Feb 15, 2013

Coffee Boy?

It’s been two weeks in the office and no one—not one single person, not one single time—has asked me to get them a cup of coffee. I’ve yet to make copies of that finance report or pick up lunch down the street for the gang.  It seems to me that Scarletta has no idea how these internship things work.  For now, let’s keep it our little secret.

Instead, I have this whole little routine in the office that seems to go off without a hitch.  I sit at my own desk, with my own stack of mail, with my own (terrible, uncomfortable, utterly the worst) chair, and I do the work of a typical employee in an acquisitions role. Registering all of our submissions—both hard copy and electronic—occupies a good chunk of my morning. It’s fun to sift through our submitted materials and take a first look at all of the titles that come through our doors.  There are picture books, YA novels, memoirs, and even pamphlets—well, a pamphlet—describing the various types of vermin that inhabit our world, most of which we aren’t even fully aware of. After hundreds of paper cuts and under-the-breath questions like “why is this so sticky?” and “who uses this much tape?” it’s off to the Internet to catch up on book news.

Do you know how much information is on the world-wide-web?  

I don’t; I’m asking.

There are so many ways to find anything you’re looking for, even within the confines of children’s book publishing. What’s the newest craze for interesting characters? The Internet knows. Which authors and illustrators are the ones to watch?  The Internet knows. It’s fascinating how quickly we can find the trendiest typography styles and most obscure publishing news to share with our Twitter followers or Facebook friends at the drop of dime.

The rest of the day passes with large helpings of reading and responding to submissions, with shakes of laughter and dashes of snarky office quips. As an intern, this is really the meat and potatoes of my life at Scarletta.  Luckily, it’s also my favorite part of the job.

Authors are the bravest people. Sending their works to countless, faceless readers for critique and feedback is not only a daunting task, but incredibly vulnerable. I had no idea how many people put themselves out there through their words on a daily basis. I feel incredibly fortunate to be deemed qualified to read and respond to all the work that comes across my desk.  Still, reading for a children’s press is not without its challenges.

The primary obstacle of this position is training your mind to read for your press, not necessarily for your own enjoyment. Your personal taste must take a backseat role to the needs of the press. Luckily, I have spent a lot of time around children’s books; I feel like I have a certain affinity for what makes for an excellent work tick.  Scarletta’s sense of excitement and adventure matches up well with my own taste for children’s literature. Picturing the illustrations and layouts that would appeal to our readers and excite the senses in new and interesting ways is a very natural response to reading our submitted manuscripts, one that is invaluable when scrolling through the many works that find our offices.

The few days that I have spent with Scarletta have been entirely enjoyable. Until the day comes, that day when my name becomes coffee boy or copy guy, I’ll gladly keep reading away, trying to find that perfect picture book.

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