Interview with a Student Intern: Lauren Ash

I talked to Lauren Ash, a sophomore publishing major with a double minor in marketing and creative writing, about her experience being a student intern and see what insights she had to offer.

What drew you to Belmont?

I was definitely the high school freshman who started making lists of what I wanted in a college right away: a small school in a big city with internship opportunities galore that would offer me a book editor job right out of school (well, one can dream). I visited Belmont because the website said it hit every point on my list, but came to the tour with an english major label stuck to my nametag. At the end of the tour, the all of the program directors came out to meet us, and I happened to see the head of the publishing program was there. I hadn’t even known majoring in book publishing was an option! Long story short, Belmont offered me a clear path to the industry I wanted to work in, which is not something I could find anywhere else, and it has surrounded me with the best community to encourage me along the way!

 

In an alternate universe in which you aren’t majoring in publishing, what would be your major?

Maybe I’ve watched too much “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” but I wouldn’t mind trying out the courtroom in this alternate universe! If my minimal grasp on legal jargon from my copyright and publishing law class is any indication, that’s certainly not an option in this universe.

What is your dream job and why? Has that changed since coming to Belmont?

My dream was always to become an acquisitions editor at a big five publisher, but since coming to Belmont my eyes have been opened to the world of publicity and indie publishing. So often publishing students think the big five (HarperCollins, Hachette, Random House, MacMillan, and Simon & Schuster) and other large houses are the only options. Little do they know there is a rich world of small presses publishing books just as wonderful! I also always believed that for me, it would be editorial or bust. Since I’ve spent the last year working with authors in publicity, though, I can’t say I’m opposed to branching out and exploring the realm of publicity.

So, I know you’ve already done some internships during your time at Belmont. What were they, and how did you land them?

My first internship was with bestselling and award-winning author Joy Jordan-Lake. She was looking for an intern from our program, and my professor suggested I give it a go because I always showed up to class excited and eager to learn. He thought this would be a great opportunity to get my feet wet! Keep in mind that I knew absolutely NOTHING about book publicity, and only understood the bare minimum about the publishing process because I was just ending my first semester of college. I was terrified, but my professor believed in me so much I decided I had to do it. I jumped headfirst into the world of book publicity, and Joy let me take any crazy idea I had and run with it. After the semester ended, she kept me on as her assistant for the summer!

That fall I took up my next internship with JKS Communications, a literary publicity and marketing firm. After doing book publicity by myself, I decided I needed a little more training and direction. JKS was a natural next step from my time as an author assistant, and working with a real publicity firm has helped me refine the skills I started building with Joy. I’m currently in my second semester with JKS, and loving every minute of it!

My piece of advice on internships: don’t discount your worth even if you’re just getting started! If you’re excited to learn and willing to put yourself out there, you’ll never know what might happen and who might give you a chance.

What are some things you wish you knew before interning?

Part of the reason I was afraid to do publicity internships was my fear of getting “stuck” in publicity and not being able to do editorial work. Thankfully, my professor encouraged me to get my foot in the publishing door however I could. I’m so glad I did, because I have found that publicity skills are transferable to editorial, and vice versa. I write and edit every time I intern! Also, because JKS knows that I want to do editorial, they’ve begun letting me take on more editorial responsibilities. Never turn down an opportunity to learn about your industry, because you never know what it might turn into.

Were there any learning curves or surprises about your internships that you didn’t expect going in?

I think I’m always surprised when I’m given creative liberty in an internship. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because even though I’m excited to think outside of the box and do what I love, I’m always worried that what I come up with won’t be good enough. Recently, I was put in charge of rewriting the back cover copy for a book at JKS, and it took me hours to convince myself how I should write it, and even more time to psyche myself up to send it in. At the end of the day, everyone loved the BCC and I had worried myself sick for nothing! My internships have definitely taught me to push my boundaries and become more confident in myself and my abilities.

Are there any experiences or training you thought your internships were lacking?

I would never say that any internship is lacking in experiences, they just provide unexpected opportunities to learn! I try to take every task I’m given, big or small, as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of the industry and become a better employee.

How have you approached the work/student/personal life balance?

I tell myself there’s a time and place for everything! When I’m interning, I’m fully there and immersed in what I’m doing. When I’m in class, I’m focusing my attention on the material at hand instead of letting my brain wander to the next thing on my to do list. I also know I thrive on seeing my friends, so I make sure I give myself time to relax and have fun with them. I think the secret to balance is to be present wherever you are, whether you’re working, studying, or spending time with friends. By setting goals and prioritizing my day I can worry less and enjoy life more.

In what ways did your internships reshape your perspective about the publishing industry, yourself, or what it means to intern in general?

I’ll tell you what, this industry is not for the faint of heart. Writing a book is only the start of a long and arduous, but rewarding, journey. Something that encourages me as I bend over my laptop for hours on end is thinking about the lives that will be changed by reading the story I’m sharing. It’s a great honor to play a small part in bringing a book and an author’s message into the world.  

How have your internships influenced what you’re going to look for in a career?

My internships have opened my eyes to a side of publishing I never thought I would enjoy, much less come to love. When I go out to look for a job, I’ll be sure to look for one that will combine my passions for editorial and publicity!

How have you seen yourself grow through these experiences, and in what areas do you hope to grow in the future?

For one thing, I now have a great grasp on email subject lines!

In all seriousness, though, over this past year of interning I have learned so much about the publishing industry and even more about getting back up after failing. I have definitely failed quizzes, forgotten homework assignments, called journalists by the wrong names in emails, and had my applications turned down for other internships. These things would have destroyed the self esteem of that high school girl who planned her college visits so methodically, but I’ve learned to take these instances as opportunities to learn from my mistakes and do better the next time around. I’m continually growing as a reader, writer, and “publishing professional in progress,” and I hope that in the future I’ll get to explore more jobs within the publishing world and have the courage to go after things that seem much bigger than me.

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