Intern Reflections: Amelia MacDonald and Diamond Irwin

Each summer, Penn Press welcomes a set of interns to come and learn about scholarly publishing (and help us do a lot of work!), and we asked if any would be willing to write up some reflections on their time here. We are featuring them this week. Monday we had Zoe Gould and Katarina Troutman. On Tuesday, it was Adriana Obiol and Hannah Zuckerman. Here's our last set.

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Form and content

While perusing the shelves at a book store the other day, picking up titles that caught my eye, admiring the cover art, I found myself stopping to look at the layout of the front matter before skimming the first chapter. What had previously been filler pages to me was now a carefully selected format and informative guide. This, more than anything, is exemplary of what my experience at the press has meant. I now have a deeper appreciation for not only the content, but the form of the book itself. I will likely never pick up a book without thinking about such details again.

At the press there are many exciting opportunities to delve into the creation of a book, from communicating with the author, to handling the very manuscript, to discussing the title that will appear on shelves. Working in multiple departments also allows one to get a blow-by-blow of the production of a work.  I began my time at the press working in the Acquisitions department. There, I had the opportunity to format manuscripts, handle author correspondence, and work in the archives. From there, I moved to the Marketing department where I saw another side of the press. In Marketing, I worked on advertising, surveying book reviews, and organizing for conferences. Both sets of projects culminated in transmittal meetings where the planning of the book was collaborated on by all departments.

One of my favorite projects was reading the book reviews. Combing through the reviews and picking out the best quotes to be featured in ads and book covers was engaging. It was also interesting to see how the press’s books were faring in critics’ eyes.

The diverse array of projects provided me with knowledge of the various aspects of a business. I believe I can apply my experiences at Penn Press to future press work and to a multitude of other fields as well. —Amelia MacDonald

 

Unexpectedly creative work

Before I became an intern for the Marketing department of Penn Press, my experience with publicity in the professional sphere was somewhat sparse—while I possessed generic ideas of what public relations could entail, there was a definite disconnect between me and the world of scholarly publishing. Therefore, I figured that I would be occupied mostly by writing press releases or researching background materials for academically oriented texts.

As it turns out, I was able to engineer creative processes or projects every single day. One of my projects in particular speaks to this claim:  my design of a poster that was featured at the Press’s table for the 2014 SHEAR conference. Said poster was made to promote an imagined yet energetic “showdown” between two female historical figures. Since these women, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, were being held up as adversaries on the basis of their lives and general accomplishments, it made sense to have a poster to promote this lively challenge.

In creating the poster, and making sure that it carried enough visual interest to intrigue the casual conference viewer, I researched boxing posters online. In addition to kindling my imagination, the bevy of posters I found revealed that the colors highlighted most often in boxing matches were red, black and white; the images of the opposing boxers also often faced each other. In order to emulate what I saw, I searched for colorful and complementary images of Mott and Bonaparte that appeared as if they were staring each other down. Aside from using such imagery, I made sure to utilize shades of gold and tan in order to enliven the red and black that served as the most prominent colors of the poster. Finally, I utilized an old-fashioned font that fittingly harkened back to the Old West and its notoriously confrontational culture.

I was truly excited that this assignment led to my increasing familiarity with Adobe InDesign. Before I arrived to the Press, I had never used this program before (in actuality, I had honestly tried to avoid using Apple computers). And yet, the necessity of using InDesign here helped me to become more comfortable with it and improve my technical skills as far as Macs are concerned.

When I visited the conference on Friday, July 18, it was very interesting to see how visitors reacted to the poster, the concept of the “showdown,” and the Press’s table, which had been arranged to display books that were available for sale. By taking myself out of an office atmosphere, where it was just me, my ideas, and Adobe InDesign, I was able to engage with people who had immersed themselves in the intellectual field—furthermore, I was able to see how these people participated in the “showdown” and demonstrated their faith in either Mott or Bonaparte by placing their business cards in the jar associated with their favorite figure. With the prospect of winning the book associated with the victor offered to these individuals, they bantered and speculated over who would triumph; sitting near my poster, as it was displayed alongside the Press’s published works, I was happy to take part in this enjoyable and spirited debate.

Another creative project that I spent a large amount of time on was a trailer for Richard Vague’s new book The Next Economic Disaster (see the trailer below). For this assignment, I was compelled by how the format of the trailer was defined by the dynamism of movement. Instead of designing a fun yet inherently static poster, this short video was meant to keep the viewer’s attention with words, pictures, and music that build toward a conclusion that would provoke widespread interest in the American financial system and potential strategies for both understanding and predicting its patterns.

To begin, I turned to Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2011 with the intent of saving the slideshow as a video. However, to keep the slides from running together in a tedious or boring fashion, I utilized animations on a decidedly large scale. The preliminary drafts of the video had many animations that involved a collection of different colors and graphs. After other people watched it with constructively critical eyes, I learned the importance of highlighting the pertinent information provided by Vague without an excess of animations or other distractions. Therefore, I kept the video relatively neutral in this respect. I also kept the color palette mostly white with blues and red used sparingly in order to mimic the minimalistic cover of Vague’s book. In this instance, keeping the visual connection between the video and the book was crucial.

Once facts, quotations and images were placed onto the appropriate slides, all that was left was to find the music. Since it was necessary for the background song to be the difficult perfect blend of solemn and energetic, I searched online for several days. Finally, I discovered the song “A Day in Port Royal” by Ending Satellites in a free music archive. I was extremely happy and lucky to find that the rhythmic cues of this deceptively simple piano tune coincided perfectly with the transitions between the slides I had made. From my point of view, this music ties well with the climax of the video where Vague’s book cover is revealed and offers a sense of hope that the economy can be salvaged from private debt and runaway lending.

When the trailer was approved and posted online to YouTube, I was very glad that it would reach people connected with the Press, Vague, and even those who had a passing curiosity in the economies of the United States and other countries. As when I finished the poster, I was thankful that I had the chance to have my creativity thrive and reach audiences of unknown numbers. I hope that I’ll have future opportunities to complete creative ventures in this vein and diversify my artistic experiences. —Diamond Irwin

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