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On Interning at Island Press: Conserving the Environment and the Book

In this installment, Sarah Kuschner, Editorial Intern, writes about how interning for Island Press has shown her that book publishing won't go extinct any time soon.

If you listened to the defeatists, working at an environmental book press could bruise the psyche: the ice caps are melting, books are going the way of the cassette tape, and publishers and polar bears will soon have extinction in common. Fortunately, as an editorial intern at Island Press, I am surrounded by people who not only dedicate their days to publishing solutions-oriented environmental information, but who are constantly asking themselves how publishers can stay relevant in a changing industry. Thanks to this internship and their passion, I am confident that I am gaining the necessary skills to enter a publishing world that will continue to thrive. I can’t say that I had that confidence on the first day of my internship, when associate editor Courtney Lix assigned me a proposal to evaluate. This internship is my first at a publishing house, and other than trying to be mindful of my environmental footprint, I’ve never had much sustainability savvy.  But I’ve always had a strong interest in writing and editing, and after graduating from Boston University with a degree in journalism I decided I wanted to apply those interests to a career in book publishing. Courtney, editorial assistant Rebecca Bright, and the rest of the IP staff are excellent mentors; everything I’ve learned since that first day is thanks to their guidance and willingness to answer my (many) questions. As a bonus, I can think of no better way to become educated about environmental issues than by working with manuscripts written by leaders in the fields of resource management and land use planning. The internship program at Island Press achieves the difficult balance that so many programs ignore: I do enough clerical tasks to feel as if I am contributing in a helpful way, but my supervisors also assign work that is a little outside my comfort zone, which allows me to grow and learn about the industry. On any given day, I might be evaluating proposals, corresponding with authors, sending page proofs to reviewers, reviewing manuscripts, or preparing materials for the next decision-to-publish meeting. Island Press has given me the opportunity to observe or participate in each step as a book evolves from proposal to production to paperback. I leave the office each day excited by something I learned in a meeting (e-content is lifting the whole industry—step aside, doomsayers!) or stewing over something I read in a manuscript (did you know that after housing, Americans spend the largest chunk of their income on transportation?). Sitting in on meetings of enthusiastic Islanders discussing how best to take advantage of the myriad opportunities the Internet brings to the table, I'm comforted by the thought that publishers will stay off the endangered species list.