Unpaid Internship Evolves Into Editing Position for Danielle Burby ’12

Danielle Burby '12
Danielle Burby '12
Danielle Burby ’12 knows that the editor always has the final say. So when she secured an internship at Square One Publishers for the summer, she did not expect to have much flexibility. For the most part, she assumed that she would be confined to marketing and minor, superfluous tasks. But during the first week, she took an editing test, and found that she had underestimated her power there – her supervisors loved her ability to tidy up almost any piece of prose and wanted to hire her to edit a book in need of revision. With the turn of a page, Burby’s unpaid internship spawned a paid opportunity.

Her situation could not be more convenient. Square One is located on Long Island, where Burby lives. The company was willing to take her, even though they normally only accept student interns going into their junior or senior years. Burby not only gains experience in the office, but with the freelance editing job, she can make money while enjoying the liberties of an editing assignment she completes on her own time.

The book is titled How to Read a Person Like a Book by Gerard Nierenberg and Henry H. Calero, published in 1971. Although it was once the standard resource on body language, it is now outdated. Burby’s main project this summer is to edit the book and pull the pertinent insights out from underneath the clutter. When it is published, her name will appear on the cover – a huge accomplishment for someone her age.
In the office, Burby’s responsibilities include proofreading manuscripts, compiling appendices, indexing books, editing articles written by Square One authors, e-mailing journalists, and answering phones. On the side, she has fun researching movie trivia for Square One’s Buzztime Trivia series.

Burby has developed a feeling of sympathy toward editors. “When I read books, I often find sentences that I would have worded differently, or I’ll find a typo and wonder how anyone could have missed it,” she said. Now she is hesitant to criticize. “The other day, I was reading through a chapter of the book for what felt like the zillionth time and I saw a ridiculous typo that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed before. Editing is harder than I realized.”

And it’s more than just correcting spelling and grammar. Burby makes sure to research the material so that it is as fresh as possible. She also improves the order, eases transitions between paragraphs, adds insets, codes the text, and brings in new information and illustrations.

“[It’s] teaching me a lot about trusting my instincts, being ready to catch any flaw, and it’s broadening my horizons about the publishing world,” she remarked. “It fills me with a lot of hope and excitement about my future.”

Her internship story mirrors Hamilton’s emphasis on lucid, purposeful writing. For Burby’s first real internship, she has already proven that employers appreciate good writers. She has also worked at her local public library as a page, and with the Young Adult Library Services Association for two years reading galleys (books that have not yet been published) and writing reviews. Obviously, her talent did not spring from nowhere. As an intended creative writing major with a possible double major in women’s studies, Burby is well on her way to achieving her goal of becoming a book editor and novelist.

But she doesn’t want to be just an ordinary editor: “I want to be the person who helps discover the gems, the manuscripts that will change people’s lives.”

Burby is a graduate of Walt Whitman High School.
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