There's an imperative you feel. You have something to say. You hope people appreciate it.
—Robert D. Sutherland
[quoted in The Pantagraph, October 13, 2007]
More than any other person, Robert D. Sutherland was responsible for starting and energizing creative writing at Illinois State University. Beginning in the early 1970s, Bob taught creative writing, wrote distinguished fiction, brought visiting writers and poets to campus, and sponsored student activities including readings and a student journal, Druid's Cave. Most significantly, Bob began a publishing endeavor—Pikestaff Press—that published a literary review, poetry chapbooks, and prose fiction. In a 19-year run that ended in 1996, Bob's magazine The Pikestaff Forum published the work of 617 individuals, comprising 645 poems, 107 works of prose fiction, 2 plays, 30 essays on literary topics, 43 book reviews, 37 photographs, 82 original drawings, and 52 editorial profiles written by editors of other magazines about their publications - a total of 998 items. It was one of the few magazines at that time to also publish the work of young authors. By the 1990s, Illinois State would be nationally and internationally recognized for a wide variety of publishing ventures, including FC2, American Book Review, The Exquisite Corpse, Context, Dalkey Archive Press, Spoon River Quarterly, and, most recently, Mandorla: New Writing From The Americas. But, it all started with Robert Sutherland.
Sutherland assistantships are awarded to a small number of creative writing students who work a year in the Department's Publications Unit and spend a second year teaching creative writing.
For their first year of a Sutherland assistantship, students receive a stipend each month for 9 months and are assigned to complete their assistantships at the Publications Unit (a 10-hour per week assignment). Students awarded this assistantship are involved with the production of publications on a daily basis, from proofreading and preparing text, to layout and design, to printing preparation, to marketing and advertising. In addition, students on assistantship learn about nonprofit publishing, current trends in the publishing field, and lobbying for the arts (literature). The assistantship is treated as a professional job, where students are expected to complete work at an elevated and often fast-paced level and to challenge knowledge and skill levels with each assignment. Assistants are also recognized as students and will be trained and supervised within an educational environment. These assistantships also include a tuition waiver.
The Publications Unit (directed by Tara Reeser) houses and provides services to Mandorla: New Writing From The Americas (editors Kristin Dykstra, Roberto Tejada and Gabriel Bernal Granados), the Spoon River Poetry Review (editor Kirstin Hotelling Zona), The Fairy Tale Review (editor Kate Bernheimer) the Sinclair Lewis Society Newsletter (editor Sally Parry), the Illinois English Bulletin (editor Janice Neuleib), the IATE Newsletter (editor Claire Lamonica), the journal Euphemism (student-edited and faculty-advised), and the small press Fiction Collective Two (FC2).
For more information about graduate programs in English at Illinois State University, please see our graduate program website.