By Addie E.
Free Spirit has an active internship program. We invited our summer sales and marketing intern, Addie E., to write a post reflecting on her experience at Free Spirit.
I may soon be a college senior, but the first day of my 10-week internship at Free Spirit Publishing left me feeling very much like a first-year all over again. There was the same struggle to acclimate to an unknown environment, but this time it was that of a sales and marketing (or “smarketing”) intern. This wasn’t my first internship ever. But what the work would look in a hybrid setting left several unknowns ahead of me, so I was grateful for what grounding I did have.
I came into my sales and marketing internship at Free Spirit with an introductory background via a publishing class taught by an editor at a Minneapolis publishing house. This introduction gave me tools to orient myself in the first two hectic weeks, since I had a basic understanding of book publishing and some of its lingo was familiar to me. Since then, I’ve broadened and deepened my knowledge about book publishing, working not just in smarketing, but also with submissions and in Free Spirit’s on-site warehouse.
Though no job is too small for an intern, many of the tasks set before me were beyond the grunt work I’d expected. I created Free Spirit’s August newsletter about back-to-school social and emotional skills, where I fought to curb my academic tone and found out what the back end of a website looks like! Several hours were spent promoting the 2021 Black Voices in Children’s Literature writing contest (which, as you can see, I am continuing to plug), and even more were spent running down Amazon rabbit holes to update and refresh book listings.
But the project I learned the most from, by far, was working on an upcoming edition of a well-loved guidebook. I not only read the whole draft to make it accessible for today’s teens, but right after, I tackled its advertising! Being so familiar with the book and able to compare the differences between the two editions was very helpful in writing advertising materials, and I hope they will be informative for those who want to learn more.
Outside my task assignments, I was able to conduct half a dozen informational interviews with Free Spirit employees. They offered welcome advice on the unwritten rules of the working world, candid discussions of the publishing industry and their personal trajectories in it, and some wonderful book recommendations across several genres. Hearing how much the industry has changed over their decades of cumulative experience was fascinating, and I deeply appreciate that everyone was willing to meet with me and answer my many questions.
Three of the biggest personal and professional impacts from my time at Free Spirit are tied to new insights around what kind of work environment I thrive in, how the mission of an organization does matter for my personal satisfaction (regardless of the task at hand), and that it is possible to find work that engages both my creativity and my curiosity. I never thought I’d enjoy being in an office setting or having this much collaboration at work, and knowing that some of the more tedious tasks were kid-driven went a long way in maintaining my momentum on projects. I felt challenged by the tasks set before me and empowered to make assignments my own or ask for more clarity in equal measure. Finding a place of work where one feels part of a community and supported enough to take risks and try new approaches is extremely special, especially within the condensed timeline of a summer internship.
I’m extremely pleased to say that what drew me to apply for the smarketing internship in the first place—an appreciation for how Free Spirit books pair powerful life lessons and educational resources with great storytelling—has only been strengthened. I’ve read tales of tackling food insecurity (Lulu and the Hunger Monster) and cute texts about building a growth mindset (Y Is for Yet) that are already on the shelves, as well as upcoming books that I’m even more excited to see reach young readers.
Thank you to everyone at Free Spirit for making my internship such a fantastic experience, and one that has solidified my drive to help tell stories that matter and that can change lives.
Addie E. was the summer 2021 sales and marketing intern at Free Spirit Publishing and is a senior at a nearby university where she is majoring in anthropology and minoring in English.
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