On my first day at the National Book Foundation, I entered an office full of books. Shelves filled with tomes lined every wall; stray books found their way to the top of the air conditioners, coffee pots, even the railing in the stairwell. Advanced Readers’ Copies, books by previous National Book Award Winners and Finalists, and submissions for the 2016 Awards were everywhere awaiting categorization. Some of these were already on my own bookshelf, but a great many were not. This, I thought, was coming home.
I have been reading fiction and non-fiction nominated for the National Book Awards (NBA) for years. During my undergraduate career, I had participated in the National Book Awards on Campus events, where I met authors, participated in master classes, and discussed the books up for consideration by the judges. So, when I decided to move to New York from Minnesota to attend the NYU MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program, I knew I wanted to work in a place that felt familiar. It was natural for me to hope for an internship at the Foundation, Presenter of the National Book Awards. I count myself fortunate that I was able to achieve that this semester.
From my first day as an intern last September until this year’s National Book Award ceremony on November 16th, my time in the office was devoted to helping prepare for the big day. I experienced the excitement that came with calls from the judges as they narrowed their lists to 10 titles, and then a month later, down to five. Every day at the Foundation was different. Leading up the Awards, I would email publicists about acquiring excerpts for our website or photo rights, prepare posts for the Foundation’s social media accounts to promote the titles, write blurbs for the website or help with press releases. Some days were spent assembling the thousands of invitations that needed to go out for the ceremony at the Cipriani Wall Street. I was always invited to participate in meetings, and felt as if I had my hand in every project and every aspect of preparing for Awards week and the ceremony itself. Every day was different, and every day I was given the chance to try new things and learn in ways that are not possible in the classroom.
Now that the semester is drawing to a close, I have had the opportunity to reflect back on my experience. Working at the Foundation has shown me that publishing is more than the way a book comes to life and finds a reader. Rather, it is about what the stories mean, and how they can change our lives. Whether it’s poetry, young adult literature, nonfiction or fiction, the books that come into the National Book Foundation office and into the hands of the staff are the books that will influence the world.
Yes, I was just an intern. But at the National Book Foundation, the interns are part of the whole process. Through my time at the Foundation, I experienced the scope of the publishing industry, and I felt like a valued member of our team. The Foundation is welcoming, and it full of conversation and joy over the books sent to the office by publishers. My time there affirmed that publishing is the industry I want to be part of. Literature has the power to change the world, and to be an intern at the Foundation is to have a seat at the table.
by Jacey Mitziga