Name: Abigail Fleming
College: College of Charleston
Major: English Language & Literature
Current Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Current Form of Employment: Full-time Production Editor
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work for Arcadia Publishing, under The History Press imprint, as a production editor. Arcadia Publishing is the largest publisher of local history books in the country, so I get to travel vicariously through the books I edit and proofread. My projects range from true crime, culinary trails, and ghost stories to transportation history (people really love trains), and it is my job to see manuscripts through the various stages of production, up until they are ready to go to print. I spend my days elbow-deep in the Chicago Manual of Style, discussing the finer points of our house style with authors, and spiraling down fact-checking wormholes. I love it. Reading has always been my hobby, and now I get paid to do it, albeit not always about topics of my choosing (trains, anyone?).
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
After I graduated, I was still unsure of what I really wanted to do. I knew teaching wasn’t for me, yet I found myself working as the administrative assistant for a department of the local school district. I was getting restless after about six months, only doing the occasional freelance copy job (paid and volunteered), so I started looking at all of the publishing-related companies and positions in the area, only to find out that there were (and are) actually quite a few of them. After about a month or so of furious resume writing and innumerable cover letters, I landed interviews with Arcadia and the in-house publication for a local teaching hospital. Honestly, I had applied for administrative positions in addition to the jobs I actually wanted, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they wanted me for my degree.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
My godfather is a historian and has a website that focuses on esoteric American history. I have always copyedited his articles, so when he told me he was writing a book, I was excited. When he told me that he wasn’t going to hire a professional editor, I almost panicked. With my impending graduation, and a publication date, I had a hectic last few undergraduate months, but together we created a product that I know helped get me my current position, because I really wasn’t that experienced outside of the classroom, with the exception of an editorial internship that consisted of blogging, tweeting, and occasional copyediting.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
My school’s English department had an internship course that helped students find internships with various local businesses and receive credit hours for the work completed. I knew I needed experience in my field, not only because I needed to improve my professional people skills, but also because I wasn’t precisely sure what I wanted to do with my degree. I ended up working in the editorial department of a then-new food magazine, and it was a rewarding experience (free cake and recipes from fantastic chefs) in that I learned what I did and did not like (like: cake, dislike: deadlines) in that particular industry.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
I would advise every English major to read and write for fun. Academic writing is like riding a bicycle; once you know how, you can always whip up an annotated bibliography, but creativity has to be cultivated constantly. And volunteer! Internships are imminently useful, but sometimes finding meaningful ones can be tough. Whatever your interests are, there’s likely a number of websites, publications, and organizations devoted toward them.