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Intern’s Report: Creating the Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology
Location: Rose O’Neill Literary House
As Literary House Press Intern, I had the pleasure of creating and editing the Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology, a collection of portfolio excerpts from winners and finalists from the class of 2011 and 2012. This Anthology is the first in a series of mini-anthologies slated to be published every two years and will highlight Sophie Kerr winners and finalists. It was exciting to collaborate on this project with the Lit House staff and to see the process unfold, beginning to end. I am grateful to everyone who gave me guidance and encouragement, especially Owen Bailey, Lindsay Lusby, and Dr. Dubrow.
Before this internship, I didn’t know the difference between serif and sans serif fonts, (Hint: serif fonts have the dangly bits on the ends). I’d never been commissioned to create something, and had little concept of proportions and measurements related to pagination. The Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology project has given me insight into the writing world and what it’s like to create under different constraints. At first, I was a little nervous to be working at The Rose O’Neill Literary House. I’d held the Lit House in high esteem since visiting as a prospective student; so much so that by the end of freshmen year the Lit House had been transformed in my mind from an old building into a lofty abstraction; a place where novice writers flocked and the mysterious Writing Life took place. With this in mind I applied for the Literary House Press Internship, simultaneously hoping to solve the enigma I’d created and to help the Lit House Press create a new tradition for future Sophie Kerr winners and finalists.
Despite my excitement, I still feared my creative skills were inadequate. Fortunately, I discovered two things, 1) the Lit House atmosphere is pretty much the opposite of the literary Devil-Wears-Prada internship I’d conjured in my head and 2) everyone had as much InDesign experience as I had (that is to say, none). The Lit House staff are some of the warmest people I’ve ever met. They are funny, easy-going, and above all, they’re passionate about writing and bringing great writers to campus to inspire and engage students through lectures, readings, and workshops. Dr. Dubrow, Lindsay Lusby, and Owen Bailey’s relentless patience and encouragement gave me confidence to expand my skill set as well as peace of mind on days when InDesign seemed particularly vexing.
Working at the Lit House gave me a sense of what the writing world is like outside of college. When I started in January, Professor Dubrow gave me a rough timeline for the project and I’ll admit, the task seemed daunting. I had to solicit portfolio pieces from eleven past winners and finalists, work with the application InDesign and create the book’s front cover. Soliciting work wasn’t hard, but InDesign and the front cover proved challenging. I learned how to make a book using InDesign without fully understanding the concepts of Bleed or Slug. These words still make me think of metal heads talking about a new band, not an editor carefully measuring margins and lines on a ‘Mac. The idea of a Master Page, or template, confused me for weeks until Alissa Vecchio (’13) offered her expertise—skills acquired from her work in the College Relations office.
This internship was a veritable “crash course” in the publishing process; I learned how to solicit work from writers, format using InDesign, and actually print book pages. As someone who takes a laid-back approach to, well, everything in life, the pressure to act now was a much-needed exercise in organization and time management. I learned that keeping up with emails and edits were necessary in order to meet deadlines…who knew?
Over spring break, I was invited to shadow Master Printer Jim Dissette as he printed the pages for a series of Mary Jo Salter books. I learned how to carefully hand-tint artwork on printed pages. Being part of the printing process; seeing each page come together with text and illustrations gave me a different perspective on writing and the key people who help bring a book to life so the final version of a writer’s work—the book itself—becomes a tangible, literary object for the reader to enjoy and for the author to find satisfaction in.
The capstone of my internship was attending the Sophie Kerr Prize ceremony at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore. Between set up and break down for the event, I had the opportunity to experience the energy and excitement of those gathered as we listened to the contemplative and enriching words of presenter Michael Dirda, then cheered for the finalists Bond Richards, Maegan Clearwood, Emily Blackner, Jillian Obermeier, and the winner, Tim Marcin. On a table in the entranceway we had laid out pamphlets and newsletters from WAC along with copies of the first Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology, hot off the press. Realizing all the hours of editing, Photoshopping, InDesign-ing and margin measuring lay concrete before me, in the form of a book that people could actually purchase, brought my entire internship into focus. The slim paperback book is a tangible benchmark and affirmation for WAC’s talented writers.