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On Interning at Island Press: Don't Overlook the Basics

In this week's installment, Editorial Intern Jill McLaughlin discusses how the seemingly simple task of emailing has enhanced her experience here at Island Press. A few years ago, during my first phone interview for an internship, I was asked to identify my greatest strength. Flustered, I replied with “umm…probably…emailing.” Not conflict resolution, patience, thoughtfulness, or any of the other answers provided in any Basic Interviewing Manual. No, for some reason I went with “emailing”, which amused my roommates as much as it mortified me. Needless to say, I did not get that internship, but the email skills I thought so highly of then have actually come to play a big part in my position as Editorial Intern at Island Press. It may seem like a trivial activity, but corresponding with authors and editors via email has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship. Whether I’m working with Cape Ann Fresh Catch to figure out updated statistics on their innovative program, explaining to a technologically-challenged author how to attach his proposal to the email, requesting reviews from top environmental professionals, or discussing manuscripts with remote editors, my Microsoft Outlook icon is my window into the lives of really amazing people in both the environmental and publishing worlds. Through my short emails, I am connected, albeit temporarily, to people who have lived with tribes in Siberia, have survived shipwrecks and tsunamis, have designed revolutionary green buildings, and have been crucial in the publishing process of so many powerful books. While I love reviewing proposals, organizing files for production, participating in the various meetings each week, and working with the editorial team on a wide array of other projects, I chose emailing to write about because it is such a basic element that everyone spends most of their day doing, but one that is often overlooked. Crafting a carefully worded email to an author can be a very difficult technique, and one that I am definitely still learning with the help of Becca, Courtney, and David. Luckily, I am also learning a host of other skills so “email” doesn’t have to be my greatest strength ever again, but it has certainly proved to be a very rewarding and instructional tool during my Island Press internship. Working in the environmental action field, it is easy to get caught up in the “big pictures” of global warming, ecosystems, and sustainable design, so it is always important to remember that every small detail counts - even a two-sentence email from an intern has the potential to make a big impact on the world.