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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From Idaho to Intern

Where I’m from, there aren’t many book publishing companies. In fact, with the exception of one which prints textbooks, there are none. For someone who’s loved reading all her life, and who has long held the dream of one day entering the world of unpublished books, this was disappointing. That’s why this summer, I applied for an internship program, and worked hard to gain a placement at Charlesbridge Publishing, a children’s book publishing house around 2,500 miles away from home. Not only will the duration of my internship be the longest amount of time I’ll have spent away from home, but this is the farthest I’ve ever been from Boise, Idaho, on my own. So far the homesickness hasn’t hit me yet, and aside from mastering the subway and bus system, I haven’t had to face any real challenges. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from books, over anything else, it’s that this is my adventure, and the experience is what I make of it. All my life I’ve lived in a small city—much smaller than I realized since coming here—and while I’ve loved growing up there, I’ve been pretty sheltered. It’s time to be the protagonist in my own story, and that starts now. Through this blog, I hope to show what it’s like to take on a dream, and what experiences come with it. This internship with Charlesbridge is my first big step into the real world, so I hope you will enjoy learning with me about publishing from the inside.


Day 1

My first day of work was incredible!

This morning I managed to get to the Charlesbridge building, and only got lost once. My supervisor, Julie, who is an associate editor, is really friendly. She showed me the cubicle I'll be working in while I’m here (I get my own cubicle!), and then pulled a bunch of their children's books for me to read while people started arriving for the day. I only got part way through one book before she came out and took me around the office and introduced me to the staff at Charlesbridge. I got to meet everyone, from those in sales and marketing, to those in art and design. As the only literature I’ve ever read/seen, which deals with publishing, is A School Story and The Proposal, I’ve always wondered if the publishing world is predominantly male or female. At Charlesbridge, there are primarily women. Julie says that in some house in New York, many of the higher positions are held by men, but there are still a lot of women regardless.

The office turned out to be bigger than it looked on the outside, so it actually took us quite a while to meet everyone.

After I met all the employees, Julie invited me to sit in on an editorial meeting with her and the two other editors, Alyssa and Yolanda. Yolanda is the editorial director, so she started the meeting. The meeting was so fascinating for me, particularly because I've always wondered what publishers think before they publish a book. What problems do they encounter in the publication process? What is it like working with the writers and illustrators? What kinds of projects are they involved in and what connection do they feel to the pieces they spend so much time on? Do they work on one book at a time or multiples? It felt surreal to be allowed to sit in on such a fascinating meeting.

Afterwards, I returned to my desk, where I was given the unpublished sequel to one of the books previously published by Charlesbridge. Julie asked me to write a Reader’s Report on the new book, detailing what I liked and didn't like about the new text. I’d read the first book while on a camping trip with my family the weekend before, but now I read it again to get a better idea of how the story was told, and what voice and style the author used. After that, I looked at the new book. I found a variety of things I thought could be improved upon, though I think the story has great potential. My report turned out to be a page long which is pretty standard.

Later in the afternoon, Julie gave me five online submissions which were sent in by agents on behalf of their subsequent authors. My job was to look at the five pieces and determine whether or not they fit in with Charlesbridge's style, and were publishable. If I didn’t think so, I was instructed to look at previous examples of letters of rejection, and, in similar style, write these letters myself. I felt like I'd been knighted. This was such a greater responsibility than I ever expected. I was thrilled and nervous all at once. What if I liked all the pieces, proving I could not distinguish between great and mediocre literature? Wasn't I supposed to be fetching coffee and organizing filing cabinets? Instead, I found myself in the position of reading pieces submitted by actual authors, and putting in my two cents worth to recommend publishing or rejecting. Of the five, I liked two. The other three were brilliant, but not good fits for the company, in my opinion. I typed up one page of bulleted points explaining why I liked the pieces I did, and for the other three, I wrote letters. If Julie agrees with my views on the pieces and approves of my letters, the letters will be sent off through Yolanda.

All in all, a memorable first day for the girl from Idaho.

1 comment:

Lauri Meyers said...

Congrats on a successful day Miss Idaho! And a published blog post too. Any first day that doesn't include sleeping through your bus stop or dropping a meatball on your lap is always a good first day.