(Don’t ask: this is the picture Jen gave me.)
This is the fifth in a series of interviews with the bushy-eyed beginners of the publishing industry — interns. You can see HELLO INTERN interviews here
with the other Australian Publishers Association
interns, who are, respectively, at Scribe Publications, black dog books, Oxford University Press and Text Publishing.
Onto the present, and Oxford University Press intern Jennifer Butler. Jen is actually doing her internship through the Melbourne University Postgraduate Diploma in Editing and Communications. We both work at OUP, and since I’m not attracted enough to whiplash-type injuries to conduct an interview with myself, here’s a peek into her internship hijinks. She’s tall and really disciplined, and if I were honest with myself I would say that we were at polar ends of the spectra for those particular characteristics. (I’m five feet tall and have a really dusty yoga mat.)
I know about you, but the internet doesn’t know as much as I do (for once). Tell it a bit about yourself.
How do you know the internet doesn’t know as much about me as you do? Have you googled me? Hmm?
Yes, I have, but I got numerous results for Bill Murray’s ex-wife, so I thought it better to desist.
Okay, fine, there’s not much about me out there. Here’s a bio I wrote about myself for an upcoming book (the book is not an OUP publication, so in deference to my mentors I won’t name it):
Jennifer Butler completed her undergraduate degree at the Queensland Conservatorium and her PhD on nineteenth-century Russian opera and literature at the University of New South Wales. She then lived in various parts of Russia for two years. She has written liner notes for Decca and Deutsche Grammaphon, and reviews of Mariinsky Theater productions for The Moscow Times. Her hobbies include languages, literature, and slowly sightreading her way through the piano repertoire. Bach is a particular favourite. From time to time she plays badminton. She currently lives in Melbourne, where she teaches English.
I’m interested in publishing because I like being part of a creative process and I like big projects. As for reading, after many years reading obscure nineteenth-century Russian literature I’m trying to get a hold on contemporary literary fiction. That broad enough for you? I also like Ian Rankin and Reginald Hill.
Oh my God. I’m actually scared of you a little bit now. You’re doing an internship with OUP as part of the Melbourne University Postgraduate Diploma in Editing and Communications. How is the internship structured, and how does it fit in with your other studies? Do all the students of that course do internships, or is it an elective?
The internship is structured according to your needs and those of your host. You need to be there for 100 to 120 hours, and complete a research project which helps your host in some way. I’m working on a top secret project involving new editions. I’m not studying anything else at the moment, so fitting it in with other studies is not an issue. Fitting it in with the rest of my life is another matter.
I don’t know if all students do internships, but I think they’d be silly not to. At some point you need a chance to prove yourself.
Did you have a say in where you did the internship? Why did you pick OUP? How did you prepare the internship application?
Yes, we had a say. I chose OUP because I wanted to work for an educational publisher with a good reputation. The internship application involved nominating the publishers and the type of work I was interested in, and sending them my resume via the course co-ordinator. Then I had a meeting with my mentor to discuss the type of work I’d be doing, and that was that. Other students’ applications were a bit more complicated (writing tests, reference checks and so on) but OUP seemed very trusting.
That strikes me as unfair, seeing as I had to do an editing test and two interviews to get my job. But tell me a bit more about the Editing and Communications course.
After you’ve completed some core subjects (Editorial English and Structural Editing) you can continue as you wish, adding subjects to match your interests. I’ve also done Print Production and Design (indesign training) and the Contemporary Publishing Industry (finding out about current industry issues).
Do you know where any of the other interns are posted?
Yep. There are lots at funky literary magazines (including The Lifted Brow), some doing communications work with the government and charities, and others are with fiction publishers. As far as I know I’m the only one with an educational publisher. Aren’t textbooks sexy enough?
What’s the most salient thing you’ve learned from doing the internship?
That my instincts are often right, and they are not only applicable to theses on Russian opera. Constant self-doubt is a common side effect of finishing a PhD, not preening arrogance, as you’d assume.
What are you reading right now?
Dave Eggers’ What is the What.