Natali Cavanagh is a senior creative writing major. Last semester, she ventured to New York to do two publishing internships as part of the NY Arts Program. After graduation, she will be working as a publicity and marketing intern for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. In this guest post, she describes her work at a journal and a literary agency and talks about how the skills she learned in English classes came to life in this jobs.
My junior year, I, like many of my peers, was wondering where my English degree would take me and what I would pursue after college. I knew I liked books and I enjoyed reading, analyzing, and interacting with stories, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a writer or teach English. In Cathy Day’s Novel Writing class, though, we learned a little bit about how the book publishing industry worked and the process a manuscript goes from beginning to end; the more I learned, the more I wanted to know! So last semester, I went to New York through the NY Arts Program and was offered 2 dream positions: working as a social media intern for Guernica literary magazine (which has published pieces by some of my favorite authors like Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, and Zadie Smith!) and an editorial intern at Writers House literary agency (who also represent some of my favorite authors like John Green, Grace Lin, Ingrid Law, and Neil Gaiman!).
At Guernica, my primary job was to help build social media presence. On a daily level, I made Tweets and Facebook posts to promote pieces from the magazine (new and old); for long term projects, I worked toward making materials (like cultural calendars and workflow templates) that will continue to help the staff long after my time with them. Even though the internship was predominantly remote, the staff meetings were always so much fun; listening to all the fascinating and exciting new projects people were writing, helping create and plan for a new special topic issue (Deserts!), and having the opportunity to work with so many engaging and intelligent people was invigorating.
At Writers House, I worked under Senior Agent Dan Lazar and his Assistant/Junior Agent Torie Doherty-Munro. As an editorial intern, my main job was to read submitted manuscripts and provide editorial feedback: every day when I came in to work, Torie would send me a few partials (a 50-100 page section of a manuscript) and I would tell her whether or not I’d be interested in continuing to read/accepting the manuscript, what was working, and what potentially needed to be changed. Both Dan and Torie represent primarily Children’s/Young Adult books, but I read everything from short, middle-grade manuscripts to contemporary adult, realistic and historical fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy. Every day I was reading something different! My favorite projects to work on, though, were always manuscripts that I got a chance to see evolve; seeing a manuscript improve after helping give editorial feedback was so gratifying and worthwhile.
I was lucky to be at two places that really encouraged growth and hands-on participation. At Guernica, I was writing and composing social media content every day, interacting and engaging with their online community. At Writers House, I felt that my editorial feedback was valued and that the work I was doing to help bring manuscripts to life was really helping the authors and agents I was aiding. And ultimately, I used every skill that I learned through my English classes: understanding craft and story structure, analyzing character and audience, writing in various styles (for a social media audience, for an individual author, for an agent…), being able to communicate my ideas clearly and concisely. Overall, I’m so grateful for my time in New York, not only for giving me an insider look into the industry I want to be a part of, but also for the opportunity to collaborate, play, and experiment with skills I’ll use for the rest of my professional life.
Originally written by Natali Cavanagh