UPM Intern Sees Publishing From a New Perspective

The following is a guest post from Laura Strong. Laura is a student at Delta State and worked last semester as an intern in UPM's satellite office in Cleveland, MS. Below, she talks about her responsibilities, experiences, and skills learned. 

As this is my senior year of college, the thought of “What next?” is constantly on my mind. Grad school or work? Where should I live? What should I do with this English degree once I graduate? What can I do? Turns out, an internship’s not a bad way of starting to answer “What’s next?”

Laura Strong
I had always thought of publishing in general as some kind of scary profession, technical, fast-paced, and something you could only do if you moved to New York or Chicago. It was just the other side to the books I so love to read. I had very little experience, but my teacher asked me to consider this internship with the University Press of Mississippi, and I agreed. As I got closer and closer to the beginning of school, I was looking up all sorts of information about what publishing is, about how so much of it is learning on the job, how detail-oriented it is. However, I’ve found it’s a chance not only to work with books in their earliest stages, but a chance to work with people.

Looking from the other side of publishing for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. I learned the first day that I had no idea what front matter is, the details of a copyright page or what running heads or a second half title page really is, what “coding and tagging” mean to a manuscript. I had to brush up on my knowledge of Chicago style, and I think my Advanced Composition teacher (who asked me about the internship) would be pleased to see how well I can spot a comma outside of a quotation mark now.

My responsibilities have included looking over page proofs of books in PDF. I have proofread manuscripts and indexes for grammatical and layout errors, made sure caption lists line up with design lists, proofread the catalog, looked over the first pages of a manuscript. I have seen author corrections, made corrections of my own, and seen what kind of responsibility an editor really has. I have put typescripts into the Library of Congress database, learned about interview processes and confidence from my wonderful boss, Shane Gong Stewart, and seen how well I can focus when I try. I have learned how important reading over an index multiple times is, how every punctuation mark matters in a typescript, how excited I was the first day to open an attachment and think how I was looking at a book, right there on my laptop, that would be published.

Not only have I learned so much about publishing, I have been able to learn about different subjects in reading some of the material the Press publishes—from overcoming prejudice to African drumming to New Orleans hot dog stand businesses. This is a chance to keep learning, to expand my perspective on multiple subjects. As I look over and edit other people’s writing, I find ways to strengthen my own.

This internship has not only been an experience because of the important skills I’ve developed and hope to continue developing, but because of the people I have worked with. The other intern, Jess, has been in the office most of the hours I am, and the three of us talk and listen to music while we work, a very comfortable environment. Even when the environment has not been comfortable in the least—Shane and I were at work when we had an active shooter on our campus, and we barricaded ourselves in the office—I have been grateful for the two people I work with.

Publishing is not for the faint of heart, mind, or eyes, at least in my opinion. There are days, just as in every other job, where the work was monotonous or tedious. But I have learned to find all the details that make me happy in this detail-oriented job, and I have to say this perspective is nice.