Making a Difference, or What I’ve Learned as an Editorial Intern

By Kaitlin W.

Free Spirit has an active internship program in the editorial, marketing, and creative departments. We invited our current editorial intern, Kaitlin W., to consider some questions and write a post reflecting on her experience here.

internI started my college career by studying criminal justice with the hopes of becoming a social worker and working in child protective services, but as I learned more about what I would do every day, I realized it wasn’t quite right for me. I changed my major to professional writing and quickly integrated into the writing community at my college, but I felt sad that I was no longer working toward something that would have an immediate impact on the lives of kids and teens. I knew that writing was important and that books can be a fundamental part of kids’ lives, but I wanted to do something more tangible and mission driven.

I found Free Spirit while looking for internship opportunities . . . and closed my Internet browser. I thought, What do children’s editors really do anyway? Do you really need an editor for picture books? (The answer is yes, yes you do.) I returned to Free Spirit’s website a few days later and looked through their catalog. I was surprised to find books for kids about tough topics such as coping with the loss of a loved one; transitions in families, like going to live with a foster family or becoming part of a stepfamily; and how to handle school if you learn at a different pace, whether that’s faster or slower, than other kids in your class. It was a perfect fit: I could use my writing and editing skills to help produce books that could make an immediate difference in kids’ lives. I sent out my application materials, and well, you know what they say about the rest.

What would you tell someone who is looking at doing an internship?
Come in ready to learn every day. Everyone here has a lot of experience and is very willing to help you learn about the different tasks you’re doing and about the industry as a whole.

Be ready to work right away because you’ll be assigned projects almost immediately. Your input will be valued and considered when making decisions about the outcome of said projects, so don’t be afraid to share your opinion on projects or manuscripts that come across your desks.

What are some of the new things you didn’t know before?
I know quite a bit more about the editorial and publishing processes, for example, how to proofread a manuscript effectively and how a book moves from being an accepted submission to a published work. Those processes aren’t something you learn in a classroom: you have to experience them and learn firsthand how to look at manuscripts from an editorial perspective, and it’s much nicer to do it in an environment where I could ask questions and learn from editors who have experience instead of “flying blind,” as it were, when I start my full-time career.

I’ve also gotten to learn a lot about the technical side of publishing, such as how to apply for copyright and how to file CIP (cataloging in publication) data with the Library of Congress. I knew that both of these processes happened, obviously, but I had no idea how they happened and had never thought to ask before I considered working in publishing.

Chicago_Manual_of_Style_16thEdAnother useful thing that I’ve learned is how to use the Chicago Manual of Style, which is important if you have an interest in publishing. If you’re not very familiar with it and have an interest in either working in publishing or publishing a book someday, page through it online or at your library. Don’t try to read it cover-to-cover (trust me, I tried), but focus on topics that are interesting to you and also in the table of contents and the index. It’s more important to know where to find something if you need to know about it than being able to recite the Chicago guidelines about commas. You’ll become familiar with the rules over time and use.

What are some tasks you get to do?
I get to do a lot of different things, which is great because I like having a varied workload. One day, I might come into the office and do research for a new book, for example, but the next day, I’ll come in and work on the company’s website.

I also check the mail for new submissions every morning, and since Free Spirit accepts unsolicited submissions year-round, there’s always more reading for me to do! I get to have the first look at proposals and first contact with the author, even if it’s just a note to acknowledge that we’ve received the manuscript. This is one of my favorite parts of the job, to be honest: I love finding out what people feel is important for kids to know and, therefore, what’s important to share with us.

How has this experience helped you grow?
On that same note, I think that interning at Free Spirit Publishing has made me more aware in at least two ways, the first being more environmentally aware: the people here are always working to make the company more earth-friendly and once I got in the mindset of “being green” at work, it sort of carried over into my personal life. Now, I’m a bit more prone to walk instead of drive, use cloth or paper grocery bags instead of plastic, and buy more earth- and worker-friendly products.

perspective and persception(c) Free Spirit  PublishingThis experience has also made me more aware of just how many perspectives can exist regarding an issue. For example, we’ll receive a manuscript that discusses stress and anxiety in children based on that author’s personal experience, but the next day we’ll receive another manuscript, also about stress and anxiety in children, but from the perspective of someone who’s done research on that specific topic. Both are equally important and valid, and it’s interesting to read both and learn about the different ways that people approach the same topic.

Being an intern at Free Spirit has been one of the best work experiences I’ve had, and I hope if you’re thinking about doing an editorial or marketing internship that you apply here. You’ll learn a lot, and you’ll learn at a company that is committed to helping children and teens. You can find more information about available internships at Free Spirit’s website.

Kaitlin W. is the winter/spring editorial intern at Free Spirit Publishing and a fifth-year professional writing major at a nearby university.


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2 Responses to Making a Difference, or What I’ve Learned as an Editorial Intern

  1. Katie, your willingness to “come in every day ready to learn” is one of the things that sets you apart–not only from your peers, but from so many of the rest of us who have been around long enough to rely so much on our own experiences and pre-conceived ideas. If you are, as Sandy believes, the future of literature, I can hardly wait.

  2. SandySays1 says:

    I would hope that what you’ve learned is universal. Your unjaded viewpoint is refreshing and one that, unfortunately, is not as universal as the industry needs. You are the future of literature – notice I didn’t say publishing for I don’t believe its the same. Our Art-form/Industry needs an injection from people like you and much greater effort from all participants – starting with authors. (see DL Havlin.wordpress.com blog “Publishing to Enterprise – Beam me up Scotty”)

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