For a writing-obsessed, language and translation nerd and former-president of a multilingual student magazine, there surely can’t be any better option after graduating from university than to intern for one of the world’s most prestigious publishers: HarperCollins.
On paper it already sounds great, what better introduction to the real world of publishing is there than spending five weeks of summer experiencing everyday life at one of the ‘Big Five’ publishing houses? As I’ve discovered though, no matter how great it sounds, just a little paragraph on my CV simply cannot encompass the wealth and variety of valuable experiences I’ve really had during my internship.
And since this experience has been such an important first step for me in the career world, it seems a shame to not properly do it justice. That’s why I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts about it, detailing everything I learnt, and every task I performed, big or small. So, if you’ve ever wondered what a week in the life of a HarperCollins intern is really like, read on…
Day One: Getting started
- First things first, I have to get into the building. I’m issued a HarperCollins pass, and simultaneously issued a new Scottish identity by accident: Kia ‘Makie’ Hunt.
- The second thing I did upon arrival was marvel at the view from the second floor office. Oh no, a view as beautiful as this might be distracting…
3. Next I get a tour around the office, being introduced to the lovely language team and checking off all of the other important priorities like where I sit (and where the tea and coffee making facilities are). Fortunately, my desk faces the opposite way, so there’s no chance of me staring off into the rolling hills in a Scottish daydream.
4. And now, to work! My first task is to read over the 2nd and 3rd proofs of some dictionary prelims (introduction texts), making sure that corrections suggested in the 2nd proofs were implemented properly in the 3rd ones. It doesn’t sound thrilling, but it’s good for easing me into the job as I realise that this is not only something I can do well, but also that I actually quite enjoy (What? There’s just something I really like about finding and correcting other people’s mistakes, okay?)
5. In the afternoon I move onto a more interesting task: finding and updating any outdated examples from an old version of a thesaurus for children. I find some stereotypes about mums cooking and cleaning and a quite a few DIY, and car-obsessed dads: time to shake things up a bit. I’m given quite a lot of freedom to think up examples that are more modern and positive- it’s the first day and I already have a good amount of creative responsibility, so I leave my first day on the job feeling very happy!
Day Two: Already working with Chinese!?
6. It’s only the second day of my internship at HarperCollins, and to my surprise, I’m already enlisted in helping with a Chinese bilingual title. I don’t know anything about Chinese, so I have a momentary panic, but then I realise, of course, that I’ll only be involved with the English side of things. This dictionary is honestly the biggest book I have ever seen, and with over 100,000 entries, it is over 10 years (!) in the making, so naturally, the Chinese company that collaborate with Collins to make it have to be very thorough indeed. This means I have many English side annotations to check, so many in fact that I haven’t even finished reviewing words beginning with A by the time lunch comes around 4 hours later (I told you it was a big dictionary!)
7. My task for the afternoon is to cut down and edit a large Spanish grammar section to make it more concise. It’s slightly daunting but very exciting to be the one responsible for prioritising which parts of grammar will be most important for English learners of Spanish. And when I’m sifting through pages of verb conjugations, personal pronouns, and possessive adjectives, and actually understanding everything, it makes me proud to realise that all those years studying Spanish grammar really have come in handy.
Day Three: Cartography drama
8. Today I’m making important edits to a thesaurus to make it appropriate for publishing in other parts of the world. It makes me realise just how much work and thought publishers have to put in to make sure they are being considerate of other cultures.
9. Since my desk is so close to the coffee machine, I start making the most of being able to chat to people from different areas of the office. After chatting to a lady whose job is to edit names of places on maps, and make sure their transliterations are correct, I find out some very interesting dilemmas that she and other members of the maps team have to face. For example, did you know that …?
- Even though a geographical location cannot be trademarked, some mapping agencies can prosecute map-making companies if they believe that the company used their data as the only source of information about a certain place. Some even go as far as to include a completely fictional place on their maps as a test – if it turns up on someone else’s map they know that company has been copying! (Sneaky!)
- Some people get so passionate about disputed borders that they will literally ring up and demand that borders are shown in a way that reflects their own geopolitical viewpoint. Members of the team have to have frequent meetings about borders and how to display them in the most neutral, diplomatic way possible whilst still being true to their accuracy.
Who knew cartography was so dramatic!?
Day Four: An emergency editorial project
12. My fourth morning in the office sees me working on the Chinese dictionary again, this time I’m cutting down proverbs and idioms that were in the large title but are probably a little too obscure or uncommon to be included in the mid-range title. Letters A & B take me until lunch time.
13. In the afternoon I’m informed that the editorial team need all hands on deck with a time-sensitive project. So time sensitive in fact that even I, a humble intern, am tasked with helping out. This includes checking that the edits suggested in previous proofs have been implemented in the current proofs, and there are ‘rather a lot’ of edits to check.
My First weekend in Scotland:
14. It appears that my first weekend in Glasgow coincides with the Glasgow Pride Parade 2017, and I’m sure that there’s no better introduction to a city than to see it adorned with rainbows, confetti, and dancing, happy people. What a fabulous occasion!
15. My lovely fellow intern Sarah has been in Glasgow for a few weeks already, and as such has assumed the role of tour guide for the weekend. So, after enjoying watching the parade, she takes me to Glasgow Green (complete with pride fun-fair), and the People’s Palace museum (where I enjoy just being in a greenhouse in the presence of plants much more than anyone under 60 years old should).
16. Later that evening my amazing tour guide takes me out to some great bars (it seems there are a lot of good choices in Glasgow!) I have a few yummy cocktails, but not too many, because I’m a sensible, working adult now…obviously…
If you’re interested in what else I got up to at my HarperCollins publishing internship, you can read part two here: 101 Things I Experienced during my HarperCollins Publishing Internship Part 2