Rachel's Write of Way

Archive for January 2010

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…

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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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