The Benefits of Being a Small Press Intern5 min read

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For the past several months, I have been working as the summer intern for Apex Publications and have experienced first-hand the benefits of being a small press intern. My time at Apex has been a professionally rewarding and eye-opening venture into the world of books and zines. I have gained valuable experience; learning how a small press operates, going through the process of receiving submissions and deciding which to accept or reject, learning more about the importance of marketing, and editing work from professional writers.

The entrance to the Apex Magazine intern office.

How I Found My Internship

As an aspiring fantasy/horror writer pursuing an English major with a creative writing concentration at Kenyon College, I know how important it is to find a community of like-minded writers. For me, opportunities to meet writers in Lexington emerged through the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. The Carnegie Center offers writing workshops throughout the year and during the summer of 2019, I joined a workshop focused specifically on writing genre fiction. That was where I met Apex Publications’ editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore for the first time. Making this connection was very valuable, and I’m glad Jason remembered me when I reached out earlier this year inquiring about internship opportunities with Apex. My time spent learning from Jason at the Carnegie Center provided a good lesson in the importance of finding ways to be involved with the community. Putting myself out there as a young writer, and making a good impression as someone who works hard and is willing to learn, led to the opportunity to grow as a writer and editor, and to gain knowledge in the world of publishing.

These traits – working hard and being open to new experiences – have been beneficial as I settled into my job in March as an intern.

Putting myself out there as a young writer, and making a good impression as someone who works hard and is willing to learn, led to the opportunity to grow as a writer and editor, and to gain knowledge in the world of publishing.

Expanding My Skill Set   

The first thing I discovered on the job is that an editor wears many hats and a maintains a broad scope of skills.

Being a part of the Apex Magazine relaunch team was certainly a new experience for me and stretched me in many different directions. Jason walked me through our WordPress setup for the new zine site; I learned how a content management system functions, created page layouts, and organized content, among other things. I’ve been part of some intense marketing discussions and have come to realize how important a well-executed social media strategy is to a small press. I moderated the Apex Editor Q&A livestream online discussion where Jason Sizemore, Lesley Conner, Maurice Broaddus, and Shana DuBois answered questions about the future of the ‘zine. I took questions from viewers during the livestream, which felt like a more visual, tangible way of seeing who was interested and what they were interested in relating to the magazine’s rebirth. While web design and marketing are still two areas outside of my comfort zone, I feel much more grounded in those skill sets than I did prior to this summer.

When I accepted the internship with Apex I did so in the hope that I would gain more knowledge in the field of editing, and I was not disappointed. I’ve worked as a copy editor and proofreader for the magazine and for E. Catherine Tobler’s amazing short story collection The Grand Tour.

Most of my recent work has been centered around helping our managing editor Lesley Conner and the rest of the slush team. Now that we’re accepting submissions for the magazine, slush has been pouring in and it’s our job to read them to decide which stories should go forward. Being on the other side of the submission process – evaluating instead of submitting – has been a valuable experience for me. I’ve developed criteria for what makes a worthy submission, and this hasn’t happened in a vacuum. I’ve taken advice in developing acceptance criteria from Lesley, who receives the submissions I recommend. It was a good reminder that even doing solo work, I’m still part of a larger team working to resurrect a Hugo Award-winning publication.

It Takes a Village

If there’s one big idea that I’ve taken from my time with the Apex team, it’s that it takes a village to operate a small press, and there are lots of intricate parts to manage.

Not all of it has been thrilling, but I have met and developed positive relationships with people who are clearly passionate about their work and who want Apex to be successful. Through the team’s positive energy and patience with me as I’ve learned new skills, I’ve gained not just a new sense of confidence, but also a sense of camaraderie as well during the lonely, strange summer of COVID-19.

From an educational standpoint, as I prepare to head into my senior year of college, having had the chance to edit works by respected writers and read over submissions from both experienced and budding writers has made me think about how I want to structure and stage my own writing, to make it as appealing as possible to readers and editors. Having had the chance to work with Apex, a known publication company in the world of speculative fiction, should open up more opportunities in the future to work in the fields of editing and/or publishing as well.

To potential future summer interns: be prepared for hard but rewarding work.

To potential future summer interns: be prepared for hard but rewarding work. With the magazine back up and running, there will be lots of new promotional work to do and new pieces to edit. Being the intern for Apex means being a small part of a much larger entity. It means working with a passionate team and putting out intriguing new fiction from a variety of voices. That’s definitely not a bad way to spend a summer – it exposed me to a new corner of the speculative fiction world that I’m glad to have been introduced to, and that I can walk confidently in.

That’s an opportunity I would wish for anyone interested.

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