I’m sure I’m not alone in the Dappled Things community in having been told way too many times that my Liberal Arts degree was useless. And not only was it merely Liberal Arts! It was an English degree. Oh frivolity of frivolities! How will you ever got a job like that?
Six years after the fact, I’m proud to say I’ve been gainfully and steadily employed because of that English degree, first as a teacher, and now as an editor. So don’t let the haters getcha down! But also. . .
If you find yourself a little stuck, or, maybe even if you don’t, start thinking about developing that “useless” degree with some practical application coursework. I like my current job! I really do. But it’s not exactly the kind of editing I had in mind. BOOKS. That’s what I had in mind. So, I decided to up my ante.
I applied to the Denver Publishing Institute (DPI), and, after some nail-biting (wait-listed?! NObody wait-lists ME!) I’m lucky enough to be attending it now. In a four-week intensive program, they’re teaching me as much as they possibly can about the book publishing world, from the work of a literary agent to an acquisitions editor to the breakdown of publishing houses to marketing and beyond. (And no, they are not paying me to write this post. Scout’s honor.) They’re giving me real in-progress manuscripts to work on, evaluate, learn from and write reports on (which, actually, I should be doing right now. . .). The lecturers are some fantastic people with wild stories, excellent advice, and hard-earned wisdom, like the head of Young Adult publishing at Penguin (who refers to Louis L’Amour as “Louis.” NBD.), the head of Princeton University Press, and a young woman who has quickly risen through the ranks to run Scribner’s.
There are two other comparable programs in the country, at NYU, and at Columbia University. DPI isn’t cheap, but those two are hideously expensive. Name brand and what-not, I suppose. Also, the other programs spend time teaching magazine, journal and (last I checked) digital publishing. Really cool stuff! But not what I wanted.
So, if you would like to be a book editor (or literary agent or publicist or independent literary guru) and you find yourself at loose ends, might I suggest you look into this program. One of the great advantages to it, on top of all the nuts and bolts of the publishing world it will teach you, is that it connects you with an incredible network of people, many of whom have been highly successful in the publishing world, know it backwards and forwards, and have a great respect for DPI and the young men and women who have gone through the program.
Also, the campus is beautiful, complete with a mountain backdrop, collegiate gothic architecture, and ducklings in the lily pad pond. Can’t beat that.