McRae Intern Achieves Goal of Working in Publishing

The following is a guest post from Lisa McMurtray. Lisa first worked at UPM as a McRae Intern and was eventually hired as a full-time editorial assistant. Below, Lisa writes about her longtime goal of working in publishing and how her experiences as an intern helped her achieve that goal.

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.

Having an English degree results in one of two conversations:

  1. "So, you’re going to be a teacher?” or 
  2. Jokes about perpetual unemployment
And while I often participated in the jokes about my future refrigerator box-apartment (and, admittedly, taught for five years while a graduate student), I always knew that I wanted to go into publishing. School, however, offered limited opportunities—literary journals if you were creative, scholarly journals if you were academic, the occasional copyediting or technical writing class. As a student, I read a lot (endlessly and without pause for what seemed like forever) and I wrote a lot (also endlessly and without pause for what seemed like forever) without really talking about how what I read was produced beyond a basic understanding of submitting my work into the void to one day be published.

Despite that, I knew I always wanted to work in publishing. I love writing, so it seemed like a natural extension of that interest to understand more fully how that work is cultivated and disseminated. I worked for literary journals, reading poetry and fiction and nonfiction, finding out how a journal establishes its name and voice, and I knew that I was on the right track. I got my Masters in English, then an MFA in creative writing, and still I wanted to work in publishing. When it came time to come home, back to Mississippi, I didn’t know what to do. I applied for the McRae Publishing Internship at University Press of Mississippi and, luckily, got it. With it, I got a chance to start a career.

As a McRae intern, I worked in almost every part of the acquisitions process: talking to prospective authors and readers, working with contracted authors, reading manuscripts, writing descriptions, documents, and letters. In the process, I asked questions to just about everyone—I learned about marketing and production, worked with the entire editorial team, including the Editor-in-Chief and Director, spoke with authors in comics studies, history, ethnomusicology, film and media studies, African American studies, and art and photography. In two short months, I got an incredible survey of what the acquisitions process is like.

Even more incredible, when a position opened up for a new Editorial Assistant, I got it. My internship allowed me the opportunity to learn directly from my future employers. My new position allowed me to work with our previous director Leila Salisbury and acquisitions editor Vijay Shah in the fields I love most. My experiences as an intern are still helpful today. I still contact readers, talk to authors, work on contracts, and read manuscripts. I still prepare descriptions and find endorsements. I file, organize, and write just as I did when I started. My experience was invaluable to what I do every day.

Now, the McRae Internship has grown to touch every aspect of the publishing process. Our interns work with Acquisitions Editorial, Manuscript Editorial, Business, Marketing, and Production. They do all the things I did and more. They work with a smart, welcoming team of people who are passionate about what they do and do it well. I am so grateful to have had a chance to work (and continue to work) at University Press of Mississippi, and I’m excited to help make this experience as educational, interesting, and fun for the next generation of interns as it was for me.