Acquiring Expertise

How Apprentice House Press shapes future publishing pros.

Acquiring Expertise

It’s strange how certain words in our fast-moving English language get co-opted. “Apprentice” is one of them. Since this is a column about small-press publishing, I will not nosedive into the history of reality television here. I will not focus on how a word signifying skill-building and practical training got turned on its head by some rich guy with a catchphrase and political ambitions.

I will, however, honor the etymology of “apprenticeship,” especially the kind offered at Apprentice House Press (AH), America’s first campus-based, student-run independent publisher. Apprentice House has been at Loyola University Maryland since 1987. Recently, I spoke via email with its director, Kevin Atticks — a very busy man, I soon learned — about the press’ untraditional publishing model based on the traditional idea of apprenticeship as being all about experiential learning.

What’s the best part of overseeing a student-run publishing enterprise? 

It’s incredible to see the evolution of our students over the course of the semester. Many enter the course hoping to gain some knowledge about the industry, but they leave having become an integral staffer in a busy press. Their work is LinkedIn-worthy, and their experience has led to internships and full-time positions in the field.

Have any former students gone on to noteworthy jobs in the publishing industry? 

We have alumni in various editing and publishing roles around the country, with a few at major presses. They point to their experience with AH as the door-opener to the industry. The industry is consolidating, making it more difficult to gain the experience needed to gain access to positions at credible presses. AH provides a unique professional experience, and all contributing students’ names are listed on the copyright page of our books. Quite the portfolio piece!

I’m struck by the ambitious number of titles Apprentice House publishes a year — 14 for your spring 2024 list. What distinguishes an AH book?

We’re averaging 20-25 publications annually, focusing primarily on spring releases. An AH book will introduce readers to new authors offering compelling stories (short or long) in a variety of genres. While many presses focus on a specific genre, we have kept our focus broad to give our team of undergraduates the opportunity to select manuscripts they feel represent the best work submitted for our consideration.
As an editor, what stands out to you in fiction versus memoir? What do you look for (and encourage your students to look for) in each?

We’re seeking strong stories that envelop readers, whether fiction or memoir. Our favorite memoirs include themes of redemption, overcoming adversity, and those that take readers through otherwise unknown/unfamiliar experiences. We’ve had so much fun with fiction and have been open to a variety of subgenres.
Are you currently accepting manuscripts for consideration in 2025-2026?

During this year’s review, we read more than 250 manuscripts. Just 24 were offered publication. Our submission deadline is February 1st of each year, giving us time to review manuscripts during the first half of our spring semester. The latter half is devoted to development and editing.                       

And are you really also head of Maryland’s Department of Agriculture (which came up when I googled)?

Yes, Governor Wes Moore appointed me to serve as secretary of Agriculture last January (after years of work writing about and promoting the local wine and value-added agriculture industry).


A couple more notes on Apprentice House: As I research their catalogs, I learned that they lean into memoirs, novels, and short-story collections, with many authors from DC, Maryland, and Virginia represented.

In looking closely at two works from AH, I could sense the range of interest from this press and the quality of work from these apprentices. Kay White Drew, a retired neonatal physician and writer of the forthcoming memoir Stress Test, must have startled (in a good way) these student editors with her frank scenes of a woman determined to study medicine in the 1970s.

Stress Test opens with novelistic flair: in Libertyville, Maryland, the Watergate trial on television, and Kay, a young adult between college and medical school, working with rats in a laboratory and facing her mother’s cancer diagnosis. The author’s life in medicine, often as the only woman in the room, is told in vivid detail. The misogyny that marks her career is matched only by her skill at medicine and her ability to characterize it; you are there at the lab, hospital, and bedside with her.

Pierce by Patrick B. Simpson, another Maryland-based writer making his debut with Apprentice House, demonstrates how this student-run press is expanding beyond the confines of literary fiction to, in this case, the subgenre of crime fiction. Released in March, Pierce must’ve been eye-opening literary fun for the students in a different way. In it, Truman Pierce, a 28-year-old janitor at a small-town college with a passion for classical music, works to solve a classroom murder with the help of two undergrads and an instructor. Pierce is a murder-mystery complete with snappy, noirish dialogue and unexpected twists.

Overall, the students at Apprentice House produce quality literary nonfiction and fiction that shows how the hands-on learning, editing, and designing of books benefit not only the student-apprentices but the larger community of writers and readers. Someone should shout, “You’re hired!” to these students (but first, read the books that they’ve acquired, edited, designed, and are promoting like pros).

Caroline Bock writes stories — from micros to novels. She is the author of the novel The Other Beautiful People, forthcoming from Regal House Publishing in summer 2026. A graduate of Syracuse University, she studied creative writing with Raymond Carver and poetry with Jack Gilbert and Tess Gallagher. In 2011, after a 20-year career as a cable television executive, she earned an MFA in fiction from the City College of New York. She has short fiction forthcoming in the Hopkins Review. She is the co-president and prose editor at the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. She lives in Maryland with her family.

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