I never thought that I would work in corporate America. What an intimidating phrase; it calls to mind stiff white offices, people scurrying around with coffees and lots of yelling. At least, that’s what it sounded like to me. New York, still the hub of the U.S. publishing scene, seemed like the corporate city to match, complete with all of that coffee and yelling. By the time I entered college, publishing, as a career path, had only occurred to me in an abstract way. I was a girl who loved books, and I knew someone made them, presumably in big glass offices in the middle of New York. I didn’t particularly think I would be one of those people.
Hamilton is what changed my mind—specifically, one person at Hamilton, who had a conversation with me when she saw the nerdiest of book-related posters in my first year dorm room. That conversation became a coaxing to email someone, to intern, and to try, just for a summer.
And that internship led to my current job at Scholastic Inc. where I make books for kids.
Publishing is a little bit corporate, and New York is a little bit crowded. Overall, there is less yelling than expected. Exactly as much coffee. I couldn’t know what to expect from the industry or the city without spending time here. Children’s publishing is its own little niche, a community I am slowly becoming more a part of, from editor-agent mixers (look into literary agencies, really) to book release parties to the gossip bandied about in the hallways. “Networking” became less scary when I began to meet the real people that word is code for; I can always depend on those people to love books as much as I do. Children’s publishing is deeply a community of stories and of people. Though held up by corporate structures, the real work of my office occurs in communication and relationships. Perhaps this is true of any corporation; I find it especially apparent when I am surrounded by gem-bright children’s books and the people who like to write and nurture them. The corporate ladder still intimidates me, but at least I can see where it goes, and I know the people who are on it with me.
As always, when I consider publishing I find myself also reflecting on New York City. The industry is all tangled up with the asphalt and steel and glass and history here. The city isn’t quite what I expected either. I know New York has a mystique that attracts lots of people from afar. Maybe you’re one of those people; I wasn’t. I had to learn that visiting the busiest sites as a tourist is so utterly different from living here day-to-day (honestly, locals avoid Times Square at all costs). There really is always something to do, but it’s alright to stay in anyway. The subway is pretty much always crowded, but there’s a sort of peace to be found moving in parallel with so many strangers. I’ve found that the beauty in a place so big is that, even if you have to put some work into the carving, there’s a little spot for everyone.
I suppose this is a long winded way of saying: Intern if you can. Don’t rule anything out. Apply for summer internship scholarship money. Let a job surprise you. Let its locale work its unique magic. Maybe, like me, you’ll find yourself saying, I don’t dislike it the way I expected to. Maybe you’ll say, I could love it here someday. I think I’ll try.