After the close of the magazine program with presentations to top industry professionals, it seemed impossible to think that we were back to square one and at the start of another three-week adventure. Yet there we were with all the first day of school jitters again, albeit armed with a wealth of newly acquired publishing knowledge. I felt like a fledging apprentice awaiting the instructions of the master I had been apprenticed to–filled with nerves, passion, and an earnest desire to learn the trade.
Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster came to speak to us that day. To hear her speak of the vision of her publishing house and how their goal is to ensure that each author’s work reaches as many readers as possible spoke to me as an ardent lover of words and books. She spoke of publishing as a vessel through which author’s works were disseminated into the world and that at Simon & Schuster each work was taken on its own merit and its own timeline no matter how long-lasting it may or may not be. In these words, I heard confirmed what I have long known–that publishing is truly where I belong. The program continued to enchant and enthrall me as we heard from more incredible speakers, including Madeline McIntosh, President and COO of Penguin Random House, Reagan Arthur, Publisher of Little, Brown, Jennifer Loja, VP Associate Publisher of Penguin Books for Young Readers, and many more top professionals from “the Big 6”, newly “the Big 5”, as well as literary agents from highly regarded agencies Levine Greenberg, ICM, Writers House, The Gernert Company, and Howard Morhaim. Their knowledge of the industry is boundless and during their presentations I tried to absorb every ounce of the wisdom they were imparting. By the end of the three weeks I am certain I resembled an extremely saturated sea sponge.
During the book section of the program we also got the opportunity to visit publishing houses. Another early morning in Woolworth spent lined up, sizing up my competition to the left and right as I prepared myself for the stampede that would occur when the sign-up sheets were posted. We truly turned into a herd of wildebeests when those sign-up sheets were out; it was as if all rational thought fled from us and we reverted to our primal instincts. I got the opportunity to visit HarperCollins and was more than a little giddy standing in the lobby waiting to be taken up to the gilded halls of book publishing. I was certainly not disappointed when those elevators doors opened. It was a strikingly beautiful office and the fact that I was in the hallowed halls that held so many powerful books, a repository of knowledge, depth, beauty, vibrancy, and stirring imagination was nothing short of breathtaking. As we sat in the conference room and heard from editorial, art, and subsidiary rights directors I couldn’t help but feel a certain dreamlike quality overtake me. After all, it has long been my aspiration to be a part of this industry and to actually to be in the office of one of the Big 5 publishing giants was overwhelmingly wonderful. I felt a strong desire to head deeper into the office, seat myself with the other employees and begin diligently working–perhaps if I was quiet and efficient enough they might not notice that I was an imposter.
As if there were time for anything other than raptly listening to presentations of publishing gurus, fanciful thoughts dancing in my head, and visiting publishing houses and indie bookstores, we also had an imprint to create. I was a part of the romance imprint, which we christened Ardour Press. At first I was a little disconcerted about being a part of the romance imprint, but as I began writing my three book ideas prior to the start of the program I actually found myself enjoying the genre. My ideas of course were all woven in the vein of my favorite genre, historical fiction, but nevertheless they were romance novels. One of my ideas, my favorite in fact, was chosen to be one of our imprint’s titles. Exquisite Talent: Love and Ballet in the City of Light, set in 1920s Paris, tells the tale of a fiery and tumultuous romance between prima ballerina, Caterina and her rival Luka. Filled with passion for the arts from ballet to the literature of The Lost Generation, this story aligned perfectly with our imprint’s mission to share love stories through the vein of people’s passions in life. We wanted to steer clear of the stereotypical bodice-ripping romance titles and bring something more intelligent and multi-dimensional. It was such an exciting adventure to see three books coming to life, and one of them my own. My zeal for book publishing increased further as did the passionate conviction that I am on the right path.
All too soon, the six weeks came to a close. We had made it through our crash course into publishing. Looking back on the program now I am so thankful to have been a part of it because it has given me such great insight into the industry and experiences and memories that will never fade. This is most certainly the first step in a new chapter, and as the door of SPI closes, I can only hope that the next door to open will be that of my future position in publishing!