Why University Presses Matter: Hands-on Education

In addition to supporting the educational missions of our respective universities, presses like ours offer a valuable pre-professional experience to students hoping to enter the publishing industry. Beyond exposing them to a rich world of research, literature, and ideas, internships and work-study arrangements at university presses are mutually beneficial, hands-on learning experiences. As you’ll see in the posts below, written by three University Press of Florida interns, Claire Eder, Samantha Pryor, and Alia Almeida, each student writes about their time at UPF with a style that brings to light their unique set of skills and perspective.

The AAUP University Press Week blog tour continues tomorrow with the University of Chicago Press, which will feature Scott Esposito writing on Wayne Booth and his legacy. A complete blog tour schedule is available here

Claire Eder, Editorial Intern

My first task as an editorial intern was to proofread a book (Tim Hollis’s Part of a Complete Breakfast) about cereal mascots. I came in every day, took a seat at a desk in a quiet room, read for three hours, and then left. When my friends asked how the internship was going, I would say, “Have you ever thought of the Trix rabbit as sort of a Sisyphus figure?”

Though I would rarely get the chance to read through an entire manuscript again, I came to enjoy dipping in and out of different projects. Proofreading an index was actually pretty interesting when it was on the subject of the bioarchaeology of violence: “Death, Deformity, Disembowelment, Dismemberment….” From marking up a master, I now know that a tarpon is a kind of fish and that Ernest Hemingway was pretty into them, and a copyediting project taught me how to distinguish the female and male reproductive parts of wildflowers.

As a graduate student, my academic life is very specialized; I spend most of my time thinking, reading, and writing about one subject and one subject only. For this reason, my time at the Press has really been a breath of fresh air. The astonishing wealth of topics and voices in the manuscripts that move through the building has been stimulating for me personally, and it gives me hope to know that there exist places like this, where a diversity of knowledge and viewpoints is privileged, promoted, and safeguarded.

When I said before that I was a graduate student, I was suppressing the fact that I’m a student in creative writing, which means that I aspire to be a writer (sort of a horrible thing to admit). As I continue to learn about the hard, hard work that goes into composition, my time at the Press has been an eye-opening counterpoint: I now know that, behind the scenes, editors, designers, and marketing managers work just as hard to shape a manuscript into a book (and get very little credit for it). Interning in the editorial department, I’ve been amazed at the nitpicky tasks that editors perform, such as counting each individual endnote in a scholarly book or checking the running head on every page of a soft proof. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also admired the flexibility and sense of vision they have to cultivate to manage not just an entire manuscript but several manuscripts at once. The selflessness, dedication, and kindness of the editors here, and of everyone at UFP, has taught me a lot about what makes university presses a vital part of the academic infrastructure and of publishing in general.

Samantha Pryor, Acquisitions Intern

When I first began my search for an internship, I was lucky enough to come across a small niche educational publisher, Maupin House Publishing Inc., which would be my stepping stone into the University Press of Florida, allowing me to realize what academic publishing, from K-12 to the university level, really meant. I applied for the acquisitions department and was grilled by my two future bosses in the most polite of ways; I’m quite certain there was a question about what super power I would have if given the choice. What started as a twenty minute interview turned into a forty –five minute discussion where I learned what made up the job that I would be doing for the next six months.

As soon as my first day began I was given tasks that ranged from filing, sending out manuscripts, working on contracts and contacting readers for their opinions. However, as the days wore on, I grew restless, and soon I needed more to stimulate my mind; luckily, my bosses were realizing the same thing. Together, we discussed with the Director what would become my new tasks for the year and as a whole decided that the acquisitions department was in line for an internship revamp. I began to receive tasks on both editorial and contract levels that were a real insight into the inner workings of the machine that is a university publishing house. Working in a mid-size university publishing press is a blessing, and while I work in acquisitions, I find ways to work with each department, interviewing heads of the department to find the path that they took to get to where they are now, expanding my knowledge and the internship program.

As the days progress, I’ve been given tasks that challenge me and support the team of the acquisitions department both clerically and with the real weight of their work. As the board meeting approaches we band together to create our edcom packets, and the line between intern and employee blurs, making the experience of working at the University Press of Florida more than a moment in my career, but instead an intertwined memory of friendship, hard-work, and laughter.

 Alia Almeida, Marketing Intern

Have you ever had a crush on a book? I have. It’s not my first crush and it won’t be my last crush on a book, especially while working at the University Press of Florida. Every time somebody mentions that certain title or author, my ears perk up a bit and my heart becomes warmer. When filing, I always check to make sure the folder is there and I secretly celebrate each task that includes the title. I always make sure to pay a bit more attention or care than usual to that specific book, too.

Currently, I have crush on Arthé A. Anthony’s Picturing Black New Orleans: A Creole Photographer’s View of the Early Twentieth Century. It started with the title. After having visited my law school student sister several times, New Orleans has become a second home to me. It’s hard not to fall in love with a city that possesses such charm and personality. There’s flavor in every breath…every step…every bite you take. But after being exposed to the behind the scenes marketing of this book, I have really fallen for Picturing Black New Orleans.

During my reading, I was transported to early twentieth century New Orleans with Anthony’s great aunt, Creole photographer Florestine Marguerite Perrault as the narrator. It reminded me of my grandfather sitting me down and regaling me with tales about Cuba. I’d learn about my grandpa and his family’s bakery, or my grandmother on the farm – in short, he’d tell me about life back then in Cuba. Sometimes it felt like Anthony was talking about Cuba, especially when it came to important Catholic traditions and what it meant to be a respectable Creole woman. I can imagine my grandmother starting off a story with, “respectable young Creole girls did not leave home unless they were getting married” but with the word “Cuban” standing in for “Creole.”

Anthony’s Picturing Black New Orleans is a trip through family photo collections with stories about “life back then” for almost each photo. At home, I’m not allowed to fetch photos for guests anymore. I “take too much time,” they say and if I do come back, I usually bring fifty more pictures along to ask “who is that girl?” or “where was this?” In Picturing Black New Orleans, Anthony offers slices of life with each photo.

I appreciate a good family story, especially with a photo or two. This book offers great family stories with many photos. Ok, I’ll stop gushing but you’d be the same way if you read the book, too.

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7 Comments on “Why University Presses Matter: Hands-on Education”

  1. November 15, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    LOVE what you guys are doing! Keep up the great work!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. University Press Week: Blog Tour Day Two | UNC Press Blog - November 13, 2012

    [...] at University Press of Florida, we get three perspectives on why university presses matter: from editorial intern Claire Eder, [...]

  2. Princeton University Press Blog » Blog Archive » University Press Blog Tour (#UPWeek), University Press of Florida interns on their “hands-on education” - November 13, 2012

    [...] For their contribution to the University Press Week Blog Tour, the University Press of Florida invites three interns (from editorial, acquisitions, and marketing) …. [...]

  3. Day Two: UP Week Blog Tour Round-UP « The Digital Digest - November 13, 2012

    [...] University Press of Florida: “Hands-on Education” Three UPF interns—Claire Eder, Samantha Pryor, and Alia Almeida—reflect on what they brought to [...]

  4. Celebrate University Press Week! | From the Square | NYU Press blog - November 16, 2012

    [...] press. Bloggers have included authors, editors, university press staff (from directors to interns!), librarians, and the superheroes of the academic publishing world: Bruce Miller and Ned [...]

  5. Braided Worlds: I had a dream last night | The Chicago Blog - May 6, 2013

    [...] finally: three University Press of Florida interns (Claire Eder, Samantha Pryor, and Alia Almeida) write about how their time at the Press shaped—and [...]

  6. Get Schooled From a University Press - November 12, 2013

    […] An article published by The Florida Bookshelf in 2012 mentions how university presses prepare some for the great big publishing world. “In addition to supporting the educational missions of our respective universities, [university] presses…offer a valuable pre-professional experience to students hoping to enter the publishing industry.” […]

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