay celebrated the launch of its latest publication — Wandering Toft Point: A Nature Journal.
A conglomeration of illustration, poetry, facts and prompts, Wandering Toft Point: A Nature Journal began as an idea from UW-Green Bay’s scientific illustration club, led by graduate student Cayla Cavey.
“The vision was a book that would kind of represent what Toft Point is as far as flora and fauna go,” she said. “So we already knew we wanted to make a book of some kind, but we were thinking more of an adult coloring book. Once we started talking with our club, the idea of a nature journal came up and that would allow it to be a lot more flexible in the content and more interactive, so that’s where that idea was born.”
Another goal for the book, Cavey said, was to provide a way to raise support and awareness for Toft Point, a State Natural Area along Door County’s Lake Michigan coast.
“We wanted to give back, as well,” she said. “There’s a page in the book that identifies how to contribute. It was really essential because we didn’t want to just make a book and dedicate it to Toft Point without the potential to bring back revenue for Toft. It takes a lot to maintain the area and a lot of students do research there. I’ve helped other people do their thesis projects researching mammals there, so bringing money back into such a beautiful ecosystem was a big part of the project.”
After connecting with Vicki Medlin, part of Friends of Toft Point, Cavey got in touch with Dr. Rebecca Meacham, who runs The Teaching Press at UW-Green Bay.
“Vicky connected me with Rebecca and we talked about the book multiple times before it was an official part of her class,” she said. “Really, our goal was just to showcase how beautiful Toft Point is because it really is pretty. So to do that, we thought ‘let’s do a nature journal where we have plants and animals that you can go find when you go [to Toft Point]. And then you can write about the weather, you can write poetry, you can draw.”
From there, Cavey said it became a collaborative effort to gather content for the book.
“Once the class started this fall, we really got into the sway of things,” she said. “We had a whole list of illustrations that we wanted to have. I worked with some ecologists at the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity to put together a representative list of plants and animals of all different kinds from Toft Point. I helped coordinate getting those illustrations into the book and getting our content and the class was instrumental in getting the poetry and the writing and adding the facts.”
In addition to the content of the book, Olivia Meyer said she and other students in The Teaching Press were also involved in the whole process of bringing the book to life from a publishing perspective.
“The first two months of the semester was a lot of brainstorming and design,” she said. “‘What do we want the inside of the book to look like? What font do we want to use? What’s the aesthetic going to be? What do we want to call it? We did a lot of research, looking at comparable titles and what kind of nature journals are out there and in the market already. What do we want to do? What do we not want to do? And then once we finally got all of the poetry and illustrations, we had to go through and decide what was going to make it in. The journey was a long process. We did everything, which is crazy.”
But creating an opportunity for students to be involved in every step of the publishing process was exactly what Meacham had in mind when she started The Teaching Press at UW-Green Bay a few years ago.
“There’s so many people in the creative arts industries and majors in English and creative writing who aren’t sure what they are going to do,” she said. “I thought, ‘we need to give people professionalizing experience.’ If you’ve ever applied for a job, they always want you to have this imaginary three to five years in publishing. Where are you going to get that? So I thought, ‘well, alright, maybe we can start building that in.’”
Meacham said being involved in The Teaching Press gives students real-world experience in every aspect of the world of books.
“I have students that are press managers, and so they’re dealing with lots of stuff with the machines,” she said. “But then I’m bringing them into meetings with legal and we’re looking at contracts. We’re looking at all of this high level stuff that the students that are going to be working with. We have to do marketing and sales, so we’re giving them real, authentic experience in being a publicist and doing market research and doing things that they can take to the next level.”
The experience has proved to be worthwhile, too, according to Isabel Schoenherr, who served as chief copy editor for the Toft Point project.
“This is the first book I’ve been super involved with,” she said. “I haven’t even graduated yet and I was chief copy editor for this book. I want to go into copy editing, so that’s perfect, and it’s been a really cool experience to work with a small team. If you really want to go into any sort of English or writing field, this is definitely the place to be. You can get experience that’s going to look amazing on a resume and it’s also just fun.”
In addition to bringing worthwhile experiences for students, Meacham said another goal of The Teaching Press is to bring awareness to stories and people in the community.
The Toft Point nature journal, she said, hit all the marks.
“I like the Toft Point journal because it checks a lot of those boxes and it’s really an important project,” she said. “It’s really a great and gorgeous book and so collaborative. But I want to continue to find those projects of the undervoiced and lesser-known voices of this community and in northeastern Wisconsin in general. That’s what we’ve got to do. I feel like in Hamilton, you know, ‘why do you write like you’re running out of time?’ There’s no way that I’m trying to compare myself to any aspect of that show, but that song makes me feel like we’ve got to save the world with storytelling. We’ve got to find a way and I feel like The Teaching Press can have that value that we need to be really good community partners.”