“Publishing is in a kind of Jurassic age.” – Paul Coelho
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an avid reader. I started reading with those BOB books, you know, the ones for beginning readers. I received a box of them as a gift and immediately got my hands on them. As I grew older, I continued reading things that were appropriate for my age… the Junie B. Jones series, the Series of Unfortunate Events, books by Judy Blume (still an all-time favorite author!), and eventually all of the novels written by Jodi Picoult (another writer I’m still obsessed with). I also relished the books we were assigned to read in school: Of Mice and Men, Native Son, Hamlet, Lord of the Flies, the list goes on and on. Some days after school, I’d wander into a Barnes & Noble and flip through the pages of any novel that caught my eye and, before I knew it, I’d be at the cash register with five books falling out of my hands.
It’s no surprise, then, that I loved English class all throughout my middle and high school academic career. I was perhaps the only student who didn’t use SparkNotes and would read every single page of the assigned book, refusing to miss out on what could be—and usually was—great writing and, more importantly, a great story. I was even that weird kid who loved writing essays. Creative writing, not so much. But an assignment to write a paper in which I argued something about a novel we had read in class? Bring it on.
My senior year of high school, we were required to do a six-week internship in a field we might potentially be interested in joining after college. Eager to work with books, I was fortunate enough to land an internship at a literary agency. Here, I read manuscripts, wrote reader reports, and did the typical intern duties, like faxing, scanning, running to the bank, and so on. This experience provided me with invaluable insight into the world of publishing and was the first time a career having to do with books came to my mind. I mean, a job where you got to read all day? Who wouldn’t want that?
But time flew by, and I lost sight of that dream. I started college, going in with the firm decision that I’d major in English. My dad, in particular, was a bit disappointed. “What are you going to do with an English degree?” he’d ask. It wasn’t long before the articles of the uselessness of a humanities degree started flooding my inbox. The pressure to study finance, science, or something else that would guarantee me a job was heavy. Still, I stuck to my guns and did, in fact, declare my English major. That was a decision I refused to allow anyone to make for me.
As an English major, I had a naïve image in my head that I had to be a teacher. I thought that was the only career option open to me. So, for my first two years of college, I followed the teacher certification program. I enjoyed the introductory education classes, but when it came time to learn about lesson planning and curriculum design, my interest quickly came to a halt. It was the end of my sophomore year of college, and I entered full crisis mode. What am I going to do with my life? What’s out there for me? I had no idea how to make my passion for literature coincide with a successful job… until I remembered how much I loved my high school internship at the literary agency. It just so happened that a few weeks later, I was in the English department building at school and came across two posters advertising publishing courses: one at NYU and one at Columbia. In an instant, everything became clear. I knew that was what I wanted to do. I even knew I wanted to be an editor. How? How did everything suddenly fall into place? I’m not quite sure, but it makes me believe that one day—sooner or later—everything will work out. You will realize your passions and you will realize a way to put them into practice.
So I applied to both NYU and Columbia. After getting into both courses, I ultimately decided to attend Columbia’s publishing course. Here, I gained an immense amount of knowledge about the publishing industry. Attending three two-hour lectures a day, I had the opportunity to learn so much more than I ever could have imagined and meet some of the most influential people in the field.
As romantic as it sounds, I am truly honest when I say that my first day of the course was the day I knew, and knew for certain, that this was a career path I wanted to follow. While I am still unemployed and getting a job has proved to be more than difficult and the rejections are discouraging each and every time, I have never once doubted my decision to join the world of publishing; and I have never once regretted my decision to be true to myself and major in English.
I am confident that one day—hopefully sooner rather than later—I will get that dream job. And on that day, I will realize that all of the blood, sweat, and tears will have been worth it.