Today marks the start of University Press Week and this year’s theme celebrates the ways in which university presses help Raise UP a variety of voices and ideas. As ever, we’ll be participating with daily posts that address the topic of that particular day. Today’s posts are aimed at highlighting “new voices” within the community, so we asked Jodi Litvin, our Inside Sales Representative who is new to publishing, to share with us her experience working at UTP over the last three months.
Check out other university presses taking part today at the bottom of the post, or follow the blog tour on Twitter @AUPresses.
By Jodi Litvin
Today begins University Press Week and this year’s theme focuses on highlighting the role that university presses play in elevating authors, subjects, and whole disciplines that bring new perspectives, ideas, and voices to readers around the globe. Having only worked in publishing for a handful of months, I have been asked to write about my experience, given I am a new “voice” in this world. Right now, we are overwhelmed with newness – unless any of you have experienced an epidemic such as this one, it is safe to say this is a new normal for all of us.
My entry into the publishing world comes at a time when the operations of presses are constantly changing and adjusting to fit this sudden, unpredictable need. It is during this time that I have achieved my goal of working in publishing and started my first career job in my desired field. This means that I have spent the entirety of my time in publishing working from home. Having a home office has made it more challenging to fully grasp the culture and fully integrate into the industry. It means I am meeting all my colleagues (including my bosses) through video calls and will likely not work in the same office as them, in person, until summer 2021, at the earliest. In an industry where the people are as nourishing as the work itself, this has not been ideal. While everyone is going above and beyond to check in with their coworkers and maintain, or establish, these working relationships, I am looking forward to the day when we can run into one another at the coffee machine or overhear people’s Netflix recommendations.
One thing that I know will be consistent regardless of office location is my personal exposure to new authors, subjects, and disciplines purely in the process of learning about the texts we publish. This job has exposed me to innumerable, and wonderful, books and concepts. It has been one of my absolute favourite parts of working at a university press – the inevitability of encountering disciplines and ideas that I had little or no knowledge of or interest in previously. Anthropology of food? Turns out, I find it fascinating! History of the middle ages? More complex and riveting than I could have imagined! Perhaps I have not become enamored with Political Science overnight (to be fair, I nearly failed intro to poli sci in my first year of university), but a wealth of fine knowledge has become immediately accessible and visible to me, knowledge that is working to progress and expand necessary thought production.
I write about this experience on the cusp of the 2020 U.S. election and it feels impossible to think or talk about anything without referencing the pandemic, systemic racism, or the state of the world at large. How then, does this relate to publishing? This was the main question on my mind when, 5 months into the pandemic, I was hired to this role. How does a university publisher not only survive in supporting instructors and students as they navigate Zoom learning but continue to produce new and important scholarship? In broadening our academic horizons, where is the line between business and creating space for new voices?
I experienced the reality of this challenge within my first few weeks at UTP. This experience was one of the first moments where the excitement of working in a university press hit home. During the first publishing committee meeting I sat in on, I witnessed the discussions and the processes of bringing a book, or the idea of a book, to physical fruition. It was, and remains, incredibly exciting to me to learn how an idea or a manuscript makes its way to publication. The depth and breadth of the work required (or, conversely, the simplicity of a quick discussion) involved in getting a book published and in creating a platform for new ideas is not something I could have learned without the real-life experience.
Though we specialize in academia, this is not an academic lesson. Practice over theory is what defines my experience in publishing thus far. Amid a chaotic time, I have witnessed what feels to me to be actual production and change in the world of publishing and I have experienced firsthand the benefit of consuming the new voices that university presses seek to highlight and elevate.
To continue on Day One of the University Press Week Blog Tour, check out posts by these other fine university presses.
University of Illinois Press
Duke University Press
University of Wisconsin Press
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
University of Missouri Press
Bucknell University Press
University of Toronto Press Journals
University of Manitoba Press
Amherst College Press