McRae Intern Now Devoted to a Life in Publishing

The following is a guest post from Drew Henry. Drew worked at UPM over the summer as the McRae Publishing Intern and is currently a marketing aide. The McRae Publishing Internship, supported by the Richard and Selby McRae Foundation, offers a singular educational opportunity to young men and women interested in book publishing to start their careers as interns and gain valuable practical knowledge about the publishing industry.

Below Drew talks about his interest in publishing and his experiences at UPM.

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time at Lemuria Books in Jackson. Lemuria bejewels the crown of a tall tower of shops not far from Jackson’s artsy Fondren district, and its building’s narrow frame forces the shop to eschew the square footage of big box retailers for vertical space. These tall towers of books remind me of the stacks of an old college library, and the towering heights of books all around lend themselves to a welcome form of claustrophobia—one that envelopes warmly rather than squeezes tightly.

But that’s the nature of books, isn’t it? What seems so ostensibly cramped into a six-by-nine leaflet of pages is actually an invitation to something far more vast—open worlds, open minds, the stories of any number of people--cramped into a two inch bound spine of buckram or leather. Maybe that’s why I love the stacks at Lemuria so much; rather than feeling suffocated by the large towers of books, I see the potential of stories all around.

But ever since I first started working as a McRae Intern for the University Press of Mississippi, I’ve become fascinated with a different kind of stories. Not those of knights-errant or star-crossed lovers or British schools of witchcraft and wizardy… not any of the stories within the books, but those of books. Of their creation. Of what exactly went into their production that brought them to these shelves for all the world to read.

The Press has taught me so much about the story behind the story: the time and patience it takes to acquire permission to use song lyrics for an epigraph; how to handle the expectations of an author or editor; what it’s like to give someone the unfortunate news that there manuscript has been rejected (a particularly vicious blow for a writer like myself), or, better still, the thrill of saying that we are interested in acquiring their work, and then getting to see that raw idea or rough draft through to a fully realized text.

The stories of the books are as infinite and exciting as the stories within them—and equally as fascinating for those with a passion for publishing and an editorial eye. I’m grateful to the Press for giving me that eye.

I owe this to the Press: I no longer doubt that I want to spend my career devoted to publishing, which means I now welcome—even embrace—this fact of the job: if you want to be an editor you’ll end up seeing the world as one. I’m glad to have this new viewpoint. It’s one more reason to be grateful for the Press, and one more reason to get lost in the stacks.