Last week’s Living Writers series offered a lecture distinct from other events in the program. The series usually brings prominent authors to campus to do public readings of their works that the English 360 course has read.
“Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing,” held at 4:30pm on Thursday, October 29th in the Robert Ho Lecture Room, instead provided a panel featuring two alumnae, both of Colgate’s English Department and the Living Writers course, who now work at esteemed publishing houses. Despite that fact that neither of the guests wrote a work read by English 360, the panelists were just as passionate about good novels as a typical Living Writer guest.
The panelists, Jennifer Pooley `97 and Jennifer Smith `03, first met because of their Colgate connection and Smith’s interest in Pooley’s career. Pooley is currently a senior editor at William Morrow, which is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, and has been at the company for over ten years.
“This is a job perfectly suited for what I love most,” Pooley said. “I am so lucky to be able to live in my ten-year-old self’s dream life.”
Smith is currently an editor for Ballantine Books, a subsidiary of Random House.
“Living Writers was the course that made me do what I do today,” Smith, a published writer herself, said as she emphasized that Colgate provides many opportunities for students to find something they love.
These editors’ perspectives as past Living Writers students likely encouraged current English 360 students to connect with these alumnae ,and their presence gave students hope in their pending, if not current, career search.
“If you love books and you love writers, there is a way to turn a passion for reading into a career,” Associate Professor of English Jennifer Brice said, expressing what she believed to be the message of the panelists.
Pooley and Smith both emphasized that they are extremely lucky to have their jobs.
“We’re just looking to fall in love,” Pooley said, referring to pushing a book all the way through the year-long process.
There is immense gratification when the book finally hits stores, but one piece of advice that they offered was that an editor must have the endurance to invest herself in a book. A passion for reading is a requirement for people in this career field, as they have to anticipate quite a lot of it. Both editors read multiple manuscripts simultaneously, and if the book is picked up they must read it several more times before it hits stores.
“You want to be involved in the whole life of your book,” Smith said of the qualities of a good editor.
One student felt disappointed with the career advice offered, and the generalized way in which the panelists spoke about their work.
“We all already love books – I’m sure that’s the reason the majority of us were there – and they needed to tell us about what comes after having the basic requirement of loving to read. That’s not really descriptive or telling,” junior Caroline Wright said.
Another student disagreed with Wright, and thought the panelists were receptive to students’ needs.
“It was obvious that they were both very passionate about their jobs, and were incredibly relatable and understanding towards students like me with a lot of questions,” senior Katherine DeVries said.
“Many students stayed and asked questions of the panelists, so I hope they enjoyed the panel,” Professor Brice said.
The most potent part of this lecture was how these alumnae panelists seemed to inspire significant passion in their audience of readers and writers. Even ordinary readers can relate with how Smith and Pooley feel about a good book, and every student eventually wants to relate with how they feel about their careers. Passion can inspire motivation towards a goal, and these editors hold the same belief of many Colgate students and faculty.
“If you work really hard, you will see that long-sought success,” said Pooley.