Spending Summer in an Igloo: My Editorial Internship with Penguin Random House

Natalie Hallakby Natalie Hallak
Upsilon Omicron Chapter
St. John’s University, Queens, NY

Like many English majors, my idea of a perfect job is one where I get paid to read—and publishing is the best industry to make that happen (or so I thought, but we’ll get to that). Thus, applying for an internship with Penguin Random House (charmingly nicknamed “Igloo”) through Sigma Tau Delta seemed like the perfect way to get my foot in the door. After spending the majority of my spring semester waiting on the edge of my seat, hoping each new email/phone call might be the one, I finally heard back from Penguin a month before the start of the internship. Soon after my interview, I pretty much died of happiness when Penguin offered me an editorial internship with Amy Einhorn Books, publisher of The Help (Kathryn Stockett) and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson), among other bestsellers.

I learned my first lesson in publishing when I found out that Amy Einhorn was leaving her eponymous imprint to work for Macmillan’s Flat Iron Books: The publishing world is constantly changing. Yet, everyone knows everyone; as Ms. Einhorn said before leaving, “The world is big but publishing is small, so our paths will most likely cross again.”

Now, I work for the much larger G.P. Putnam’s Sons publishing group, which has a rich history and specializes in publishing blockbuster books by literary giants such as Tom Clancy, Sue Grafton, and Nora Roberts. I’m able to work with a dozen editors and editorial assistants, and even though Penguin Random House is one of the largest book publishers in the world, the individual, small-house feel makes it a truly enjoyable place to be. It helps that everyone is really, ridiculously nice.

And there’s never a dull moment around here. I’m constantly reading manuscripts of varying genres: memoir, women’s commercial fiction, thrillers, mysteries, nonfiction, historical fiction, adventure, literary fiction—basically, you never really know what the next submission will be. I’ve also been put in charge of the “slush pile” (a whole bunch of unsolicited manuscripts) that I read and respond to. Reading in the office, however, is something that seems unique to an intern.

My cubicle with an ever-growing mountain of books I’ve received for free.

My cubicle with an ever-growing mountain of books I’ve received for free.

As my internship progresses, I’m learning the many different responsibilities an editor must take on; reading submissions and editing manuscripts is only a small fraction of the job, and must be done during “free” time, such as the weekends. Most of an editor’s time in the office is spent dealing with the countless emails sent every day from authors, agents, and coworkers. An editor must oversee every step of the process in book production to make sure everything runs smoothly and the final product is the best it can be—and ensure that the author is pleased with the result. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg; most editorial work is about sales and taking great lengths to guarantee that people will buy the book. Being an editor is certainly not for the faint of heart.

With all of the work that I’m doing, though, it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that being an editor is exactly what I want to do. So far, I’ve written a reading group guide for an upcoming Jan Karon novel (and will be writing a few more for other titles before the summer ends), as well as many rejection letters and reader’s reports. I’ve also communicated with most departments of the publishing house, attended various sales and editorial meetings, made friends and connections with editors and interns alike, transcribed edits, and am learning firsthand not only what goes into producing a bestselling book, but what it takes to be an editor. This is a place of creativity and forward thinking, where my voice is heard and respected.

Oh hey Freedom Tower, what’s up? I can see you from my building!

“Oh hey Freedom Tower, what’s up? I can see you from my building!”

There are also some sweet perks of the job, “Summer Fridays” (where we have the day off) being the best. A close second are the numerous “take shelves” scattered around the building (I’ve received more free books at this job than I know what to do with). Also, people dress pretty casually here, so no one bats an eye when I wear open-toed shoes or jeans. Not to mention Penguin is located in downtown Manhattan, so we’re right in the heart of all that NYC has to offer.

I’ve found my place in the middle of the city that never sleeps, and I’m so grateful to all of my professors and to Sigma Tau Delta for helping me get the internship of my dreams. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer brings.

Natalie was one of two interns selected for the 2014 Sigma Tau Delta sponsored Summer Penguin Group (USA) Summer Internship. Society student members may apply for the 2015 between December 1, 2014, and January 20, 2015. 

“I Survived”: Overcoming the Undergraduate Senior Thesis

Morgan Mandriotaby Morgan Mandriota
Alpha Iota Omicron Chapter, St. Joseph’s College, NY

“Welcome to Senior Thesis! ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here.’”

This was the first slide of the PowerPoint presentation welcoming English majors into our first meeting of the dreaded senior thesis. “Cool,” I thought, “this dude is making a Dante reference.” Little did I understand the relevance of the Inferno quote until I found out that I needed to collect a working bibliography of 100 relevant sources, due two weeks later on a novel I hadn’t even read yet.

I silently debated: “Does my passion for studying literature outweigh the ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ I will undergo for the next eight months?” *sigh* “. . .yes.”

Frankenstein coverI passed the summer research phase by making an intensive annotated bibliography and outline, along with a collection of scribbles on what seemed like hundreds of multi-colored post-its dispersed throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. How on Earth did I accomplish this? I hadn’t even read the book yet.

What I (miraculously) did was use my research and background knowledge of Frankenstein to come up with my thesis: Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s creature, or “monster,” as he is most often perceived, is actually the most “human” of the three main characters. I finished reading the novel and annotating my four page outline the day before the semester and the writing process started. “Phew!”

Four hectic and strenuous months later, my wonderful mentor informed me I had successfully completed my project with an “A.”

Thesis DeskNaturally, I cried like a baby. I am almost certain that I died and went to heaven. As disorganized as I was with my books and papers scattered across my desk, floor, and bed, I did it . . . I survived the undergraduate senior thesis!

So, my advice to any future thesis prospects is: 1) take constructive criticism and let it shape you into a better writer, researcher, and thinker, and 2) believe in yourself and your abilities. Your mind is either your best asset or your tragic flaw.

Yes, there is a light at the end of the seemingly infinite, dark thesis tunnel, and you, too, will come out on the other end feeling invincible. You will have completed possibly the greatest academic achievement of your undergraduate career (and believe me, the indescribable feeling upon completion is worth the struggle of the whole process).

Survival of the senior thesis is, indeed, possible – do not “abandon all hope.”

Eastern Student Leadership Candidate

Courtney Dunn
Candidate for Eastern Student Representative, 2014-2015
Junior, Theta Kappa Chapter, Bloomsburg University
Bloomsburg, PA

Positions, other memberships, offices, etc., currently or recently held:

Explain why you are running for office and comment on any skills, experience, or personal qualities you possess that would contribute to your performing the following duties: promoting communication among chapters other than your own, producing official publications, assisting your Regent, serving on the Student Leadership Committee. Further comments or ideas are encouraged. Include your region and your first and last name at the top of the page. Please do not include sensitive personal information in your essay. Candidate essays will be displayed publicly before the election. Do not exceed 500 words:

I have decided to run for a student representative position for two specific reasons. The first reason I have decided to run is to gain the professional knowledge that is sure to accompany such a position. The second reason is to meet and connect with new people. Although I am currently involved in many organizations at my university, I recognize the benefits of expanding and meeting new people in new places.

Throughout my college career, I have held numerous student leadership positions pertaining to my Psychology and English majors. I have worked in the Psychology Department at Bloomsburg University for over two semesters. This position provides me with the opportunity to interact with students and faculty on a daily basis. This therefore allows me to gain experience communicating effectively and providing useful information in response to questions and concerns. Along with this job, I am an officer in the Psychology Association in which I assist in planning and facilitating numerous volunteer and group events. I also co-manage and update the Psychology Association Facebook page and therefore am responsible for informing fellow members about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. Volunteering has been a passion of mine from the start of my college career, and so I enjoy getting other students involved. I have accumulated over seventy hours of community service during my college career. By getting involved with the community and campus organizations, I have not only learned how to be organized and prepared. I have learned how to care for others and help them reach their goals.

Along with volunteering and providing assistance for campus events, I am a GRE preparation program instructor. In this position, I am responsible for holding preparation classes and instructing students on how to improve their English and writing skills. I am also a writer for “The Voice”, the university newspaper. I have recently received my own column and put a lot of time and research into my articles in order to guarantee the validity of each piece. This position requires meeting deadlines, coming up with new material, and having a clear understanding of the needs and interests of college students. In addition to my articles published each week, I have had a piece published in “Warren”, the university literary journal. I will also be presenting a piece at the 2014 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention.

Over the past few years, I have gained a great amount of new knowledge and skills. I have learned to be organized and prepared for the benefit of a larger group. I have learned to communicate effectively with both students and faculty. I have even had the benefit of being published for a larger audience. By running for a student representative position, I am simply hoping for the opportunity to put these skills and this knowledge to use. By doing so, I hope to gain new experiences for myself as well as the people I am privileged to work with.

There is still time to apply for a student leadership position for any region. Simply bring your completed application form to the convention and turn it in at the convention registration desk any time before the Regional Networking meetings on Thursday afternoon.