Rachel's Write of Way

I’ll admit it—I’m too nice. Okay, maybe I’m even a pushover at times. For the most part, I’ve rolled through life just fine like this. But sometimes it makes things very difficult when I have to be firm and give criticism without throwing in a million I’m sorry!s, which kind of becomes my go-to phrase when I’m saying or doing something that I know is slightly unpleasant or uncomfortable for someone else. I’ve been known to apologize to the table leg I kick at a restaurant or the wayward stool I trip over. You get the idea—I HATE BEING MEAN.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I can be plenty harsh. In the heat of an argument, if my personal values are questioned, if I’m talking about something  I’m passionate about, then I can be aggressive, and you won’t hear me apologizing for what I have to say, either. And if it’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, or something that I feel I’ve earned the right to give out expertise on, I’ll dole out a healthy dollop of criticism like it’s whipped cream. Too much? Never!

What’s with this seemingly random diatribe into my psyche and an analysis of when Rachel Burkot is nice and when she’s not a creature you’d want to encounter before you’ve had your morning coffee? I’ve been meaning to make another blog post for some time now, and now that I’m settled in my new apartment with new roommates, and my job is finally NOT new (ish…it’s all relative!) my life is becoming a routine. Yeah, I did something kind of cool, kind of worthy of a few blog posts when I moved to the Big City on my own for an unpaid internship then landed my dream job in publishing. But now I’m all situated. I’ve done the hard part. One piece at a time in the giant jigsaw puzzle that is my life (and believe me, there were times when I thought that puzzle was just not manufactured to fit together, no matter how many ways you played with the pieces), everything magically came together.

Oh, I know this isn’t the end of the road. I’m 22 years old! I have SO much ahead of me still. But I took it as a sign that my life is so much less stressful than just a few months ago when I found myself lying in bed last night praying, instead of for a job or for direction in my life (which I finally feel like I have), for my jewelry that I ordered off Kohls.com to arrive before the wedding I’m flying to next weekend. It’s a rough life for the Pittsburgh girl in Brooklyn these days, let me tell you. (I promise to pray for world peace and starving children tonight to make up for my selfish, materialistic prayers last night.)

I could be writing about my first bar crawl in Manhattan that I’m going to tonight (golf-themed, for the Masters…still scratching my head about how to get around the golf attire rule, as I don’t do polo, and my interaction with plaid ended at Catholic school), the crazy heat wave New York City had this past week and how much I enjoyed smelling sweaty armpits on the subway, or my roommate highlighting my hair while we watched The Ugly Truth last night (SO. MUCH. FUNNIER every time I see it . . . and interesting how Gerard Butler seems to get hotter, too). But YAWN. These things put together all add up to the excitement of waffles without butter and syrup.

Sooo I thought instead I’d start to look for more universal topics to write about. Things that might actually be of interest to random people who might happen to read this blog, and not just a continued saga of my life in New York. Cuz that ship has sailed, and it’s smooth sailing so far! But smooth equals boring. And thus, I arrive back at the point I was starting to make at the beginning of this post. Rejecting a wannabe-author at work this week had me reflecting on how hard it is to dish out criticism for anybody with a heart equal to or bigger than the Grinch’s…two sizes too small 😦 It’s human nature to not want to offend somebody, and I think when it’s a stranger it’s actually HARDER to be harsh. After all, what have these writers done to me except put their life mission, their dream, their baby (in the form of a double-spaced manuscript in Times New Roman font) in my hands? When human beings are mean, it’s usually as a response to a conflict, or something that has stirred them up. Anger management cases excepted, people rarely get mad for no reason.

This makes it all the more difficult for me to attempt to criticize writers’ works—to tell them, “I’m sorry, but you can’t write for crap. Please get a new life goal because publishing a book is one thing you ain’t never gonna cross off your ‘Dreams to See Fulfilled Before I Die’ list. You can sugarcoat something a million ways, but if a person can’t write, a person can’t write. They will never be able to revise their plot, characters, voice, etc., if they just don’t understand the difference between a semicolon and a comma, or why, “He walked me home because he just didn’t want the date to end because when it ended it would be over, and the end of the date meant that he wouldn’t be on a date with me anymore” is a wordy sentence that needs to be cut down by about 96.4 percent in order to be most effective. (*NOT an actual sentence anybody wrote—at least I hope not! I just made it up. But it’s representative of some of the writing I get.*) This is a much-debated issue in publishing, but I’m of the camp that believes you cannot be taught how to write well. You can be taught techniques and strategies, but, like ducks know how to swim from birth, some people just have an instinctive knack for writing.

The age-old question, then, is how do you tell people they’re in the group that were NOT given this ability? Sorry, but you can’t string a sentence together to save your life. There are great writers who shine so much brighter than you that your manuscript won’t be able to see the light of day on a shelf with the best-sellers. This is what it boils down to, but it’s all about tact. I know it’s so difficult right now just because I’m new to the industry, and I’m hoping it gets easier as time goes on. But merging editorial expertise, a trained and honed ability to critique writing, and the tact that longs to pepper human interaction is NOT an easy thing to do. If anyone has the perfect recipe for blending these three ingredients, kindly pass it along.

And please tell me it comes out better than the eggplant casserole I tried to make for dinner the other night.

Greetings from Brooklyn! The reason I haven’t written for SO long is because I’ve been in the hectic process of apartment hunting and moving . . . a stressful undertaking made even more stressful by the fact that this is New York City where real estate is like gold (and worth it too), and the market is so competitive that you literally have to bring hundreds of dollars in cash to every apartment you look at because if you find something you love, chances are it’ll be gone if you take too much time to think about it.

So I haven’t really had time to do anything other than try to find a new home for awhile now—but the good news is, I’m finally settled! My incredible saintly parents made the eight-hour drive a couple weekends ago to move me in the pouring rain from Queens to Brooklyn. I’ve spent the past few weeks getting organized and buying things we needed for the apartment. In defense for not posting on here in so long, we’ve also had some trouble finding an ISP and getting internet service—but that’s finally taken care of.

While I’ve been stressed for the past several weeks with finding roommates and an apartment, it was good stress—because I feel like my New York life has taken a turn in an upward direction! I LOVE my new apartment. It’s an old pre-war building, very ornate and beautifully decorated. It’s a walk-up, and I’m on the third floor out of four. I live in an area called Crown Heights that’s heavily African American, but it’s on the edge of four different neighborhoods, all of which have a lot to offer to Brooklyn. I also went exploring last weekend because it was GORGEOUS out, and I’m not far from a very nice section of Brooklyn that’s supposed to attract a lot of young people—bustling streets, amazing-looking restaurants, quaint coffee shops and a beautiful, large park. With the weather finally edging toward spring, I plan to wander over there a lot to hang out.

I think this move is for the better because I already love my new neighborhood, and I’m so happy to be living with two friends. We’re all in publishing so by default we have a ton in common. And with friends to explore the neighborhood, I think I’m going to be in for an awesome summer in NYC. It’s been so exciting buying things for the apartment, setting up our electricity, gas and internet, etc.—I feel like I’m doing a lot of important, real-world things that prove I’m making it here in the big city. I’m doing just fine.

The other night after work my roommates and I went to Target to go grocery shopping, and we discovered it was in this giant mall that’s actually inside a subway station. So we somehow found ourselves inside a DSW shoe store, looking at shoes when we had absolutely no groceries in the apartment. I was just cruising down aisle after aisle, watching all the shoes float past, and suddenly I was so happy I almost couldn’t contain myself. I somehow knew that everything would fall into place with the apartment. We had a lot to do (and we still do), but what’s the rush? Slowly but surely, I’ll get organized here, and we’ll accumulate all the furniture and random stuff that we need. For the time being, I was perfectly happy wasting time in a shoe store with my roommates.

Sometimes it’s nothing more than a single happy moment, a snapshot that serves as a reminder that life is looking up. I’m continuing to make it in New York City—now as a Brooklyn-ite.

Stay tuned—I will post pictures of my new apartment and neighborhood soon!

Ah, a lazy Sunday morning with nothing to do. I. love. It. That’s an incredible perk of my big girl life . . . I work hard Monday through Friday and take evenings and weekends to chill out and relax. It’s great! I’ve been reading A LOT . . . on my hour commute on the subway every morning and evening, then when I get home and on weekends too. I’ve determined that, being in publishing, I am never going to starve for reading material . . . ever. Every time I turn around someone is shoving a book at me or naming a title they just read that they recommend. Plus, at work there’s both a “take cart,” on which employees can put anything they want to get rid of (but 99% of what ends up there is books) and a “take shelf,” on which the two monthly shipments of Harlequin books go and it’s a free for all! Then there’s the fact that I can order any Harlequin books . . . that have ever been published by the company . . . for free.

Oh yeah. I found the right job.

Besides reading, the other major activity that’s taken up my after work time lately has been apartment hunting. I’m looking to move from Queens to Brooklyn. The apartment where I’m at now was great for a starter apartment, and when I first moved here I had to grab something quick without taking much time to look around and explore options, but it’s teeny tiny; I feel trapped a lot in my room because there’s no living room or anything. Also, the neighborhood isn’t the nicest, and I never run across other young professionals like myself, so I’ve had a hard time meeting people. And finally, I’d like to be a little closer to work. I don’t mind the commute because I read, but the subways do get on my nerves—especially on Friday, when for some reason every resident of NYC and their brother decided they were going to take the 7 train into Manhattan at exactly the time I need to go to work. I literally couldn’t even push my way onto the express train and had to wait for a local, which takes longer. The afternoon was just as bad. I don’t mind my commute, but I do mind when I’m packed in so tight that I can’t even turn my head without being in someone’s face. As desperate as I am for human contact/interaction here sometimes, smelling the breath of the stranger next to me isn’t the human interaction I had in mind, thank you very much.

So I’m moving to Brooklyn with two friends from my internship and another girl whom I was put in touch with through a mutual friend. I think a four-bedroom place will be great because we’ll have more space, and rent will be cheaper. We’ve been scouring Craigslist for places and making appointments to look. We went to look at one after work last week, but the guy never showed up. We waited for two hours and were really annoyed. So far, I’ve learned that apartment hunting is stressful and a long, tedious process, but I need to remember to be patient because I don’t want to rush into this living situation, which I hope is going to last for awhile. I’m not too eager to go through all this again anytime soon!

Sometimes I get frustrated when I think about how I could be living at home and saving my paycheck rather than “throwing it away” on rent, groceries, subway pass, utilities, everything else I pay for here. And sometimes all the time I’m annoyed with public transportation. I really, really took living in a suburb for 22 years for granted. Yesterday I wanted to go shopping at Kohl’s for some nice, professional work clothes. I looked up the closest Kohl’s, which is six miles away, but it took me over an hour and a half to get there. I have to take the train to the last stop in Queens then switch to a bus.

Well, when I got off the subway in Flushing, this huge Chinese neighborhood of Queens where the stores and signs are all completely in Asian characters—I discovered that I had the gall to attempt to go shopping on the Chinese New Year. There was a huge parade and more Asian people than I imagine you’d see in the heart of Beijing. Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea. Thanks to the parade, the buses around there weren’t running, so I had to find the next bus stop. I attempted to ask several people; I even went into a Starbucks, but no one understood English. I just started walking and wandered around for close to a half hour before I found it—then waited another twenty minutes or so for a bus. So I finally got to Kohl’s but not without a hearty dose of rigmarole. And I couldn’t help but thinking that, were I living at home, if I decided I wanted to go to Kohl’s, all I would have to do is jump in the car and drive ten minutes. So simple.

If I could have pictured myself doing all this even just a year ago—decoding subway and bus maps, budgeting all my big-girl expenses, crashing Chinese festivities—I would have laughed at myself. Said, yeah right Rachel, no way can you do this. I never saw this all going down, even after I decided to move to New York. See, I have a hard time seeing the big picture behind something. I’ve always been this way. I rush into things, get very emotionally invested in things very quickly, and I can’t think beyond the short term. I can’t help it. I never like to think about the downsides of any situation—I’m definitely an optimist—so I think I ignore the big picture so I won’t see any of the negatives. I focus on one thing at a time. It’s all my brain can handle!

Sometimes I hate this about myself. I get such a reality crash when the bad things hit, and I think wow, I can’t believe I couldn’t see this coming. But lately I’ve viewed my way of thinking as a blessing. I don’t want to be one of those people who analyzes every situation to death that by the time they live it, nothing catches them off guard. I like being caught off guard. I don’t do monotony. I don’t do routine. I need the unexpected to keep me going, to get me out of bed every day. Although it might be a naïve way to live life, and while I certainly feel foolish when consequences I hadn’t foreseen play out, I wouldn’t change this. And to be honest, I think this way of living is definitely a blessing for me, at least right now, because frankly, I’m not sure I could have done all this if I knew how hard some things were going to be—having to plan out an entire day, for example, just to go shopping. Not to mention getting homesick and missing so much about the childhood life I knew, in a happy suburb of Pittsburgh, that I took for granted for 22 years.

Well, when I finally got to Kohl’s yesterday, I actually found what I wanted pretty quickly and decided I was going to make it a whole day of shopping. (Those are my favorite kind of days, after all.) I had remembered a Marshall’s and Old Navy a few subway stops over from my neighborhood, so when I got back on the train I rode it a few extra stops then got off to wander around and see if I could find those stores. Turned out I was in the way wrong area, and again, when I tried to ask for directions no one I asked spoke English slash understood at all what I was saying.

So I just started wandering and exploring, and I found this independent clothing store, so of course I walked in. It wasn’t a conscious decision; that’s how I am when it comes to shopping. It was like one second I was walking along looking for the Marshall’s, and the next second I was in this little boutique. I don’t even remember opening the door and walking in. It was just like well, of course I’ll go in here. And it was a decision from fate, I’m sure, because it turned out they were having a great clearance on winter boots, and I got the most **aMaZiNg** (insert singsongy voice) pair of shoes. So. If I hadn’t gotten lost and been misdirected by well-meaning but helpless people in the neighborhood of Sunnyside, Queens, I would have never found those shoes.

It’s funny how things work out when they don’t work out. In a year or so, when I look back on everything I’ve done since I first decided to move to New York, will I see it like this? I don’t know, but I’m done pondering deep things. I’m going to look at my boots, the fond images of which haven’t failed to bring a smile to my face since I purchased them yesterday.

After a particularly sardine-like experience on the subway, or an untimely time for the Chinese to have their New Year, it’s funny how something so small can make everything all better. I’m SO glad I got lost yesterday and found those boots!

It’s true, it’s true! I have a snow day today! In my half-asleep stupor, I thought I was still dreaming when I called the office at 6:45 this morning and heard the message: “Harlequin’s office is closed today due to extreme weather conditions.” And for good reason–the city’s supposedly getting 12-18 inches today. I think it started around midnight, and I heard on the news this morning that we’ve already gotten 5 1/2.

I was shocked when I looked outside. This is the first time I’ve seen snow on the ground here. In fact, despite what people have told me, I didn’t believe that it could snow in New York City. Too much concrete, too many people, too much activity? I didn’t know exactly why, but the fact that February had rolled around and I had only seen flurries in the air–no accumulation at all on the ground–I was a skeptic that snow could permeate NYC. Well, I was proved wrong. And now I have a snow day to enjoy!

There’s always so much pressure on days like today. You don’t want to waste it. It’s unexpected yet hoped for so strongly that once it comes, you don’t want to mess it up. The office was all a-buzz yesterday that we might have the day off or at least get sent home early, but I honestly didn’t think it would happen. I think so much of the joy from snow days comes just from the fact that it’s a surprise. You wake up, find out that school or work or whatever is cancelled, then you’re faced with an entire day of nothing to do. So many options. Go back to sleep or stay up and enjoy every second of the newfound freedom? Catch up on things you’ve been meaning to do or be a complete waste of life? Watch TV, read, just relax?

Oh so many options. It’s beautiful. Life is just so crazy that an unplanned-for event like a snow day becomes a glorious thing just because it takes away from the craziness. It forces you to stop and say This day is mine. I can do WHATEVER I WANT. How often do we get an entire day for that, or even five minutes? I love that this one fell right in the middle of the week, too. A perfect way to break it up. A calm point in the dead center of a busy week before a holiday.

I’m sure this will happen probably 2.035 times in my 50 years in the workforce. I know I won’t count on a snow day from work every winter. But that just adds to the beauty of today, in my opinion 🙂

No pressure. No stress. Nothing to do.

Hmmm…I’m bored 😦

I never would have believed it—the New Orleans Saints in the SUPERBOWL?! The same Saints that had never won a playoff game until three years ago, that for years and years had almost consistently been under 500? While my undying loyalty in the game of football goes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’m also a Saints fan by genetics—my mom’s from southern Louisiana and is one of the biggest Saints fans you’ll ever meet. Her family, most of whom live down there, are huge fans as well, so I guess I’ve just got some black and gold blood running through me by default—which happens to be pretty close to Steelers colors, so I guess that works out all right in the end.

With my boys not even making the playoffs this year (it’s okay guys, you can’t be perfect every year), I had to find another team to rally around so I could continue to enjoy my favorite sport through the postseason—enter the New Orleans Saints! The underdogs, the boys who have never seen Super Bowl turf, the team from a broken city, ravaged four years ago by a devastating hurricane, a group of players who have struggled for years and years, under many coaches and quarterbacks, to get somewhere—and they finally have.

Watching the championship game last Sunday, I felt like someone watching a poor, injured kitten trying to cross the road on a maimed paw before that car in the distance reaches it. Poor Saints. They’ve tried so hard, and it was finally looking like they had a shot to get across that road. So of course, it would come down to a nail-biting field goal in overtime when the team has a history of folding under pressure and the kicker a notorious case of nerves that’s caused him to miss several makeable field goals in the past. My mom told me she heard that the day before the game, the kicker called his dad and told him he had a feeling the game was going to come down to a field goal at the 42-yard line on the right hash side. It was a 40-yard field goal on the right hash side.

I feel like a terrible person for saying this, but I’ll admit it anyway—I started praying when he was getting ready to kick the field goal. I know it’s stupid to pray about sports, but my only defense is that God is surely a Saints fan—not just because of the team name, but also because of their underdog status. So I started saying an Our Father, and right as I was reciting “thy will be done,” the field goal soars straight through the goal posts. A perfect kick, dead-on.

Oh, yeah. God’s a Saints fan.

Anyway, the reason I share this on my blog is because I see some parallels between this poor struggling football team that’s finally made it to the top and—me. No, I don’t wear spandex pants (and would never be caught dead in them, thank you very much). I probably couldn’t throw a football more than ten yards or kick one half that distance. But I’ve also struggled to find my perfect job, and I’ve taken SO many steps to get here. I’m finally doing what I love and succeeding at it. Not only have I played the games, I’ve made it to the Superbowl (also known as Harlequin Books, lower Manhattan).

After my second week at Harlequin, I’m more sure than ever that this is right for me, and I’m beginning to see a lot more of the little blessings that came with this career than I first picked up on. This second week flew by. It was like I blinked, and suddenly it was Friday. I definitely took that as a good sign because it means I must like what I’m doing in order for time to pass so fast. Plus, I really like my coworkers, and overall, I’m incredibly pleased with the way things have turned out.

Last week I got to write an editorial letter to an author. I was really excited to have the opportunity to do something so hands-on so early on. Of course, my boss looked it over and made changes before sending it to the author, but she said I was definitely on the right track, and I appreciated her explanation of the changes she made so I can amend for next time.

I also had the opportunity to read an incredible manuscript by a New York Times bestselling author. I had read a few of this author’s books before my interview so I could get an idea of the types of books that Harlequin publishes, and I loved her style. So when her newest manuscript came in—the next volume in the series I had been reading—I was really excited when my boss said I could read it and work on another editorial letter. Part of me was nervous because she’s such a brilliant writer, and who am I to suggest changes in her manuscript? But it was also very exciting. I got PAID to spend a few whole days reading this newest book, something I would have gladly read for free.

One night I even took it home with me to read because I had just finished a book on the subway that morning and wanted to start a new one. So I figured why not just read this? Then I had an epiphany, if you will. I realized that this truly is my dream job because I’m doing what I love—what I’d be doing in my free time, reading great novels—for my career. Getting paid to do something that feels like a far cry from work. I’m not only using my college education, I’m using it well. I’ve found that blend of passion and career that sadly, it seems like so few people actually get, except in high-profile careers like acting or playing football. I am so blessed.

On Friday we had a movie day. Apparently once a month an employee gets to choose a movie and show it for everyone in the conference room, then lead a discussion after. It’s supposed to relate to some of our books, but I think it’s just an excuse to spend a Friday watching a movie instead of working 😛

The best part of all this? I’m still on my way up the ladder. I’m just an editorial assistant, yet I feel like the rookie whose team hits the Superbowl his first year. I have a very optimistic feeling that things are only going to get better for me from here on. Even though this is just a beginning in so many ways, I also feel like I’ve hit a pinnacle of sorts, in that my job search is finally over, and I’m in a career at last. I found a job not only in my field, but one that consists of everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve made it to the major leagues. And I see several Superbowl rings in my future…

Note: Before I start this post, I’m required to make a note that the opinions in this blog are mine, not necessarily those of Harlequin 🙂

I promised an update shortly after I started my job, so here it is! In short, I really love it so far. In long . . . oh boy, here goes . . . well, the first thing I did was go around and meet everybody, and of course everyone’s names went in one ear and out the other. And worse, I didn’t meet everyone because some people weren’t in their offices yet, so for the rest of the day (actually, the rest of the week) I would run into someone in the hallway, kitchen or bathroom and couldn’t remember if I had met them yet, but of course they would remember me because there’s only one of me to learn and a whole bunch of them. But everybody is so nice! For now I’m nodding and smiling at everyone; I’m sure I’ll sort them out by name eventually. The rest of my first day consisted of reading and filling out a whole lot of forms related to taxes, benefits, policies, etc . . . all that good stuff! I also had lunch with everybody who works on the Harlequin line that I’m the editorial assistant for. It was nice to have a more personal interaction and the opportunity to get to know them a little bit since I’ll be working so closely with them.

After my first day, I felt like a HUGE weight had been taken off my shoulders. I had been so unbelievably nervous for it—I’m sure anybody can relate to that standard, new-situation feeling. And there’s something so powerful, so triumphant that comes after you make it through without, of course, any of the 65,389 catastrophes that played in your mind for weeks before like a horrible slideshow. I survived my first day in corporate America! Yay! As my dad told me that night, one day of my working life down . . . about 40 years to go. But let’s work on getting comfortable in my job for now, and that way I’ll enjoy every second of those years!

Other tasks for my first week included a lot of easy, administrative-type stuff like printing manuscripts, making copies and mailing books and manuscripts to authors. But I also did some more hands-on things, too. I corresponded with one of the authors when I had to email her the AA’s (author alterations) on her soon-to-be-published novel. (I’m learning what all the abbreviations and acronyms stand for . . . slowly but surely . . . it makes me feel like I’m really, truly part of the covert secret operation that is book publishing!) I transcribed in red pen all the changes an author had made to her manuscript after a copyeditor went over it (aka if the editor made changes that the author didn’t agree with or if the author found new things to change) onto a clean copy. I filled out CIS’s (copywriter information sheets) for three titles that are being reissued in February by one of the major authors. These are forms that the copywriter uses to write the shoutline (5-10 words in big print on the backs of the books that are supposed to get readers’ interest) and back cover copy (summary of the book . . . you know, what everyone reads at the bookstore to decide if they might like the book before buying it). I had to read summaries and reviews on Amazon of the three books that are being reissued so I could answer the questions (I’ve been reading tons of Harlequin books, but I haven’t read them all yet!), such as the tone of the book, a one-sentence summary, the thematic issues, why we acquired it in the first place, the major conflict, etc.

I read a Harlequin author’s new manuscript and wrote a reader’s report on the strengths/weaknesses/changes I would make. My boss is going to send the author both her thoughts and mine (assuming mine are in the ballpark . . . haha). I had to be sure everything in the manuscript held to the standards that our imprint at Harlequin, the Christian line, maintains. What else, what else . . . it’s my job to manage the slush (unsolicited manuscripts we get for hopeful publication), query letters (letter with a brief summary of the author’s book and a request for the editor to read it) and author fan mail (I take it I don’t have to explain this one). I get to field the crazies and deflect them from taking precious and valuable time away from my busy and important bosses. If anyone calls my bosses and tries to make a query pitch over the phone, I was told that they’ll be transferred to me, and I’m to tell them that we don’t accept phone queries but to point them to where they can find our submission guidelines on the website. I got to make a cool decision the other day. The girl who used to have my position got an email query, and she asked if I’m going to accept email queries. I said sure, so she emailed the query-er and said I’m open to email submissions and she gave my email address where they could be directed. So, although I might be lowest on the editorial world’s totem pole, I’m above all you query-ers with your beloved best-sellers! I have power (sort of)! I also get to read all the authors’ fan mail to screen it and be sure no one’s saying hateful things to our fabulously talented writers, and assuming they’re nice and peachy, I look up the authors’ addresses in our database and forward the mail on to them.

Speaking of databases, there are two systems we use that I’m still trying to get used to. One contains tons of information about the authors and all their books. The other is used for logging manuscripts; every time we get a manuscript, it has to be logged in with the date. Every time it goes back to the author for revisions or returns to the editor for approval, that action has to be registered so we can keep track of the process. As the editorial assistant, my duties include things like logging these steps because it’s basically my job to ensure that the publication process—from the time a manuscript arrives in the mail to the time it’s published (and believe me, there are a LOT of steps in there—and I don’t think I’ve come across even half yet)—stays on track. I remind people about deadlines, I’m the manuscript’s liaison between author, editor, copyeditor, copywriter, artist, etc., etc., etc. They said it’ll take me a few months to get the process down (because each step happens at the same time every month), but I’ll master it eventually. I really feel like this is my dream job because I’m so organized, good at making lists and outlines and keeping everything on schedule (22 years of Type-A-to-the-extreme personality vindicated at last! Yessss . . . I knew God had a reason in mind when He made me so crazy compulsive). No, I’m not just good at schedules—I THRIVE on them. I’m a planner, an organizer. I love working out details and making things happen. I think this job and I are going to get along.

Well, I think that’s pretty much the majority of what I did this first week. Oh, I also got to sit in on an art meeting. My team was discussing what the covers of upcoming books should look like; we had a conference call with two artists and went over printouts with recent covers and statistics on how well each one sold. That way we can see some recent images we used (aka if we just had three books out last month with cowboys on the cover, we probably don’t want to use another cowboy next month) and which ones sold the best (come on, admit it—a large factor in your book-buying decision is the cover). It’ll also be my job to fill out art fact sheets in the future. From what I gather, they’re similar to the sheets for copywriters, except they’re for the artists, so they’re focused on the images in the book (what the hero and heroine look like, what the setting for the book is, etc.).

Wow—didn’t realize I did so much my first week! I really think I’m going to love this job a lot, and I can’t wait to get some more time in so I can feel even more comfortable and learn more of the duties and processes behind book publishing. For anyone who read this/made sense of all I had to say, bless you! After 13 months of job searching, it’s so nice to finally brag a little about what I’m doing and how much I enjoy it. I may have had to wait awhile, but after only four days at the job I can say one thing for sure—it was worth the wait.

Okay—so I know it’s been forever and a half since I’ve written, but for a good reason. I GOT A JOB!!!! Before Christmas I was busy preparing for my interviews and working on an editing test, then I was home for almost three weeks for the holidays, and I came back to my second interview. And once I got the amazing news, of course I spent a lot of time telling everyone I know. This is the job that my supervisors at my internship helped me to get; they contacted the editors at Harlequin and gave me a good recommendation. I went in for an initial interview with human resources, took home an editing test, then met with the two women for my second interview who will be my bosses. And they called me THAT SAME NIGHT…about a half hour after I got home from the interview, actually…to give me the incredible news.

I’m employed!!!!! Finally!!!!!!!! I know I spent the past year moaning and complaining about how long it’s taken me to find a job, but I know I’m so blessed to have gotten this…so many people have spent years trying to get into publishing with no success. And I’m going to be working at one of the major publishing houses, a well-known and established place that publishes romance novels, which I love to read! I really feel like this is going to be my dream job. I know I lucked out that I don’t have to start as a receptionist at a publishing company or at a textbook publisher or small nonfiction press. I’m starting out strong, and I’m really excited.

I’m going to be an editorial assistant for the Love Inspired line of the Steeple Hill imprint at Harlequin, the Christian/inspirational division. I think this is the perfect job for me, and looking back, I’m totally okay with how long it took me to find this—because if I had gotten something sooner, it wouldn’t be this job. And I have a feeling this is where I’m meant to be, where I’m meant to start my publishing career. So I start Tuesday, and my boss has already emailed me to ask if I’m available for a group lunch on my first day so they can get to know me, and I can get to know them.

I have a feeling this is the start of something very, very exciting for me. Even though there will be a decent amount of administrative-type work—that’s common in any entry-level publishing job—I’ll also get to do hands-on editing and correspond directly with authors. I’ll actually be doing very similar things to what I did at the internship—going through the slush (unsolicited manuscripts that come in), reading query letters, reading manuscripts and writing readers’ reports.

I’ve been reading a ton of Steeple Hill and Love Inspired books, as well as books by two authors who publish with different imprints at Harlequin  that my boss works with. I’ll actually have two bosses; one is the executive editor of Steeple Hill, and the other is the senior editor of the Love Inspired line. They seem like really sweet ladies from the interview I had with them, so I can’t wait to get to know them better!

It’s so surreal that I start my career in just four days…my real, big-girl job!!! I’m both nervous and excited, which I think is a normal blend of emotions to be feeling. Of course, there’s the dreaded I’m-not-ready-for-this-and-I’m-going-to-walk-in-and-screw-up-everything-that-Harlequin-has-spent-60-years-establishing-in-my-first-day feeling (totally *normal,* right?) But I also have this incredibly optimistic feeling, like I’m FINALLY starting my life. All I’ve wanted for SO long now is to be starting a career, getting my life off the ground, and I’m more ready than ever to do this! It’s the perfect start to a new year, heck, a new decade. BRING IT ON!!!!

P.S. I’m sure I’ll be overloaded and overwhelmed my first week or so, but I promise to write soon and let you all know how it goes!


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