Cover – When we’d go on nights out, people started talking about where had ‘cover.’ I thought they were talking about physical shelter from the elements (as opposed to rooftop, I guess?), but no. Cover = entrance fee.
Gormless – This is one of my favourite words, but turns out it means nothing over here. Which is sort of ironic. For you Americans, gormless means something between ‘stupid’ and ‘blank,’ often used to describe a facial expression.
On Monday morning we had a class trip to Time Inc, whose offices are in the frantic centre of midtown. We all looked SHARP, in shirts/suits/nice shoes, and as we walked down the street we hoped that passing people might think us to be high-earning Manhattanites, off to our important power-jobs in the city. After passing security and getting our badges, (and going in two wrong entrances), we had to navigate three separate elevator banks to get to the 8th floor. A big sort-of ballroom had been laid out for us, and we claimed some tables, where we found Time goodie bags waiting for us. Free things = happy CPC students.
The editor of InStyle, Ariel Foxman, took to the stage with our classmate Lia, to be interviewed. He talked about making the move from Random House to magazines, and was passionate when he talked about his job. At the end, he took a selfie with all of us:
After that, we were split into groups and began a tour of various magazines/departments in the building, which was akin to a trip through Wonka’s chocolate factory with the complexity of corridors and lifts. The offices are beautiful though, and it was great to snoop around and get insights from the employees who talked to us. Below are some sneaky photos that I’m 100% sure I was allowed to take. At one point we were shown the samples room for InStyle, where the junior editors work. The majority of the room was heaving with shoes, bags, accessories, clothes – all thrown together in piles of chaos. The assistant casually introduced the interns who were sitting to the side, and explained that their job was to list the stock of the samples that come in. The interns turned to face us with harried looks, fear and pain upon their faces. We left.
Other highlights of the day included a tour of some of the Time archives – including milestone moments like the JFK assassination and coverage of Princess Diana’s death – and seeing some of Time’s most famous photographs, and, of course, an Oscar. We then had a speed networking event in our original room, then it was time to head back to campus.
That afternoon, our speaker was Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year which we all got a copy of from Knopf. She was alongside her editor, Jordan Pavlin, who opened the course what felt like months ago. I’ll talk a bit more about this in my next post.
In the evening we the publishing director of Bloomsbury USA, George Gibson. He said that you learn more as an assistant if you start at a small publishing house, and don’t get much exposure to other departments if you start at a big company. As an assistant today, I totally disagree!
I’d been looking forward to Tuesday for a while, because it was time for me to say hi to friends at Penguin! I arrived at 345 Hudson, got my pass and made my way upstairs, where I talked to the receptionist, Tito (“Hey, Tig is kind of like Tito”) until the lovely Julia came to get me. Julia is the editorial assistant for Puffin US, so she is pretty much my closest equivalent over here. She introduced me to Eileen Kreit, the publisher of Puffin, and I set up camp in her AMAZING OFFICE WITH THE BEST VIEW WHAT.
With the straight on view of the Freedom Tower, I couldn’t help thinking about 9/11. As if she read my mind, Eileen told me about how she was here when it happened, and saw the whole thing through the window. It still gives me goosebumps.
Eileen introduced me to loads of people in her department, including Dana, the assistant editor who I email all the time, and designers, and the MD of the Children’s Division. I then got to sit in a fun Covers meeting, where I got a sneak at lots of upcoming titles and also saw some new Classics covers – Classics being the project that I work on with the US team. I wandered around (guided dutifully by Julia) to see other people I knew in the Viking team, and got to say hi to Jill Santopolo, who was one of our wonderful resource people during book workshop.
I spent most of the rest of the day with Julia and Dana, comparing notes, chatting and generally preventing them from doing their work. We may have arranged some book swapping… It was great to meet them!
In the morning we had more talks from HR people, then our website/magazine evaluations. Ours went well, but there wasn’t a whole lot for me to say, as they didn’t go into much detail about the story ideas. After that was Sherry Hour, before a fun panel in the evening, comprising of last year’s alumni.
The plan was that after the panel we would all head to the bar, with the course organisers and the alumni. As the talk finished though, the skies opened with torrential rain, lightning, and the loudest thunder I have ever heard. It sounded like bombs going off, and I could feel it reverberating in my chest. People screamed and ran down the streets. Jon and I, soaked through, arrived at the bar eventually, which was too packed and noisy to hear much, stayed for one drink and left with some of the others.
Another day of fun! This time I got to spent my morning at the Random House offices on Broadway. Their offices are right in the heart of midtown, a stone’s throw from the hell of Times Square. I spent the day with Beverly Horowitz, publisher of Delacorte Books, and her team. Beverly is amazing, and is a fountain of knowledge. She’s also tough – I don’t think you last at Random House as long as she has without that quality. She’d laid out some cornbread (yes!) for me and spent ages answering my questions and showing me what she has on her list, before introducing me to the rest of her team. I met the designer, Ray, who is working on Stone Rider with our designers in the UK, so I got to see the first concept of the cover, which I’d just missed by leaving home when I did.
Beverly took me to Hot Titles, a sales-led meeting which goes over how front-list and backlist titles are faring. This was fascinating to see, and some of the numbers were incredible. Later, I got to go to another Covers meeting, in a gorgeous boardroom, which meant some more sneak-peeks of upcoming titles. Set up at my own desk I had a look at some TI sheets, snooped around more books, and chatted with the Delacorte team. I had a good wander round the building too; some more pictures below! When it was time to leave – and finally let Beverly get on with some work – I found that there was a box of 15 or so books that they had put together for me. Eyes wide, they asked if they should ship it to me or give to me to carry. I chose the former. Thanks, Delacorte!
I was back at Columbia in time for the editor of Lucky magazine, and then after dinner it was time for our final lecture. According to CPC tradition, it was given by Christopher Cerf, an all-round man of the media, one-time senior editor at Random House, and son of the founder of Random House. He was very entertaining, both with his stories of old-world publishing and his memories of the company, through to the videos he showed us of his work on Sesame Street and Between the Lions – an endeavour to teach literacy to kids. I couldn’t believe it was the final lecture, and it was just as well that we were so entertained, or it might have been more melancholy.
The main part of the course being over meant time for celebrations, naturally. I went to the well-trusted ‘Amigos’ with Alyssa, Andrew, Roxanne, Leora, Sam, Nicola, Erin, Alex, Elizabeth, Julie, and Julianna, where we partook in bloody marys and margaritas, and shared some entertaining and vaguely worrying childhood stories. After Amigos, a bunch of us went back to the dorms to review our high and lows of the course, over some wine. Our conversation attracted a revolving door of cameo visitors: Cara, Jon, Melissa, Carolyn, and Alex. Someone wisely suggested taking the party to the roof, where we stayed until much later than anticipated, sitting around on the gravel and talking.
Friday morning was free, the day instead focused around our ‘Disorientation’ lecture. Shaye gave an overview of her thoughts on the course, and told us that we were a wonderful class. She got teary, to a chorus of awwws from the audience. The disorientation then became our graduation ceremony, as Shaye called us up to the stage, one by one, to receive our certificates. It was so great to see everyone going up and getting a big hug from Shaye, and it was a really fun celebration.
When it was my turn (at the end, as usual – Wallace), I got to the steps to the stage and looked up at Shaye, opening my arms as I worked out how to hug her (which arm is going where? Over or under? Do I grab the certificate first? Please don’t let this be an awkward hug), and tripped on the top step, falling flat on my ass on the stage in front of her. I wasn’t really aware of much in those microseconds, which felt like an eternity, other than the fact that the applause had died away to a stunned silence, and I looked up at the front row of people who all had frozen ‘o’s of surprise on their lips. I got up, brushed myself off (face burning I’m sure) and got a massive hug from Shaye, which made it all worth it. Someone – I think Ian? – started up a second round of applause, and there were some whoops with the laughters, so that felt pretty good. My friends, of course, were falling out of their chairs with laughter, because they are good, supportive people!
The ceremony was followed later by our final sherry hour. It was a very jolly one, with everyone taking lots of photos. We managed to get a selfie Shayfie with Shaye, which is pretty much the best photo ever.
There was one more treat to come: a banquet! Now, understand that the cafeteria has been our dear friend throughout the course, but sometimes a friend that we have wanted to punch in the face. Great meals (and regular pizza) have sometime been followed with suspicious concoctions and dubious chicken, so we were a touch sceptical about the banquet being in there. We were wrong to be. We arrived to find round tables, bedecked in white tablecloths and silverware (real cutlery for the first time – woohoo!), and some delicious smells coming from the kitchen. Carolyn and I bagged a table, and to our delight we found that Shaye was joining us too. Ashley, Francesca, Jon, Ryan, and Melissa rounded out our happy table, and Shaye’s presence meant that bottles of wine found their way to us in abundance.
The meal was delicious. Our table was hilarious, as we told Shaye about some of the things we’d discussed and done during the course, while she spilled on some of the behind-the-scenes gossip. There were speeches galore, with people standing on tables and chairs; many toasts were made to Shaye and Stephanie; people spoke about how much the experience of the course meant to them; flowers were presented; tears were shed…The whole thing was such a fitting and wonderful celebration of our time together, and though it was bittersweet to be ending the course, the mood was jubilant, anticipating the future. 3C hosted another great party, where there was some cheesy music, dancing, talking, and some more use of our lovely rooftop. Julianna, Alexis and I took a walk around campus afterwards, enjoying the peace and quiet, and the serene view from the Alma Mater statue, free for once of all tourists and students.
A lazy day of catching up with things. Carolyn, Jon, and Melissa went to queue for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, and got them this time! This is involved them getting up at about 4:30, while I didn’t have to lift a finger, so they are pretty awesome for doing that.
I sat around, reading and working, with Marc and Jon in their apartment, then Marc and I went to sit outside on campus to actually enjoy some fresh air. It was brightly sunny, but also raining pretty heavily at the same time, but somehow where we were sitting under some trees we were untouched by it. Carolyn and Kira joined us, but soon we had to get ready (and get snacks!) for Shakespeare in the Park.
I set off with Carolyn, Jon, and Carolyn’s friend Mike, and made it to our seats in the Delacorte theater in plenty of time for the start of the show. Gaia and Melissa were sitting further away from us so we spent some time trying to spot them. The theatre is beautiful, with a view of Belvedere Castle straight ahead, and a balmy New York evening above. It was a production of King Lear, starring John Lithgow and Annette Bening (and also Jessica Hecht – Susan from Friends). It was good, and worth seeing for the whole experience, but not outstanding. Bening fudged her lines several times which was a bit awkward.
On Sunday morning I went for a walk in the Park, then got the subway to Herald Square. There was an amazing food market, with a variety of stalls stretching for a whole block. I did a spot of shopping, then met with Carolyn and her friend Geena. We got crepes from the market, then wandered around Macy’s, mostly for the air conditioning.
We got the subway down to Christopher Street to meet with Jon and Melissa for ice cream at this tiny place which served the most amazing toppings. The others all had sundaes and I was pretty jealous. We then walked to Golden Unicorn in Chinatown where we met with Gaia and Ryan for a massive dinner, then rolled ourselves home.
The blogs aren’t over just yet – a couple more to go!