Cal Day at Chronicle Books
(From left to right) Cal Extern Kathleen Miller, Children’s Editorial Assistant Ariel Richardson (’06), Children’s Associate Editor Naomi Kirsten (’00), and Cal Extern Alisha Azevedo.
A few months ago, I was contacted by the career center at the University of California, Berkeley, asking if I might be interested in hosting an undergraduate student for an externship at Chronicle. I remembered how much I craved mentorship while a student at Cal, and opportunities to learn more about publishing and children’s literature. Naomi Kirsten, an Associate Editor in the Children’s Division and a fellow Cal alumni, felt the same way, so January 14 was officially dubbed “Cal Day” here at Chronicle, at least by those of us who went there.
Our Cal Externs were two English majors, Kathleen Miller, a sophomore, and Alisha Azevedo, a freshman.
Naomi made a fabulous sign to welcome our guests!
It was only appropriate that I picked up some delicious pastries at La Farine on College Avenue near UC Berkeley to welcome our guests.
Naomi and I wore Cal T-shirts for the day, and we invited other Cal alumni at Chronicle to partake of the pastries and meet our externs in our sunny fourth floor café space. We each told our stories of how we made it from Cal to publishing, and then ultimately to Chronicle Books. Most of us had taken a rather circuitous route to Chronicle, though at least one of us was hired at Chronicle just several months after graduation. I hadn’t heard many of their stories, and it was a wonderful way to get to know our fellow Chronicle Cal alumni better. The externs told us that, according to Cal, 6% of our employees went to Cal. Later in the day, we stopped by the desk of Senior Editor Steve Mockus (’93) and he shared, not just great advice for getting a publishing job, but advice that Naomi and I took to heart about overall editing strategies. We are always learning how to be better editors.
Children’s Editorial Assistant Ariel Richardson (’06), Contracts and Permissions Assistant Anna Leifeste (’09), Custom Managing Editor Leigh Saffold (’94), Editor Matt Robinson (’01), Cal Externs Kathleen and Alisha, and Children’s Editor Melissa Manlove (’99) (in attendance, but not pictured)
After brunch, the externs learned about the stages of a book, from starting with an illustrator or author’s idea, to finding an agent and a publisher, through the various departments in a publishing company, and eventually to booksellers, librarians, reviewers and customers! We talked about the recent ALA awards and the importance of awards in the book cycle. Naomi gave them an introduction to the various novelty formats we publish, as well as a tour of the office.
And then it was time to make a book (yes, a book)! Naomi and I came up with an idea for a project, and we wanted the externs to help get us started. In just a few hours, Alisha and Kathleen helped us decide on the book’s sections, and they worked on fleshing out the structure of the manuscript, complete with notes on art direction. They both said they were thrilled to have a real hand in the book-making process!
Kathleen and Alisha use the intern computers to write the manuscript for our book idea.
It wouldn’t be a day at a publishing house without “slush”—otherwise known as the unsolicited manuscripts we receive. We currently have 19 USPS bins of manuscripts to evaluate! Both externs seemed to find this task especially rewarding, in part because they saw how tough it really is to write a good book and to convince editors to publish it.
It was such a joy for Naomi and me to host the externs for the day, and Cal Day actually extended into the week after when we received this e-mail from Kathleen: “I was very touched by your thoughtful poster and brimming gift-bag, and the literary geek inside of me danced for joy at the sight of books, books, everywhere books—a constant cornucopia of text, image and color made more impressive still as the day wore on…Thanks to this externship, an incredible opportunity that would not have been possible without your unbounded kindness and energy, I am now seriously considering pursuing a career in your field…and I am infinitely grateful for all of the resources, advice, and encouragement that you have supplied me with.” In addition to thank you e-mails, they both sent us the sweetest thank you cards.
From our first contact with Alisha and Kathleen via e-mail we were impressed with their professionalism and eagerness to learn. We found them smart, gracious, and warm—we know they will go far! Talking to them helped us to look at our work with new eyes, and their insightful questions made us think about what we do here at Chronicle in new ways. Spending the day with them was a nice way to feel connected to Cal and to feel some of that Cal pride, even though we now spend most of our days on the other side of the bay.
And we are also so grateful for the work they did on our book idea. The externs learned that editors spend only a portion of their time editing—there is so much to do everyday!—but there is nothing an editor likes more than to make a book. Without the externs’ help, getting that project off the ground may have taken us a while. Thanks to them, we are now hoping to bring it for acquisition in a few weeks!
Ariel Richardson ’06
Editorial Assistant, Children’s
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