Last week was my last official week at Autumn House Press. It occurred to me just a few days ago that wrapping up my internship is the beginning of the end of my final semester here at Duquesne. Working at Autumn House has been a great way to put into practice all the things I have learned at Duquesne.
It’s been a great way for me to flex my muscles as an editor, and to learn more about my own strengths and flaws as a writer. My perspective as an English graduate student has given me an analytical perspective through which to review fiction in more depth, but through my work at AH, I have also learned to review fiction from a more multifaceted stance— one that takes into account the creative, conceptual and technical components of any given piece.
I spent my last week at Autumn House Press working primarily with manuscripts— editing for little flaws and looking over submissions for AH’s fiction, poetry, and nonfiction contests. I also tied up edits on my book review for John Fried’s “The Martin Chronicles.” (To be published in AH’s Fall edition of Coal Hill Review!)
Working on the book review was an interesting, rather enlightening experience. It’s no surprise that, as an English student, I can talk for days about why I like a book, but to write an official book review is very different from what I expected. What I initially anticipated was that my book review would look similar to a GoodReads review, only with more formal language.
What I have learned, however, is that writing a good book review is not just a matter of explaining why the book is enjoyable. The greater goal is to provide reasons for the reader to read the book, explain what makes it unique and what the author does well. Pointing out quotes that highlight the author’s originality and their skill at the craft. It’s selling a book from various angles.
Writing a book review was only one of many new ways I learned to review literature this semester. In general, my most valuable takeaway from this experience was my thorough, multi-tiered experience of editorial work. The fact that the internship focused on editing was productive for me because, after I finish up at Duquesne, I plan on looking for a job in publishing editorial.
While I do think other components of publishing— advertising, graphic design, book production, etc.— would be exciting to delve into, I have always been most interested in editorial. For me, the work has always had a sort of cathartic effect. Also, because I am a writer myself, I take great satisfaction in helping other writers polish their work. I sympathize with the struggle, and now, more than ever, know the importance of editing!
My experiences at Autumn House Press have made this path seem not only more feasible, but also more enticing. One of the most exciting things will be seeing the work I’ve put into editing in tangible form, when AH sends me copies of the soon-to-be-finished manuscripts I’ve been working with! (Free books are only one of the many perks of working in publishing…)
Working at Autumn House Press this semester has felt like both a beginning and ending—an introduction to the next chapter of my life and a culmination of everything I’ve learned as a graduate student. Given my career initiatives, it is the perfect way to tie up my semester here in Pittsburgh.
I am grateful that Duquesne’s English MA program gave me the opportunity to venture down this track, and to apply my education outside of the realm of academia. While I appreciate and am in awe of the scholarly research my peers have done for their expanded papers and theses, my research has always focused on creative work. Duquesne’s alternative track allowed me to personalize my finale in a way that was more productive for my future.
Soon, my time here in Pittsburgh will come to an end. Leaving it behind will be like closing a door. But every time a door closes, a new one opens, and my Pittsburgh memories will remain with me forever.
— Chelsea Abdullah