Focus On … Samantha Swank '13
Samantha Swank graduated in May 2013 with a major in English and a concentration in Publishing Studies. She was hired by Scholastic, Inc., after completing an internship there. She also interned at Penguin Publishing. Originally from Alliance, Ohio, Samantha is currently apartment hunting in New York City.
What made you decide to attend Hofstra? And why did you decide to pursue a major in Publishing Studies?
I came to Hofstra for their publishing program. My grandma was my elementary school librarian, and I've always been a reader, so I've known since high school that I wanted to do something with books.
Was there any professor at Hofstra who especially guided you or provided advice that helped you in your academic or professional endeavors?
Dr. [Alexander] Burke, the previous head of the Publishing Studies department, was a great asset in introducing me to the publishing industry. Professor [Barbara] Heinssen as well was an excellent resource in helping with my internships and teaching me how to become a better editor. Dr. [Joseph] Fichtelberg was also always helpful during my time in the English department.
How did you find the internships that you did? Did your internship at Scholastic help you later to land the job there?
I found my internship at DK (a division of Penguin) online and applied to Penguin's internship program through their website. At Scholastic, though, I applied through a contact (one of those "I knew somebody who knew somebody" things) who passed my resume along. My internship is a major reason that I got the job I have now. I kept in touch with my supervisors at Scholastic, and they were excited to help me find a job. So when a position opened up, they recommended me.
What would you say are some dos and don’ts for students about to take an internship and wanting to make a good impression? Were there any lessons you learned on the job at both places?
For publishing, I do think it's helpful to wait until you've taken some of the publishing classes before taking an internship. I was able to jump right in when I started interning because I already had the basic skills and knowledge that came from my publishing classes. DO put in effort. DO ask questions. Your supervisors want you to learn and to get it right. DO ask if anyone needs help. DON'T sit around waiting for work to come to you. DO get to know your supervisors. DO keep in touch. You never know where your contacts could come in handy. Networking sounds silly sometimes, but it helped me get my job. This is especially in important in an industry like publishing where everybody knows everybody.
I think the don'ts of interning are the same no matter your field, and they're fairly obvious. Don't wander in late and leave early. Don't be disrespectful. Don't treat it like a joke. An internship is a job, even if you're not getting paid, and it should be treated like one.
People may think that writing and publishing works for early readers is easy, but there are many different aspects to publishing for that market. Having been at Scholastic as an intern and now an employee, what do you know about kids publishing that you think would interest or surprise people? What projects have you worked on and what are you working on now?
The way vocabulary is used is one thing that people may not consider when thinking about children’s literature. Readers and early chapter books are leveled for certain ages and grade levels. So when you're writing for such a specific audience, every word and sentence has to be considered to make sure that a kid learning to read – who just getting comfortable with reading on their own – can understand it. You want to make reading as easy and as fun for the kids as possible, so a lot of the time, that means using certain vocabulary words instead of others, breaking down sentences, or making sure that illustrations help to clarify the text.
It also might surprise people to know that illustrations aren't there just to make the book more fun. In a lot of instances they are important to helping children understand what's going on in the story. Clues from the art can help a child figure out what a difficult words means.
When I was still an intern I worked a bit on a book called Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown (the author of Darth Vader and Son) that is coming out this fall. And since I've started my job, I've been helping out on Branches, Scholastic’s new line of early chapter books.