“Little Squares”

A week ago, I received an email from one of my professors with an invitation for me and the rest of my editing class (from last semester) to attend an event featuring special guest speaker Dr. Jennifer Holberg, who is the editor of the journal Pedagogy, a publication of Duke University Press. Upon seeing that it was talk focused on academic editing, I was excited to hear the wisdom and advice of Dr. Holberg, especially considering my interest in pursuing a job in the publishing world.

The first thing she covered was her journal, Pedagogy, and how it came about and the vision behind it. It is the first generalist journal in English, and it publishes using a double-blind review process, which is basically a process that removes names in order to produce a journal with submissions that are accepted and published without a bias toward those who have powerful names in the field. This allows writers and educator’s across the board to submit with an equal chance of publication. This journal, in effect, is a publication that desires to be the place of conversation for those who are dedicated to teaching, especially teaching literature.

She then spoke about editing in general, and shared some wisdom that I know I will cherish. Three main points:

1. Nothing is ever wasted.
2. Way leads to way.
3. Look around and see what needs to be done.

Sometimes I feel like the little odd jobs that I do around school and in the English Department are pointless and do nothing to further my goals, but as Dr. Holberg so tactfully pointed out (and backed up with her own personal experiences), everything you do has an impact on what you’ll do in the future. I was reminded to not undervalue that in any way, and it also called to mind the editing work I helped my dad out with early in highschool. To be sure, I wasn’t a very adept editor at that point (and I’m still learning.. and forever will be), but it gave me exposure to the process of communication in editing and working with an author, which has prepped me, in a small way, for what I have been doing this past year. So, all in all, it was cool to see that one point of encouragement already at work in my life.

The second piece of wisdom (way leads to way) was a challenge to me. I guess I find myself expecting to get where I want to be right away after graduation, and slowly, I’m beginning to realize that that may not happen. It might, but it’s better not to expect that. Rather, as this point encouraged, it’s better to take advantage of the positions available right now, gaining experience as you go and embracing those opportunities (nothing is ever wasted, eh?), and in that way walk the paths of life. I spoke to a friend last weekend about expectations, and in that conversation, I realized just how destructive they can be if they’re counted as surety. So in going with this word of advice from Dr. Holberg, don’t let expectations ruin the opportunities presented! How refreshing is that?

The last point was a little harder to apply, but it was a good nudge. She gave the example of Pedagogy being the only generalist journal in English that puts more focus on teaching literature than on composition. She saw the opportunity and took it, and because of her (and her co-editors) hard work and dedication, Pedagogy has existed for 13 years, and has been the recipient of awards (one such being the 2001 Best New Journal Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals -linked at bottom of post-). I can only hope that my eyes and mind stays open to the needs in my field, however broad it is.

That concludes the portion of her talk that revolved around Pedagogy itself. She went on to talk about her editor experience in general, and honestly, it was an honor to hear and learn from her. She explained editing as a communication art, a role that combines knowledge with teaching. The primary goal of an editor is to encourage authors to think about scholarship (in academic writing specifically), and to communicate how an author can grow their ideas. Just the other day, I was talking to a friend about poetry, and how it’s a constant work-in-progress, aka. the growth of an idea. For me, the growth of that idea results in a different poem every time, but the idea of growth applies to other types of writing too, of course.

She also talked about how editing is more of a helping profession than a spotlight profession, which made the editor and introvert in me happy. I am a very behind-the-scenes kind of worker, and that comment was particularly pleasing and affirming to me. Not only does editing make me happy, but the fact that it’s done in such a out-of-the-limelight sort of way is a reason to rejoice.

I’ll end this blog post with a couple more pieces of advice that she shared in relation to pursuing a job in publishing. A lot of what she said resonated with what I’ve been learning through the resume critiques I’ve been going through, but there were some things that stood out. Holberg talked about demonstrating good writing skills, which, I realized today, doesn’t just mean clean, grammatical pieces. It includes the ability to write copy for book abstracts or cover summaries, item descriptions, press releases, and all manner of small, punchy content. How does one go about practicing such a thing? Good question. I’m hoping to come up with an answer for that. Holberg described book cover writing as a genre in itself, and suggested going through a library and sampling said genre. I think I know what I’ll be doing over spring break =)

Another good piece of advice was to know the company you’re interviewing for. That goes without speaking, but it’s a bit of information that I know I forget to incorporate in decision-making. Also, KNOW strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how to apply them to where you’re applying! In my notes, I’ve written “Take what you’ve done… and show how you can incorporate it” into the workosphere of a company, which goes back to knowing a company and finding out where the position you’re applying for is situated in the publishing structure.

I send off the reader with a quote that she shared:
““What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot, author of Middle March

As an editor, that’s kinda what we do. =)

(As promised, information about 2001 award found: http://kscenglish.wordpress.com/tag/editing/)

Book List

In Progess:

  • The Warden
  • The Meaning of Marriage
  • Life Together
  • Love in the Time of Cholera (pg. 34)

To Read

  • Middle March
  • Les Miserables
  • An Agatha Christie book (haven’t decided yet…)
  • Strong Poison (Dorothy Sayers)


  • Green (Ted Dekker)
  • The Vicar of Wakefield (Oliver Goldsmith)
  • Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)

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