By Yvonne Bertovich
During my first day in the office at Atlantic Publishing last July, the phone rang and one of my fellow interns picked it up. I thought to myself, “Obviously that must be pretty important. Probably some designer or author following up.. I’m glad I’m not the one answering.” I’m one of those people who gets all twisty inside when I don’t know the answer to something, but I’m definitely quick to admit my shortcomings. Listening in to that phone conversation provided me with my first lesson about Atlantic. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, we’re actually Atlantic Publishing.. You’re referring to Atlantic Publishers. We’ve found out that’s actually a scam company claiming to be based in Colorado.” OK, noted. I work for Atlantic Publishing — names are a big deal, people.
Another gem from Shutterstock, but honestly not an exaggerated visual representation of these calls.
Unfortunately for us, it was a rare day in the office if we didn’t receive at least two or three accusatory phone calls (usually from older folks) asking where in the heck their magazines were. “Atlantic Publishers” (whoever they are) sends out fraudulent mailers warning magazine subscribers to hurry up and send them money because their subscriptions are running out. Due to the influx of phone calls we received, clearly a lot of people fell for it and thought it was us.
Atlantic Publishing specializes in adult and young adult nonfiction books on a wide variety of topics from taking care of worms to becoming a fashion designer. It’s truly a fascinating range. As an editorial intern, you might assume that every day of work would be about the same — but it hasn’t been. Working at a book publishing company, I assumed I’d constantly be surrounded by books, both old and new, both crisp and shiny or even sour and water damaged. Sure, we have a few books in our office, and our distributing warehouse is right on-site too, but most of my job entails a lot of computer work. Microsoft Word has quickly become my domain, even though I tried to make Pages a thing for a large portion of my life (sorry, Apple).
I have edited and proofed and added my own bits here and there to manuscripts for works about the Peace Corps, a massive handbook for restaurant managers, a book about John Quincy Adams, a book about the Russian Revolution, a guide for waiters and waitresses, how to care for cats, how to become a U.S citizen, how to survive long distance relationships, a guide for filmmakers, a guide to studying, a guide for new professors and new teachers, a book about living a healthy lifestyle, etc. I’m forgetting many, I’m sure. I was even able to undertake a re-write project for a young adult’s book on pet-sitting (coming soon) and write regular blog posts.
One of my favorite moments was helping interview the second-oldest Pearl Harbor survivor, Lt. Jim Downing, for a book in our historical anniversary series. Downing, who had recently celebrated birthday number 1-0-3, provided a wealth of information in a warm, yet lulling voice. You could feel how much the ordeal stuck with him. Downing, also interviewed in publications such as Time Magazine, shared a story of how he helped send handwritten letters home to troops’ families — being especially useful in narrating the words of those who were recovering in the infirmary. He even took on the painful task of gathering dog tags of the deceased and further detailing deaths to family members overseas. He knew all of his 1,500 shipmates on the USS Virginia personally, because of his position as postmaster on the ship. He’s not sure how many handwritten letters he sent, but he estimated well into the hundreds.
Like Downing, I believe there’s something very special and personal in handwritten letters. Another small project I loved at Atlantic was when I wrote thank you notes to contributors to the young adult title “So You Want to Be a Fashion Designer.” The main contributor was the winner of Project Runway Junior, and I recognized the names of several other contributors from the regular version of the show.
Considering that I have been involved with Atlantic for roughly 10 months, the office landscape has changed in small ways (for example, there was an office cat at one point that mysteriously came and went who I lovingly named LeBron), but my acquisition of knowledge has remained pretty steady, as well as my love of sorting through hundreds of corny stock photos to find ones worthy of use for our books (personally, I think the cornier the better, but it’s all about the readers).
Once you assume the role of an editor of other people’s work — real work that will be produced sold in the real world — it’s hard to turn this switch off when proofreading your own writing. I am incredibly thankful to have gained an even greater appreciation for the written word and yes, even good grammar.
Being an editorial intern all these months hasn’t made me into a perfect writer, no. That’s the beauty of writing. It’s ever-fluid and ever-changing. One word swap can change the meaning of a whole block of text. It’s one of those areas where there is always room for improvement. I’ll read something I wrote three months ago, three weeks ago, or even three days ago and scoff at myself, “Wow, what was I thinking.” Some people call it self-deprecation but I call it fun. Your toughest opponent in life is yourself (or some other weird slogan with an 80s aerobic gym flavor). Or, in some cool cases too, I’ll reread something I’ve written and re-inspire myself for a current project or enjoy revisiting something I’m proud of.
Working at Atlantic has caused me to be even more critical, analytical, and curious. It has reaffirmed that I’m at least somewhat on the right path to having a successful career due to the support I’ve received from my editors Rebekah and Lisa, and my boss, Doug. I’m honestly just thankful it got me out of the newsroom, at least for a while. I may be a journalism major, but I’m no newsie.