Written by Murielle LeMaire, NEH SHARP student assistant, Spring 2022
My second semester in graduate school was enhanced greatly by the opportunity to work with the Acquisitions Department at the University Press of Florida. The second semester is when things begin to get on a bit of a roll, and having this internship structured my time nicely. I was able to gain experience in publishing, something which I have always been interested in but never involved in, and learn many practical skills in the setting of a semi-remote office job.
With the NEH SHARP grant awarded to the University Press of Florida, they have been able to hire more student assistants, and I was thrilled to get the opportunity to be one of these. As an avid reader, I have always loved books and been interested in publishing. It has been uplifting to see the expansion of the humanities and the thought which is put into publishing books across disciplines. I grew up in Gainesville and never knew about the University Press of Florida, and thus it has opened my eyes to the part that this team plays in making my hometown a hub for innovative and important scholarship.
During my spring semester internship, daily tasks included assisting with basic parts of the acquisition process such as checking the submissions inbox, drafting author contracts, and coding manuscripts, which was basic experience for the moving parts that make up these first steps on the way to publication. I also got to help with the more intriguing process of finding series editors and authors whose work we want to publish. Acquisitions gave me the chance to really see how books get started and the intensity with which they may be scrutinized, as well as the amount of material that must be gathered to ensure their success down the line as they move into copyediting, design, and eventually printing!
Latin American studies has a strong history at the University of Florida, and since I am getting my master’s degree in this department, I worked closely with our editor-in-chief Stephanye Hunter, who directs publications on Latin American issues and perspectives.
Many of the projects that excite me the most are those which consider new perspectives and focus on the massive threat of climate change and environmental degradation to regions like the Amazon. Some environmental studies books I helped research were very exciting in terms of interdisciplinary Latin American perspectives, as they will be integrating environmental issues with the history and complexity of nations such as Brazil, and I am looking forward to these publications. In order to help get these books going, I researched existing books at other presses. This was a unique opportunity as it opened my eyes to how many university presses there are across the United States and the different subjects they specialize in. This has also been helpful when I think about the future and how I may want to work for a university press.
I really appreciate the ability of scholarly presses to be on the front lines of research and disseminating it to the public. Editors get the chance to go to conferences both to advertise the press and scope out scholars who they may want to publish. This is an exciting part of the acquisitions process, as it shows that we do not just take submissions from authors, but we search out writers and scholars we think would be a good fit for our lists. Getting to research scholars based on conference programs and suggest those I thought would be potential authors for UPF was one my favorite parts of the internship. These research projects were often time-consuming, but they allowed me to explore the world outside of our press and feel that I was having a say in titles, lists, and subjects in the future.
One of the more interesting and longest parts of the acquisitions process is peer review. Choosing peer reviewers and getting the manuscript out to them is a very important step in approving and finalizing the work. While this was not a process I was very involved in, I was able to see many reader reports after the fact. This is one of the steps that can also take the longest, as authors often change parts of their work following reviewers’ suggestions for approval by the editorial board.
I was fortunate to get to assist in parts of the publication process beyond acquisitions as well, such as writing copy for books about to be released on the Press’s website and checking the final versions of PDFs as they go to the printer.
As you can tell, my internship included a lot of different things. While my focus and most of my interest was in Latin American topics, I have also been able to see the myriad books we publish on Florida, nature, the South, politics, and even space. Looking forward, I would love to get the chance to continue to work in a press or something similar to apply what I have learned over the last few months.
I would like to give a shout-out to my fellow NEH SHARP student assistant Kiara Thompson as well as our editors Stephanye and Sian, and most especially to Carlynn Crosby, who has been a wonderful mentor and teacher for all things acquisitions! Thank you for this awesome experience and I cannot wait to see what is next.
Murielle LeMaire is a master’s student in the University of Florida’s Latin American Studies program, where her research focuses on tropical conservation and development. This summer she will travel to Ecuador to research her thesis, which focuses on relations between conservation, indigeneity, and environmental policies in Ecuador.