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A Publishing Internship Packing List

In this installment in our series of summer intern blog posts, Julie Carlson shows prospective scholarly publishing beginners how to pack light for their cubicle adventures.

Knapsack_backpackWhenever summer draws to a close, I inevitably feel the urge to run off and spend a few days in some exotic, sunny locale. Unfortunately, even if such an impromptu vacation was financially feasible, I know myself well enough to know that I would inevitably find my voyage taxing, my skin burnt, and my feet blistered; basically, I would hate the trip. Nevertheless, my wanderlust persists. Foreseeing this conflict of interests, I preemptively decided to pass this summer in the relatively-relaxing environ of Philadelphia, where I’ve spent 10 weeks on an exciting safari through the world of a scholarly press. For like-minded peers who may wish to follow in my footsteps, here are a few items for your packing list.

No, these will not be for putting over wounds you acquired while tripping on some cobblestone path in Europe; they’re going on your inevitable paper-cuts. Before I began my internship, I hadn’t considered the extremely obvious fact that a lot of paper gets passed around in a press (blame my place in the digital generation).  However, even as my fingers have become increasingly shredded, I’ve come to appreciate traditionally printed work more and more. There’s something nice about having a tangible understanding that you’ve made progress with a huge manuscript just by seeing more paper in your “done” pile than in your “to be done” one. Similarly, there’s something to be said for putting your pen to paper, rather than your fingers to keys, and seeing your own handwriting produce corrections. It’s extremely fulfilling, provided you don’t bleed on the proofs.

Your glasses, contacts, or other optical corrector of choice
Obviously, if you needed these, you would bring them on any vacation, but I’m working toward a larger point here. During your time at a scholarly press, it’s important for you to see both the small picture and the big one; that is, you have to be detail-oriented while also being able to appreciate the larger goal of your work. If you’re farsighted, you’ll definitely need your spectacles to ensure that you don’t overlook a misspelling or an incorrect comma. But if you’re nearsighted, you should keep in mind that the ultimate objective of finding those mistakes is to produce the best book possible. The manuscripts you deal with at any press are important, but at a scholarly press those manuscripts will turn into books that could potentially help a professor secure tenure at their university. Hey, they may even become the books you read in one of your classes someday; wouldn’t it be annoying to be distracted by bad punctuation when trying to get your homework done? So while you should focus on each individual task, be sure to put your lenses on and appreciate what your work will eventually become.

Post-it notes
Okay, these will actually be provided to you in abundance, but again–larger point. During my time navigating the acquisitions and managing editorial departments, I’ve had the chance to work on my own for a while before reporting back to the person who assigned me my task. In both settings, Post-it notes have been essential because they allow me to flag areas that I’m fairly certain need correction, as well as spots that just confuse me. Basically, they allow me to find the reference points I need to ask whatever questions arise during my work. Here’s the larger point: ask questions. You will definitely have them, particularly in the beginning as you’re getting the hang of things. But everyone at the press knows you are there to learn and they want you to do just that, so they are always more than willing to use their invaluable experience to help. Of course, it will make things a lot more helpful for both of you if you can refer to a specific example of what you find confusing, hence the Post-its.

A sweater
In any university-operated building, you will likely experience temperatures that rival those of the South Pole. Enough said.

Hopefully you’ve gotten a sense of how to prepare yourself for your journey. Should you wish to continue your travels after business hours, you’re in luck–not only because, in Penn’s case, you’re surrounded by Philadelphia but also because you’ll find great books to add to your reading list. If you’re so inclined, I’m sure you’ll discover that interning at a scholarly press can feel like an enriching vacation without the high costs or traveler’s fatigue. Bon voyage!

Julie Carlson is an English major–with a minor in studies of women, gender, and sexuality–at Johns Hopkins University.