I have several friends in various stages of graduate school, and they all hate me. Why? Because I love grad school. For them, grad school means picking a narrow focus (especially in the sciences, where a graduate degree is spent essentially creating and testing your thesis), hopefully something they are already passionate about, and then researching it to death until all the passion is gone and they want to do something completely different. I have a friend who got a masters degree in physics and ended up working in banking. No joke. I, on the other hand, am having a blast in grad school. Sure, it’s a lot of work and the deadlines are stressful, but I’m not losing passion for my subject—I’m gaining it.
Here’s why: getting a graduate degree in book publishing at PSU means learning the art of wearing many different hats. Sure, multitasking is hard, but you also never get bored—especially on the quarter system, where classes are fast-paced, projects are always running, and there are always challenges and surprises. Rather than spending all my time researching just one topic or choosing a narrow focus to begin with (mine was editing coming in), I’ve taken classes and learned from real, hands-on working experience at the press about marketing, editing, social media, and best of all, design. That’s right, I came into this program wanting to be an editor—and I still do—but I’ve also fallen in love with design. This past week I got to make a tip sheet for an actual book. My other grad school friends don’t get how exciting that is, but that’s ok.
While my friends are complaining about their research groups or wanting to strangle their thesis advisor for the twentieth time, I’m working with new professors and new groups of people almost every quarter. At the same time, it is still a small program, so I get plenty of opportunities to get hands-on, real-world experience in the publishing industry. Last quarter, I participated in the heavy copyedit of the book my project team is working to publish as well as doing lots of research on related, socially-minded organizations, possible blurbers, podcasts we might like to reach out to, and more. I edited emails, helped write back cover copy, and witnessed the cover design process. I even got a say in the cover design decision. This quarter, we’re working on sales kits and marketing materials, like the tip sheet I just finished.
In addition to all the classes I’m taking on different areas of the industry (editing, marketing, design, acquisitions, etc.), I’m actually doing things in almost all of these areas through Ooligan Press. For example, I just read a book proposal for acquisitions that I absolutely loved, and I can’t wait to see what happens and if it becomes one of our next projects. I’ll still be writing and defending a thesis in the end, but in today’s world of independent publishers and freelance publishing services, knowing how to do everything with confidence is key. I’ve learned the art of wearing many hats, and I’m just getting better at it the more I work at Ooligan. And you know what? I look good in hats.