The Publishing World: Grad School and Internships

For the blog post this week, I’m switching things up a little! Last week, I officially finished up my first year of grad school at George Washington University (and because of my finals/workload I may or may not have skipped out on reading the book I was supposed to read for a review lol). So instead of a book review, I’m going to write about the program I’m in and the internships I’ve been a part of throughout the years that have contributed to my love of writing and literature!!!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a part of the publishing world, and it wasn’t until college – where I found myself editing friends’s papers regularly and taking my first creative writing workshops – that I realized just how much I loved the editing process. Reading other people’s stories, getting to dive into someone else’s mind, and experiencing the worlds and characters they create is something that anyone who reads understands the brilliant feeling of, but getting to discuss it with the person who wrote it and bounce more ideas back and forth with them was something that I wasn’t prepared to love so much. Getting to experience that in my writing workshops had such a huge impact on me that I ended up dropping my history minor just so I could fit another creative writing class into my schedule for my last semester. That’s when I knew that getting into to editing was the path I wanted to take.

I had my first editorial internship the summer before going into my junior year of undergrad, with a publishing company called Blueberry Lane Books. My main job throughout the duration was reading the slush piles – the manuscripts under consideration – that were submitted, and basically getting to decide whether the stories got to move on to the next stage of editing and ultimately get published. What sticks out the most in my memory of this internship was just how much detail needed to go into a story – I think there were like 17 categories that I needed to rate each story on – and how hard it was to get my thoughts and opinions on each story into a cohesive review to pass onto my supervisor (and just how many stories about alien sex I had to read – it was apparently a big genre at the time). But the process of editing, of learning how to give feedback and suggestions, sparked something in me that hasn’t disappeared since.

My second internship was with Ohio Magazine, a part of Great Lakes Publishing. This was more on the journalistic side of publishing (which I very quickly realized I didn’t want to do lol), but there were parts of the experience that I’m still so thankful for. My favorite story I got to be a part of was interviewing Mark Edelman about Theater League (the not-for-profit, performing arts organization he founded in 1976), because theater and broadway is something that I’m passionate about and excited about (and this was one of the first big stories I was assigned, allowing me to move away from less thrilling topics, like the different corn festivals going on that year). Getting to talk to Mark about theater and what it means to him, and what he hopes Theater League can mean for other people, as well as what musical theater has meant to me, turned into an almost hour long phone conversation. Once again, I was learning how much I loved talking to people about their projects and sharing thoughts and ideas with them until they unfold into a narrative.

Currently, I am interning with Oghma Creative Media as an editorial assistant, and I have been loving every moment of it. I’ve actually had the opportunity to communicate with authors, and do developmental edits for plot and character development on their stories as well as the final round of edits. I’ve been with them since January, and have worked on four books since then, and it is so exciting and humbling to know that there is still so much for me to learn about the editorial process, and the publishing business as a whole!!! I can’t wait to see what the rest of this internship has in store for me, and whatever comes next!

As I said, I just finished my first year of grad school at GWU. I’m in their College of Professional Studies, and working towards getting my MA in Publishing with the intent of going into their editorial track. For the first year, everyone in my cohort had to take the same assigned classes, which ranged from Book and Journal Publishing, Copyright Law, Marketing Strategies, and Production Management. I’ve learned how to make a author contract, how to do a direct mail campaign, what the stages of a book’s life cycle are, and have even been tasked with creating an entirely hypothetical publishing company, along with the products it would sell. It’s been challenging and frustrating but I have learned so so much, and being a part of this program has only solidified my determination to get even deeper into the publishing world.

While I’m relieved to be on a short break between semesters, I am beyond excited for my second year, because my second year marks the year where I can start to choose the classes I want to take (shout out to the Editorial Content, Rights, and Permissions class I’m taking next semester, and the Managing an Editorial Staff class I’ve got my eye on for the future!!!).

If you guys have questions about editorial internships or an MA program in publishing, comment below! Or if you have experiences/memories to share about the publishing world, I’d love to hear! 🙂

-Sara

Writing Community: Sirens Conference

For my blog post this week, I’m switching things up a bit! Throughout the year, I’d like to write about finding and building community as a writer – whether that be online or in person, local or abroad. Whatever form your writing community takes, what’s important is that you create a support system that best suits you and your needs as a writer! Since I began actively seeking out fellow writers, readers, and book lovers with similar passions and writing ambitions, my life and writing have infinitely changed for the better. I can’t wait to share some of these thoughts and insights with you!

This month, I’ve got conferences on the brain! This time last year, I was beginning my first foray into conference research. I’d made the decision to refocus my time and energy on what I was most passionate about – writing. But here’s the thing – I was scared! I had low confidence in my work, was daunted by the idea of completing a novel, and overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who populate the publishing world. I felt like a conference would help me to begin to better understand how the larger writing community works and allow me to meet fellow writers with shared interests.

With this in mind, I began researching North American writing conferences. I knew that I wanted a smaller conference (AWP and Writer’s Digest just seemed so BIG and overwhelming for a first conference) where I would feel safe as a queer woman and be encouraged to talk about speculative fiction. Luckily for me, this is a pretty specific conference checklist, and after a few Google searches and Twitter chats I stumbled upon the Sirens website.

Sirens is an annual Colorado conference geared toward writers, readers, librarians, and educators of sci-fi/fantasy literature, specifically those who feel the effects of the patriarchy (nonbinary folks, tran folks, women, or wherever you land on the gender spectrum!). Founded in 2009 (10 years ago!!), Sirens sought to create a conference space where all were welcomed and encouraged to celebrate and see themselves in speculative fiction. Their commitment to doing better and being more inclusive each year is evident and refreshing, and is what drew to me them in the first place.


Like the women of fantasy literature, we dream big and bold and bright.

Sirens 2019

After months of planning, budgeting, and applying for grants, I attended my very first Sirens conference in October 2018! I decided to attend both the pre-conference Sirens Studio (Tuesday-Wednesday) and the full Sirens conference (Thursday-Sunday) to give myself a fully immersive experience. Sirens Studio was an amazing experience – two days of small-group workshops taught by stellar faculty interspersed with time to read, write, and relax (yes, there were bonfire pits and outdoor hot tubs!).

The full conference began Thursday evening with a welcome reception and the very first keynote speaker. Friday was chock full of workshops, lecture, and panels, and ended with a fabulous evening of Bedtime Stories, during which all visiting guests of honor read from their new/upcoming work (while we, of course, sipped on hot chocolate and ate gourmet s’mores!). Saturday featured similar conference scheduling, two more amazing keynote speakers, and an unforgettable masquerade ball!

My first Sirens conference was truly life changing. I’m a bit shy and reserved before I get to know people, so I was glad that I decided to start with the smaller Sirens Studio. The few extra days gave me a bit more time to ease into the conference and to meet a few people before the (delightful) chaos began on Friday. A lot of people already knew each other (some people have been attending Sirens every year since 2009, which is AMAZING!) and I was a little bit intimidated at first! However, Sirens does a wonderful job at planning group outings for lunch and dinner, and I quickly learned that connecting with people over food is SO my thing!

One of my biggest struggles as a writer (besides, ya know, writing) is being confident enough to discuss my work and ideas with friends and strangers, and Sirens really forced me out of my comfort zone in this regard, which I am so thankful for. Seeing how passionate everyone was about their own work and other’s really pushed me to reevaluate the fears/anxieties I have about sharing my own writing. This was my biggest take away from the conference – a new confidence in myself and my work. I’m so grateful for all of the amazing people I met last year at Sirens!

I could sing praises about Sirens forever (I can’t wait to go back this year!!) but before I finish this post I just want to touch base on the most daunting thing about conferences: $$$$. I don’t know about you, but as a person with two part-time jobs who makes less than $20,000 a year, the thought of dropping $1500 on conference fees, plane tickets, and housing was horrifying! Financially, conferences are not always accessible. I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from my local arts counsel that funded my entire trip, but it’s not always that easy!

If your city or state doesn’t offer grants for artists, there are also scholarship options through Sirens (some of which are still open!). Sirens is currently accepting program proposals through May 15 – three exemplary programming proposals will be awarded free registration and shuttle tickets! Additionally, Con or Bust is a fabulous financial resource for people of color seeking to attend SFF conventions.

What are you experiences with writing conferences (the good, the bad, the ugly?!). Let me know in the comments!

-Emory