I'll introduce myself. I'm Alyssa Reeves, a 23-year-old production editor of preteen curriculum in the Childhood Ministry Publishing department at a large Christian resources company in Nashville, TN. I graduated from Kansas State University in 2009 with a B.A. in English literature.
- What got you interested in the field?
I've loved to write since I was in kindergarten, but I understood how hard it is to make a living as a writer. My senior year of high school, I figured I would major in marketing. That way I could write a little copy here and there, but there would seemingly be more job security. I wasn't interested in marketing though. I remember my senior English teacher required every senior to write a 10-page research paper and have a peer edit it. Almost everyone asked me! I probably edited 200 pages, and I loved it. Growing up, English grammar and the art of writing seemed to come naturally. I headed to college determined to be an editor.
- What in your education prepared you for your current job?
I walked into my advisor's office just before my freshman year started at K-State and I said, "I want to be an editor." She said, "Major in English literature." So, I did. I spent college reading lots of books. I managed to land an editing job with the university's literary journal for two years, but it was very brief. Honestly, I don't feel like my classes prepared me. I suppose reading and the exposure to quality literature can make you a better writer/editor, but looking back, journalism might have been a better choice because you could take copy editing classes. At the time, I knew I did not want to get into newspapers, so I didn't really consider it.
- What have you learned though this job that you didn't know before?
Everybody needs an editor! It's true; I respect our writers very much and they are dedicated to their work and do a good job, but at times I'm not sure some of them paid much attention in 6th grade English! On the bright side, it's job security. Seeing how the publishing process works is fascinating too. There are so many people who work together to develop a product, put it together, market it, and get it in the stores.
- Could you tell me about your average day?
I work on two products full time: a dated Sunday School curriculum and a monthly devotional magazine. Occasionally I'll be a part of another project. Last spring I helped put together two children's activity books and I am currently part of a two-year project: an undated preteen resource for churches. That being said, I am at my desk each morning at 6:30 a.m. (I'm done by 3 p.m.; our schedules are flexible. You can come in at 8:30 and work until 5 if you aren't a morning person and don't mind rush hours.)
Depending on where I we are in the schedule, I could be doing any number of things. The first step is gathering the copy from our writers. We hire outside writers, and they e-mail in their assignments. Our graphic designers use InDesign to build pages, and I flow the text in using Adobe InCopy. Our writers use templates and we have style sheets embedded, so headers and bullets and every other piece is automatically formatted on the pages. Once all the text is in, I give each part an HTML tag and then I do the first edit. As production editor, I'm mostly in charge of making sure the commas are in the right places and the wording sounds right, but if I have an opinion about content, my bosses (content editors) are always happy to hear my input.
After the first edit, the content editor reads it. Then it comes back to me, then it goes back to my boss. Our designer makes it look pretty and adds any necessary art or graphics, and then we read it again. We send a copy to an appraisal reader to look it over, the editorial project leader reads it, and then the graphic designer sends us an electronic soft proof. It's our last chance to make any corrections before it goes to press. In other words, I read a lot . I've had to get glasses since starting this job, and I don't read very many books for fun anymore since I read all day.
So, most of my day is spent in my windowless office at my desk. I am glad to actually have an office with a door, and it is quite spacious, and I love working on a iMac. (Don't be an editor if you can't stand being by yourself most of the day.) About once a month, I have a team meeting with the rest of the preteen team (me--the production editor, two content editors, two designers) to make sure we are on schedule; we have meetings with graphic designers to discuss art, we have department meetings every month, and sometimes a group meets to talk about products. I also do a few random other tasks like provide product information for parent and pastor newsletters or put together writer contracts.
- What job did you have before this?
This is my first job. Straight out of college I moved to Nashville to do a summer internship with this company . I happened to intern under an editor who was planning on leaving in the fall to be a teacher, so basically she trained me all summer how to do her job. When my internship ended, I applied for the position and was hired. I feel very fortunate to be working my dream job straight out of college. Publishing is notoriously very difficult to get into; you usually have to know somebody. An internship right after graduation was really great because I had a chance to prove myself before applying for a full-time position. Everything fell perfectly into place to make it happen, and I feel like God has me here for a reason.
- What's next in your career?
I hope to stay in this position for awhile. I really love what I do and I think our work is significant. The next step up would be content editor. There are a lot of people at my company who have worked here longer than I've been alive. I'd like to write something of my own someday. Right now that all sounds pretty great, but I'm engaged to be married in July and though we plan to stay in Nashville for awhile, I'll go wherever the Lord leads us.