The Gallimard Academy: towards a new role for the publisher?

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Whereas...Amazon claims to put the author and the reader in direct contact with each other.the setting up of these workshops is for Gallimard an opportunity to recall the importance of the publisher's literary role. Is this a new role in the publishing business? A French-style innovation to overcome the competition from the American mastodon and the advent of digital technology? 

On this June day, as the corridors empty, the moulded lounges at 5, rue Gaston-Gallimard welcome their evening visitors. The participants to the first writing workshops organized by the venerable Gallimard publishing house are on their way to their final working session.

They are nine to join the workshop led by the publisher and writer Jean-Marie Laclavetine"The Making of the Story", seven the writer's... Laurence Cossé"Excellent news." They each paid 1,500 euros for eight three-hour sessions, or 62 euros per hour. A nice sum, close to the median wage of the French. What was the outcome?

Nurse Sandra will never write "never again" like she used to. She feels that she has learned "to classify and structure". 1,500 euros? She is here to "buy quality".

Jean-François, a bookseller in Saumur, suffering from "the disease of writing", is there to "get an echo" of his work. The price? It is the price of a "stay in Marrakech". He prefers to pay Gallimard.

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Juliette works in scientific publishing in Strasbourg. Accustomed to writing in the detective genre, she enjoys working "outside her comfort zone". Compared to the number of hours, she does not find the price excessive. The participants we were able to talk to had no regrets to express.

Learning to write?

When Gallimard announced the launch of its NRF workshops last spring, it caused annoyance, to say the least. The ogre of autumn prices, the king of French publishers, allowed himself, as a bonus, to sell writing lessons at a good price? Shocking at a time when the very principle of training in literary creation is badly accepted in France. Admittedly, the first master's degree has just been created by the University of Le Havreand the Aleph or Elisabeth Bing have existed for many years with more modest rates. But the idea that the art of writing is a subject for teaching grieves our cult of genius, whereas creative writing courses have existed for a long time in Anglo-Saxon countries.

A model, the Faber Academy

Charlotte Gallimard, Antoine's eldest daughter, initiated the workshops. Inspired by the Faber AcademyThis is the same recipe as the one used by the respectable London-based publishing house Faber & Faber, launched in 2008: a prestigious brand, small, friendly groups, renowned writer-animators, and a corresponding prize. "Getting started« The Faber module, which corresponds to the NRF workshops, is offered at 1,200 euros.

These first sessions are far from being full, as the 15 places planned for each of them have not been filled. The young publisher says she is satisfied, however, considering that this start in a small committee has allowed her to test the formula. As for the 1,500 euros, which has attracted the most virulent criticism, she says that they also serve, "in a significant proportion", to pay the writer-animator. The places for the three sessions at the end of the year are already booked, and new workshops will see the light of day in 2013. As its century-old mother housethe Gallimard Academy has signed up for the long term.

(Article published in L'express.fr - 5 July 2012)

 

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