Each year about this time, a new set of graduates with fresh, new academic degrees embarks on post-academic life. Especially among those who majored in a humanities field, or who earned advanced degrees in creative writing or literature, the road to graduation was likely paved with plenty of course papers and presentations. I’m not sure how many new graduates (or, for that matter, those with degrees earned in years past) realize that this work needn’t simply gather dust – literal or virtual. Sometimes, it can be transformed for publication and payment.
I’ve had good luck converting coursework (and the occasional academic or professional conference paper) into an article or essay for another audience. My earliest such success came more than a decade ago, when, with an editor’s help, I adapted a paper that I’d written for a literature class some years earlier for publication by an online magazine. (Neither the magazine nor even the adjective “online” had existed back when I took the class.)
As an MFA student, I knew I was on to something with a short seminar paper I’d written; a print publication bought an expanded version. Then, I received acceptance letters and paychecks for two articles that originated as academic conference presentations. Most recently, an editor has offered to purchase and publish the text of remarks that I delivered at a writing conference in Boston in early May. That piece should be out later this summer.
So before you relegate the fruits of your academic labor to the past, consider polishing a piece or two. If you’ve written with style as well as substance, with vitality and voice notwithstanding “academic” writing’s unfortunate reputation for deadly dullness, the work may well serve a new – and profitable – purpose.
Since 2004, Erika Dreifus has published THE PRACTICING WRITER, a free monthly newsletter for poets, fictionists, and writers of creative nonfiction. Venues that have published and paid for her “converted coursework” and conference papers include JBOOKS.COM, QUEEN’S QUARTERLY, TEACHERS & WRITERS, and THE WILLAMETTE WRITER. Visit Erika online at www.erikadreifus.com and follow her on Twitter, where she tweets on “matters bookish and/or Jewish,” @ErikaDreifus.