The Caged Bird Sings

Last night I attended my first class for the next course on my list to get my Certificate in Editing from NYU. It’s called From Writer to Reader: An Introduction to Book Publishing. And it’s taught by Esther Margolis. She founded Newmarket Press, I believe it was back in the 60s, when it was unheard of for a woman to do something like that.

She told some amazing stories. Like being the only woman in a sales meeting of 300 once, and getting to work with the Nobel Prize-winning poet Maya Angelou. Esther worked on the publicity for one of Angelou’s first books. And she created an event (to be covered by the press) in which Angelou would speak to school children in Harlem.

Maya agreed to do so on one condition. She asked Esther, ‘What will they pay to listen to me speak?’ and Esther said, ‘Maya, these are school children in Harlem, what do you mean?’ And Maya said ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s just 10 cents or a quarter. They should pay something because they will listen differently if they have paid to hear me speak.’

And Esther said it was one of the biggest lessons she learned in her career doing publicity for book authors. Maya Angelou is a poet who’s words I fell in love with in high school, and here was this woman who had worked with her, just casually telling the story as if it were anybody.

She said Maya was extraordinary though. And how could she not be? The kids ended up paying a quarter to get into the auditorium to hear her speak, and the money raised by her appearance did not go to her either, it went to charity.

We also watched a brief video about the publishing business, which featured Nikki Giovanni, another amazing poet that I love. And I actually never even knew what she looked like. I was encouraged by the way that the authors and editors described all the different facets of working in publishing, And how someone could tailor their particular interest into a career in it.

They can start as editorial assistants and move their way up all the way to senior editor, or someone could start in administration or HR or even in the legal side in the contracts department, or production, art, or many others. I know there has to be a niche somewhere in their for me. Right now I feel like it may be editing. but I’m not absolutely certain yet.

I guess it just takes getting your feet wet to see where you most want to end up. The first homework assignment is really interesting which seems promising for the whole course.

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July 22, 2013. Tags: , , , , . writing.

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