Just as the swallows return each year to San Juan Capistrano, so too do leading figures in the publishing world make an annual pilgrimage to speak at the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course.
Founded in 1947, the PPC (as it is known to more than 2,000 alumni and the publishing industry) was designed to bridge the gap between a liberal arts education and a publishing job. Each summer, 80 recent college graduates from around the world spend six weeks here in Cambridge receiving basic training in publishing skills, being put into direct contact with publishers, and gaining an overall understanding of the requirements and opportunities of publishing.
The course is divided into two sections, the first three weeks devoted to books, the second to magazines. Before beginning the course's rigorous schedule , the students receive hefty packages of advance assignments and readings, all of which must be completed before the course begins in late June.
By the time the course is over, students have gained practical experience in all major areas of book and magazine publishing.
In addition to the regular assignments, special workshops in design and production and on starting a magazine give course participants hands-on experience in these areas. Frequent field trips supplement the program.
During the second half of the course, the students break into eight teams, each responsible for producing a 48-page magazine dummy in two weeks. Students must take all facets of magazine production into account in the development of their projects, from making lucid statements of editorial concepts to examining budget considerations and circulation projections.
Among the 1980 creations were Single Parent, a magazine addressing the interests and concerns of one-parent households; Renovations, a guide for people undertaking home improvements; Aloft, a special-interest publication devoted to wind-propelled sky sports; and Sportscanada, a magazine covering Canadian sports and recreation.
When not busy with assignments, workshops, or field trips, students are exposed to leading publishing and literary figures, over 60 of whom come each year to speak, either on a formal basis at lectures, or informally over snacks or meals.
The PPC pace is hectic, and while the rewards are great, the course demands large amounts of stamina on the parts of its students. As one participant remarked, "I thought they were joking when I was told there would only be enough free time to run out for a bar of soap in Harvard Square!"
Over the past 25 years, the mastermind behind the course has been Mrs. Diggory (Doylie) Venn, whose exhaustive efforts have brought the program international renown. Mrs. Venn, who joined the program at its inception in 1947 (becoming director in 1955) retired at the end of the 1980 session, but plans to continue as a consultant to the program in coming years.
Possible long-range changes may include more specialized training for people interested in textbook, technical, business, and small-press publishing.
In addition, there has been a growing trend to accept people with more experience into the course, and it is anticipated that this will continue as the program attracts more people in other fields, such as academics, who want to write, edit, or publish.
Through close communication with a large network of alumni and publishing professionals, the program has an enviable rate of success in placing its graduates: Some 80 percent of any given class find publishing jobs within a few weeks after the course ends. While attendance does not automatically ensure a job and it is stressed that the program is not a placement office, by acting as a clearinghouse for publishing information and contacts the course makes the job hunting process much easier for its students.
Competition for admission is severe: Of more than 400 applicants each year, only 80 students are accepted. Ambition, interest, and commitment are the chief qualities sought by the admissions committee.
Applications for the 1981 session, which will run from June 22 through July 31, are received anytime between September and the end of April. Forms and information are available from the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Co urse, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, Mass. 02138.