Eastern Region English Careers Membership Opportunities Society Wide

Joe’s Experience at Better World Books

Joe Gallagherby Joe Gallagher
Alumnus, Plymouth State University
Plymouth, NH

People are sort of obligated to say “time flies,” since admitting otherwise would be depressing, but these past six weeks working as the 2013 Sigma Tau Delta intern at Better World Books have truly been fast, and for me they’ve reaffirmed the value of an English degree when working in an office environment. Before my internship began, Better World Books (BWB) dreamt up a project to use my skills (BWB is very organized here). When I arrived in early June, we started outlining the creation of a comprehensive online resource center with materials and support for campus-run book drives across the country. It would be a one-stop-shop for everything a student book driver would ever need.

It’s nice to see how far the project has come in six weeks. The team—primarily Tommy Stubblefield (the Content & Community Specialist) and Diane Maier (Sr. Marketing Manager)—did a great job communicating what they needed from me during that big bang phase of pre-writing. We had to wrangle all our thoughts onto the same page and move carefully out of ambiguity. It was fun to work independently then regroup and see if I’d colored outside the lines or not. I think the final product will help a lot of people, and that kept me motivated.

I’ve been lucky to work with the amazing Diane and Tommy duo. They involved me every step of the way, from framing the user interface needs on sticky notes through finalizing changes before launch. We strategized what content was needed and put together a list. Pages, sub-pages, and other marketing materials had to be drafted for each item.

Joe at the Non-Violence mural in Atlanta
Joe at the Non-Violence Mural in Atlanta

It was a long list. It wasn’t daunting, it was actually encouraging. Having graduated with an English degree two weeks prior, I had that fear of writing not being practical in the real world. Yet here was this list; here was something in demand I could contribute to. You’re given an assignment where you’re not asked to faithfully transcribe (if they wanted that they would have written it themselves). There’s a space of psychic distance there that you have to close with creativity and communication, and I don’t believe a degree in business would have prepared me for that invention.

It’s fun and it’s art and you’re getting paid for it.

So I’ve been writing, and writing, and presenting my writing in meetings. We regularly sat down and reviewed my drafted copy on a big screen. Those discussions have been some of the most enjoyable parts–watching something from our collective imagination take shape in the real world. Having those conversations is probably when I’ve learned the most and expanded beyond my comfort zone. So after redrafting, trips to Waffle House, redrafting, and trips to Mr. Taco, the end was in sight.

When you have the chance to participate and weigh in, the work becomes yours and you want to take pride in it. I think that’s why so many of the English majors who’ve completed this program before me have enjoyed their time here. BWB integrates their strengths.

I’m indebted to Sigma Tau Delta and everyone here at Better World Books. Of course, while I was writing this the BWB team surprised me with a goodbye cake in the break room. They’re the coolest.

My hands-on time at BWB contributed to my moving into a community management role at New Futures shortly afterward. Thanks again, BWB, for such a memorable and worthwhile experience.

Also read Joe Gallagher’s first article about his 2013 Internship at Better World Books.