An Intern's View of University Press Publishing
My peers and I often wish there were more opportunities for Liberal Arts students to use what they’ve learned in the classroom in a professional setting before graduating. An education based in history, philosophy, politics, and international affairs has helped us understand and explain many aspects of the modern world. Some of us have also become better allies to marginalized groups as a result of our learning, which is becoming increasingly important to professional work that reaches the greater public—both local and international.
This is one reason why an internship can be so beneficial. I decided to take a summer course on professional development and listed Wilfrid Laurier University Press (WLU Press) as one of my choices. Aside from my education preparing me to approach history and social issues critically and with sensitivity, having published and promoted zines with The Continuist at X (Ryerson) University over the past year attracted me to the world of publishing. I felt a placement at an academic humanities-focused book-publishing press would allow me to use what I’ve learned in my program (Arts and Contemporary Studies) to appreciate the narratives I’d encounter. WLU Press was attractive to me because not only did I see a commitment to spotlighting Indigenous, Black, and LGBTQ+ narratives but an active acknowledgement of their role and influence as an academic book publisher. That is, to encourage dialogue surrounding overlooked narratives and consider new approaches to scholarly work that is accessible, inclusive, and diverse.
Because of my previous work as a co-editor, I learned how important it is to promote not only the work (i.e., a book, a poem, visual art, etc.) itself but the person or people behind it. I noticed that books WLU Press were promoting on their social media, such as The Black Prairie Archives and The Queer Evangelist, were accompanied with retweets of relevant articles for further context and dialogue, graphics that highlighted meaningful quotes, and the celebration of events such as Pride month paired with a relevant book. These platforms show that there is much more to publishing than getting people to purchase books, that there were themes, concepts, and identities one would benefit from understanding better to value the contents of a particular book more. I felt confident that I would have the opportunity at WLU Press to both attain publishing knowledge and explore identities and communities I have not yet encountered. I also hoped to further develop my sensitivity about with respect to certain topics and how to make sure these narratives are promoted in a way that piques interest for niche subjects.
I had a general sense that the academic book publishing industry was massive and very network-based. If you encounter that many individuals (and communities) I imagine it would be important to clearly express your values and stance on pressing issues. After learning about the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences and the fragmentation of conferences this year I realized how much work still needed to be done to handle inequity in academia and how disregarding calls to acknowledge discrimination inhibits progress. Out of this situation I saw presses and organizations coming together to support one another and continue with conference season despite a central institution’s shortcomings. It is solidarity like this that signals the need for change and demonstrates power in numbers. Further, ensuring this is a priority at the press means showing authors and readers that work is being put into adequately supporting marginalized groups and creating spaces that acknowledge this. No industry is without its flaws, but the work put into abandoning prejudices—historical and persisting—is important, especially when multiple people demand it.
Overall, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to utilize my education in a professional setting and helped boost a number of titles through WLU Press. Learning about how a small academic press operates has helped me appreciate the work that goes into publishing more, especially for anyone from scholars to those who want to see their communities adequately represented. As a student who has only read scholarly books for class without considering how it ended up in my hands, it’s truly fascinating! I also appreciate seeing how the press is contributing to the transformation of scholarly work and feel confident that narratives and groups historically neglected in academia are finally finding their audiences through efforts such as those displayed here. With all this considered, I plan to take what I learned from WLU Press and immediately apply it to my work with The Continuist, ensuring that I am publishing the work of others with integrity and uplifting art and narratives from communities often neglected in mainstream publishing and media.