Intern Reflections: Caroline Curran

Each summer, Penn Press welcomes interns to introduce them to the world of academic publishing, asking them to participate in the ongoing work of four departments: Acquisitions, Production, Marketing, and Business. Their valuable contributions help keep us up and running, but we hope that we are also able to give them something back: knowledge, skills, and a more complete understanding of the publishing world. At the end of their time, our interns have the opportunity to look back on their experience in blog posts that we call Intern Reflections. This year, we hear from Caroline Curran.

When I write, I tend to obsess over the smallest details of the text—the proper placement of each comma, the nuance of a certain adjective, the punch of that perfect verb. I try not to miss the forest for the trees, but to me, details are what makes writing sing. It’s what allows words to transcend the abstract so that they may exist and grow and thrive in our minds. It’s sort of magical, the power and possibility of ink on a page.

Interning at Penn Press has reinvigorated this sentiment in ways I hadn’t expected. In understanding the process of publishing at Penn Press, I’ve seen how many hands and minds and pairs of eyes toil over each detail of each book. Before beginning my work here, I was barely familiar with the publishing process. I think that my idea of it came from movies, where someone writes a book, an editor edits it (I had no idea what that might entail), and then they go on a book tour (which inevitably included an appearance on Regis and Kelly).

But in reality, all the departments at Penn Press put energy into each book. If I were a Penn Press author, I would be comforted by the sincere consideration that is put into each stage of the publishing process. At “transmittal” meetings, I listened to discussions of what title fit best—should it suggest a certain era in history? Is that subtitle necessary? Will readers understand that reference? After the acquisitions editor describes the book’s content and purpose, various departments jump in with suggestions and questions. We consider each task on the checklist, including the copyediting of the manuscript, the advertising venues, and awards nominations. As I observed these meetings, I began to understand why we spent an hour each week doing this. It’s because each detail is essential to producing high-quality books at the Press.

In my own work at the Press, I also understood how the all the tasks I was assigned, even the occasional trivial-seeming ones, required lots of attention to detail. For example, when I wrote jacket copy for the Marketing Department, I discussed with the advertising manager, Tracy, when to define jargon, how to describe a key scientific idea, and how to pique interest for various types of readers. When I drafted a promotional postcard on inDesign, I got advice and suggestions from the whole department on whether I should use a “puffery” quote or longer descriptive copy. We weighed these decisions with care and precision. In the Business Department, I researched the nomination deadlines and details of various awards, making sure that each element had been logged correctly into our system.

In the time I’ve spent at Penn Press, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the work and weight behind each word in each book published at Penn Press. The ultimate physical products (the books!) are a large part of that, but working here has illuminated the behind-the-scenes labor, too. I feel lucky to have observed and taken part in the work at Penn Press, and I look forward to more opportunities to peek into the world of publishing in the future.

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