default blog post image

On Interning at Island Press: From Paper Piles to Pages

In this installment, Production Intern Elysia Liang explains the variety of papers that cross her desk.

Photo by Jenni C, used under Creative Commons licensing. Photo by Jenni C, used under Creative Commons licensing.

At my desk, you’ll find a lot of paper. There are college-ruled sheets from my spiral bound notebook and the checklists printed using the office copier, where I have written questions and notes. There are stacks of printed pages, sometimes with fluorescent colored Post-It flags sandwiched between the sheets and the marks from a sharpened colored pencil etched on their surfaces. On the pages of a master, a proof that incorporates changes from both the author and a proofreader, red and green corrections decorate the margins, and the corners of these sheets might be crinkled from a bumpy journey through the US postal system. The most eye-catching paper piles are the cream colored printer proofs, produced to mimic the size and feel of the final published product. And of course, there are also the books themselves with their handsome covers, sturdy spines, and their smooth, crisp pages. As the Production Intern, I work with all these different piles of paper. Flipping through the sheets of a proof, I hunt for misplaced running heads and insert a missing comma that transforms a confusing sentence into a vital piece of information. I scrutinize newly published books just as carefully, ensuring that no pages are missing and that all the images are printed correctly. At first, I was surprised to learn that even in the twenty-first century, many important steps in the publishing process still require simple pencil and paper. However, working with tangible pages (with the occasional help of the “Find” function in Adobe Acrobat) has been one of the highlights of my internship at Island Press and has given me skills that will sure to help me in my future adventures in the publishing field. After my first week, I could already translate the shorthand used by proofreaders and typesetters to modify proofs. Spending some quality time with The Chicago Manual of Style, has taught me the difference between an em dash and en dash. All this hands-on experience even expanded my vocabulary. It turns out that a signature is not only a handwritten version of a name but also a large sheet of paper folded and trimmed to create a grouping of book pages. Most importantly, I have the chance to delve into all steps and stages of the production process, whether it is creating a castoff that estimates the page count of a new project or performing a careful review of the latest printer proof. There is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that I helped transform those piles of marked and flagged sheets sitting on my desk into the freshly printed volumes that will make their ways to bookshelves and readers.