default blog post image

On Interning at Island Press: More Than Just Commas

Every day is an adventure here in DC. Photo by Christy Mannering, used under Creative Commons licensing. There's no telling who might show up at your bar here in DC. Photo by Christy Mannering, used under Creative Commons licensing.

In this installment, Production Intern Lea Skene explains why she likes commas, but likes books even more.

In addition to interning at Island Press, I work most nights as a waitress, and during less busy nights in the restaurant, I often find myself chatting with guests at the bar. It’s not uncommon for these conversations to involve questions that, as a recent graduate in search of a career path, I’d prefer not to discuss at the moment—the “Are you in school?” and “Oh, congratulations on graduating! What are your future plans?” sort of questions. Having graduated with a degree in English, I’ve come to expect the majority of people who inquire about my major to follow that up by asserting an assumption of my desire to become a teacher. So I was surprised when, in one of my recent conversations over the bar, the mid-thirties Secret Service officer who asked about my major took his response in a different direction: “An English major, huh? So you must be really into, like, commas and shit.” In fact, I am a big fan of proper grammar and a firm believer in the power of punctuation, which is one of the many reasons I have so enjoyed working in the production department at Island Press. Our daily tasks are aimed at ensuring that the books we publish are as close to perfect as possible—whether that requires inserting or removing commas, making sure images and figures are placed properly within the text, or reaching out to authors and proofreaders in order to compile or reconcile their individual edits. While I thoroughly appreciate the opportunity to expand my knowledge of grammar and punctuation rules on a daily basis, I am even more inspired by the content of the books themselves. While flipping through a manuscript checking for consistency of chapter running heads or making sure footnotes are correctly formatted, I often find myself reading through paragraphs or even whole chapters in the process. Although their contents range from step-by-step science-based instructions to personal discourse, from data analysis to humor, innovation, and hope, the books find a common thread in their shared commitment to addressing environmental issues. In addition to the invaluable opportunity to learn and contribute to various aspects of the book production process, my time at Island Press has been shaped by the overarching mission of the organization itself and the inspiring group of individuals working to advance it. I cannot imagine a more rewarding introduction to the publishing industry or a more welcoming environment in which to sharpen my eye for misplaced commas.