I have had the pleasure of working as the Development Intern for almost five months, but before I get into that, I should explain a little bit about me.
Growing up, I thought I was going to be a teacher. On my mom’s side there are three consecutive generations of teachers. My dad’s father was a math instructor at a community college, and my dad has taught bible studies for as long as I can remember. I know it’s in my blood to teach so I just expected that I would follow in my family members’ footsteps. I have always been good with children, and it seemed only natural for me to become a teacher. On top of that, I liked the idea of being able to help others and make a difference.
In college, after taking one creative writing class, I changed majors from Education to English. I figured I could fall back on teaching if publishing did not work out. I proceeded to take every writing and editing class my university offered. By the time I graduated, I had a professional writing certification instead of a teaching one. I knew I wanted to be in publishing. I knew I wanted to make books. I wanted to help people get their work out to the world.
I graduated, moved to DC, and started looking for a way to get my foot in the door in publishing. That was when I found Island Press. I applied for the internship and was offered the position. To say I was over the moon to be working in a press would be an understatement.
In my time here, I have learned a lot of things, but the most surprising thing is what I’ve learned about myself. Working here, I have had the privilege of writing about the amazing work that Island Press has been inspiring. I have been able to see how citizens are pushing for governments to find better ways to engage with the public about big decisions; I’ve seen how a student was inspired to create a cleaner way to dye clothes without harsh chemicals; and I’ve seen how Island Press paved the way to fishing restrictions to be put in place that have changed the course of a species. And that’s not even a fraction of what Island Press has done. At first I was proud to be interning in a press in Washington, DC, but that very quickly became being proud to intern somewhere that is working toward a bigger goal.
Working in the Development Department, I have grown my writing, researching, and editing skills, and I have learned about the importance of this department to the entire press. Without the fundraising—the grant proposals, the donor correspondence, the events—Island Press would not be able to function, or publish more than half of the books they do. Because of outside support, the organization can focus on the message of each book proposal that comes through the door. They don’t have to look at the amount of revenue or profit the book will produce. While that can be an important factor at other presses, manuscripts that have a specific and small audience still have a chance to make it to the shelves of a book store.
I wanted to be a teacher, not simply because of my family, but mainly because I wanted to help people. I wanted to inspire people. Island Press does both and more. The organization understands that change happens at all levels and that everyone, from the politician sitting in congress to the sixth grader getting on the school bus, can do something that will make a cleaner, greener, more sustainable and resilient earth. Being a part of this organization for the last five months has been a blessing and an honor. I have learned that I do not want a job for the sake of having a job; I want my career to make an impact—the kind of impact Island Press makes around the globe.