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On Interning at Island Press: From Applying to Reviewing

In this installment, Amanda Del Sontro, Editorial Intern, elaborates on her journey from internship applications to deepening her understanding of the publishing process.

In late January, when I found the description for the Summer Editorial Intern position at Island Press, I was thrilled: As a writing major hailing from Ithaca College with a budding interest in Publishing and a minor in Environmental Studies, I couldn’t think of anything more ideal than any internship at an environmentally-focused press. Island Press easily became my number one choice of location. As I spent a grueling four months applying, interviewing, and writing letters to my backup locations, I checked IP’s website daily for the application to the internship position. When it finally appeared in mid-April, I already had my cover letter and resume ready at the wait. A phone call, a few emails and a couple of weeks later, my persistence paid off: I was accepted to Island Press’s internship program. I was barely at Island Press an hour before I was given my first assignment—I was to review an unsolicited proposal for an editor, meaning my words would have a huge influence on whether a book would be considered for publication or not. It was a bit daunting, but the immediate trust of my abilities was exhilarating. To finally be able to use my critical reading skills and knowledge of the natural sciences in tandem was an opportunity I’d been waiting for three years; that is, since I selected the two halves of my academic program. Since then, I have done reviews on multiple proposals. The proposals ranged from beautiful and thought-provoking to the erroneous and completely off base. If you can believe it, someone submitted a proposal that boasted about not being environmental in focus!   I have to say that writing reviews is probably one of my favorite things I do here at IP, part because of the way that it embodies my degree, part because of my freedom of tone while analyzing the literature for the editor and part because of the influence it allows me (even as an intern!). As a writer, doing the reviews also helps me understand the dos-and-don’ts of submitting a proposal, which will probably help me avoid a lot of pitfalls in the future. By then end of my first week, I’d already been to two meetings, reviewed several proposals, and even penned a few letters to potential authors. I corresponded with remote editors, took a lot of notes, and expanded my publishing vocabulary immensely. I won’t lie, it was a tad over whelming, but the crash course really made me feel like part of the team. I thought I had at least an idea of what publishing was like after taking a course on it in college, but nothing can imitate the experience accurately. Even at a small press, publishing takes an incredible amount of organization and cooperation, as evidenced by the multitude of departments and the rates at which emails enter my inbox. After being at Island Press for a month now, I know for sure I made the right choice in internship location. My education has been thoroughly supplemented, complemented and expanded on both sides of my degree. Every day brings a new assignment, and with it, often a new exciting challenge that plunges me deeper into the publishing process. The amount of responsibility I have here at the press has only been increasing: I am presently working on the photo package for a spring 2014 title. Finding illustrations for the book has put my research skills to the test, and drafting the correspondence to the author and photographers have definitely strengthened my communication skills. Plus, it’s pretty awesome to think this book that I had such a hand in will be on the shelves so soon.