Gnarly – I think we might use this word here too. It’s used to describe something as either difficult or unpleasant, but can also be used to mean good. E.g. ‘that vodka was gnarly’ = bad vodka.
Burglarized – this one makes me laugh. It sounds much funnier than ‘burgled’, because it makes it seem like the homeowner is the active participant in the verb. It also makes me think of burgers.
Monday 28th July
After the relaxed weekend, it was something of a shock to have to get up early, in time for the 9am career fair (how on earth am I going to get used to getting up at 6:30 again for work!?), and also to dress in a suit.
The career fair took place between our lecture theatre and Stabile, the ground floor common space, both of which had been filled with rows of tables. In fact, it looked a lot like a book fair layout, helped by the fact that every major publishing house and magazine had a stand there, from Penguin Random House and HarperCollins to New York Magazine and Condé Nast. The idea is that students go round to tables of interest, network like their life depends on it, and try to impress the company representatives enough that it might lead to something; from the publishers’ point of view it’s a meat market of promising potential employees.
I wasn’t sure how to manage it myself, not actually looking for a job. I decided to just go to the companies that interested me, to strike up conversations. Cue a few HR people to glaze over the instant they realised I was a) employed and b) British.
Nevertheless, I did have some fun discussions. Jordan Hamessley from Egmont USA compared notes with me on our favourite books set at sea, and I cooed about The Fault in Our Stars with the Penguin Random House table. At Condé Nast, I used my internship in the London office to start a conversation, which was in large part a ruse to grab a branded lip balm from their table. The amount I use lip balm, this should last me the best of a decade. There were two awkward conversations. One, with New York Magazine, when I realised halfway through that I’d been referring to it as The New Yorker (I smiled and excused myself); the other was with Scholastic, whose HR person told me they weren’t accepting resumés to look at, and that I should go into IT if I wanted to get hired (I gleefully told her this wouldn’t be necessary).
Later in the day, Jon and I went to get a few bits that we needed, and headed to the top of 5th Avenue, not a long journey from the dorms. A fruitless trip for me, but good to get a break from campus. We got back, got dinner, and joined Ryan, Carolyn, Gaia and Melissa to eat it. It was then time to get ready, because the evening was Carolyn and my joint birthday celebration!
My birthday (4th August) and Carolyn’s (5th August) would be after we’d left the city, so we thought it would be fun to do something to celebrate with our new friends while we could. I’d booked the rooftop of Pera (the place in Soho we ate at a couple of weeks previously, where we inspected the roof), which, much to my surprise was free, on condition of a minimum spend. I was a bit nervous about this until I realised that 50 thirsty students would get past the limit no problem!
A bunch of us set off together from the dorms, and arrived bang-on 9pm, where some of the others were already waiting for us. We went up to the roof where the night-time view was absolutely stunning: the imposing Freedom Tower to the south; the bright lights and skyscrapers of midtown to the north; some rich people in their swanky apartments just across the road (bet they regret floor-to-ceiling glass windows now!). We had a fantastic night. Gaia and Melissa bought a flashing pink crown for Carolyn, and a disco, Brit-ish, tophat for me, as well as a cake with Jon and Ryan. I gave Julianna my camera and tasked her with taking photographs. The ones that would prevent my friends from finding employment are not included here. The cocktails were great – and they made a few of them ‘extra special’ when they knew it was my birthday – and it felt very New York!
Uptown view from Pera
Birthday hat! With Melissa and Alyssa
A healthy table of drinks!
Olivia, Ashley, birthday girl Carolyn, Laura, Xian, and Alyssa
The rooftop closed at 12. We briefly stopped in at SOBs, which was closing, but also probably wasn’t our best choice of club. Instead, we went back to campus and continued celebrations on the 3rd floor until the early hours, and until some of my friends accidentally locked themselves out of their apartment. Sitting in the corridor waiting for the warden person to come to the rescue, we were suddenly sleepy, and the night drew to a close.
After a sleepy morning, I had to get over to the Upper East Side for 2:30, to help move furniture. That evening, the class of 2014 was invited to Christopher Cerf’s house for dinner, the very final CPC event, and another tradition for the course. His house, in a beautiful spot in the 60s, was apparently full of things that would need clearing to make space for the party.
Alyssa, Sam, J.D. and I got there, with Shaye, Stephanie and other helpers, to find an amazing house which did indeed have boxes and things everywhere. We cleared space in the main room downstairs and in the amazing library room upstairs. The process was fun, mostly because we kept uncovering Emmy awards that Christopher has won, scattered about the place (as you do), and rare and beautiful books, including some first editions. I wish I could include pictures here, but I don’t think I should!
Once finished, there was an awkward amount of time left to get back to campus and change etc, so I decided to stay out, and had brought a change of clothes with me. Alyssa and I wandered up to the Park, and sat by the zoo for a little while, before walking past the Conservatory Water with the tiny sail boats, where jazz was playing, up to the 80s. Alyssa went off to get ready and I looped back, further in the Park, and sat down to read.
I read for too long, and had to hustle to get back to the house in time. I realised I was all sweaty and still in my shorts and t-shirt, so dashed into Bloomies to get changed in their fancy restrooms. More appropriately attired, I headed back, bumping into Alyssa again on the way.
The party itself was great, with a crowd comprised of this year’s class, some alumni, speakers from the course, resource people, and some other guests. It was a great mix, and a really fun occasion. I made several trips to the snack tables, where treats included mini-chicken skewers, and chips and dip, ably assisted in the snacking by Julianna. The outside patio was particularly popular, as there was more space to mingle, which I tried to do as I realised it might be the last time I see some people for a very long time. After what felt like far too soon, it was time to leave, and the 140(?) strong group began filtering to the sidewalk, after thanking our host profusely. People began splitting off to go different ways. A bunch of us (Marc, Kira, Ryan, Erin, J.D, Andrew, Xian, Claire, Nicholas, Concepcion, Mackenzie, Sam, Nicola, Mary) walked to a nearish bar where we spent an hour or two, around long tables and a glass of wine. Again, too soon, it was time to head home, and begin the awful process of goodbyes 😦
Okay, one photo of the Cerf party. I can’t claim credit for this one!
People were still up back at the dorms, so I joined the living room of 5B for a while, though some more goodbyes beckoned.
Wednesday was a strange day, as people started to leave the dorms in earnest. Melissa had to leave at 7am, and I’d gone to bed before she’d done her farewells, so I missed getting to say goodbye to her. In a way I think this is the way to do it, so it’s less like a goodbye at all!
I escaped all this by going to the Natural History Museum with Marc, his friend Jamie, and Jon. We met at the small mammals exhibit, and they scoffed at my lack of knowledge about North American wildlife (who knew that groundhogs are real things?). We saw the large mammals, though we were just as interested in the scenery as the animals, and it struck me how little of America I’ve actually seen, having never been to those sprawling landscapes that the museum was showing.
All the fish
Rather large whale
We saw the marine exhibit and, of course, the dinosaurs, where we got up close to the T-Rex. I asked a man standing there to take a picture of all of us. His badge said that his role was ‘fossil advisor’ and he seemed a bit miffed that I’m asked him for something as trivial as a photo. He was even less happy when I asked him to take it again (he had cut off the T-Rex in his first attempt. Photographer, he ain’t). After that, we took a break outside and ate hot dogs in the sun.
Friends and a T-Rex
My parents called to say they had arrived in the city, so I headed back to the dorms briefly before setting off to see them at their hotel in midtown. We stayed in the room for a while, catching up on the last two months (it seems like it has been much longer but also like it has flown by without me noticing.
I went most of the way back up to campus to have dinner with Ryan, Jon, Carolyn, and Gaia at a pizza place. Later, Gaia, Ryan, Jon and I went for a wander round campus, and sat by the Alma Mater statue until much later than we’d intended to, but everyone wanting to spend time together before Gaia and Carolyn’s departure the next day.
To thank us for helping to move things at the Cerf house, Shaye took J.D. and me to lunch across the road. Shaye’s holiday was the next day, and you could see the visible relief etched on her face – if anyone’s due a holiday, it’s her! We talked about the course, but also about New York more generally, a little about Shaye’s career, the future, and upstate New York, which I’m about to see for the first time. Lunch – a steak sandwich and some watermelon-lemonade – was fantastic. We walked with Shaye back to her office, then it was time to say goodbye to her and to Stephanie. Shaye made me promise to come back to New York soon, and to visit when I do, so I guess that’s one of my trips for next year sorted!
My parents came up to visit campus after that, giving me just enough time to clean my bedroom. After inspecting my digs, we had a walk round campus, which meant I could introduce them to Carolyn, Jon, and Ryan, before they headed back to the hotel.
Gaia and Carolyn were busy packing up their last things. We surveyed the scene in their flat, with Cara, Leora, Jess, Olivia, and Alexis. I went to get Chipotle with Gaia and Alexis just before Gaia and Carolyn had to leave. Goodbyes were bad – big group, a taxi waiting, people crying. It was different for me, knowing I’ll see Gaia and Carolyn soon in London, but still hard. We stayed in the road, waving, until the car was out of sight.
Jon, Ryan, Alexis and I went to sit by the statue – becoming a regular spot in the last few days – where we found the owl hidden in the Alma Mater’s robes (it’s a thing)
Friday 1st August
I went to see my parents again on Friday morning, and take some of my stuff over to their hotel. Jon was moving things into his flat, so we shared a taxi. After dropping off my stuff, stealing some of my parents’ food, and buying a questionable chicken sandwich, I helped Jon take his bags over the Brooklyn.
The journey didn’t take too long, through traipsing through the streets with suitcases wasn’t ideal. We spent some time on the roof of Jon’s apartment block, enjoying the views back over Manhattan, and had time for a quick sample of the ping pong table before we set off back to the island, stopping at Grand Central Market for food on the way.
Manhattan in the distance
Grand Central Market
That evening, we had our final rooftop gathering on Hogan Halls. It was fun to have most of the remaining group together, but I was also sad at the prospect of not seeing them again for a while, and at the course being over. Between leaving the rooftop and going on our night out, there were plenty of individual goodbyes to be said, which didn’t help the sadness factor. Actually, some supervisor lady came out and shouted at us and told us to get down from the roof – turns out we were never meant to go up there, whoops. Do we care?
Goodbye, Hogan rooftop!
Our final group heading out – me, Ryan, Julianna, Jon, Cara, and Alexis – had to walk twenty blocks, as the 1 train wasn’t stopping from 103rd to 116th. We went to midtown, to Beer Authority, directly opposite the New York Times building. The rooftop had just closed, but we still got a peek at the view, before bagging a big table downstairs, where we were joined by Maggie, and later by Dmitriy.
Julianna, Ryan, Alexis, Dmitriy, Jon and me. Maggie the photographer?
We had a good time, and I was tutored in perfecting the New York accent by Maggie and Julianna, though I still need some work, I think. After goodbyes to Maggie, Cara, and Dmitriy, the rest of us headed back, in a fairly sombre mood. Julianna, already moved out of halls, had the unenviable pleasure of staying on our couch.
I left very early on Saturday morning. We had to be out of the dorms by 11, but I was going to have breakfast with my parents, and I was also keen to avoid the trauma of more goodbyes. A slight crimp in the plan was the intense stomach pain I woke up to at about 4am (having gone to bed at 3), which kept me awake on and off until I got up at 6:30.
Jon was leaving at the same time, so we carted our luggage down to the reception area. We gave Maria, the night shift security lady, big hugs because she was the nicest person you could hope to meet. She said that it if we’re ever in trouble in New York, we should come back to her here. Mild concern that she thinks we might be homeless, but a really sweet offer.
After two months of sun, New York chose that moment to reproach me for leaving, and unleashed the rain clouds. We found Marc and Jamie by the door to the street, and we all just stood there, slightly numb from sleep, without an umbrella between us, wondering how to do this. Summoning energy, we shuffle-ran down the street and across the road to shelter under the awning of Book Culture, then Jon and Jamie went to hail a taxi – both going to LaGuardia. Mercifully, there were lots of taxis, so they got one quickly, and we had time for a brief goodbye before they were off. Marc and I returned to Book Culture to regroup, before venturing to the curb again. Another cab followed suit, I said goodbye to Marc, all of us soaked through by this time, and left Columbia.
By the time I got to my parents, I was feeling much worse, with a full on cold descending. I promptly fell asleep and woke up again at 11. We had a slow rest of the day, venturing to the Boathouse at Central Park when the weather got better. In the evening, Ryan and I met up at Bryant Park, before having dinner with my parents there – quite fitting it was the first and last place I visited on this trip to New York. After my last goodbye of the course, to Ryan, we went back to the hotel for the final sleep in NYC.
The Wallaces and Ryan
So that’s it! I had the most incredible seven weeks, and an experience I’ll never forget. To anyone thinking of taking the course in 2015…do it! I’ve come away with incredible contacts, and got to meet some amazing people in the industry. Most importantly of all, I’ve come away knowing over 100 people who will be going into publishing, with whose careers my own will certainly cross many times, and I’ve made some brilliant friends.
I want to go back to one lecture briefly, the one with Joanna Rakoff, the author of My Salinger Year. The book documents her first year in publishing, as an assistant, and how she responded to J.D. Salinger’s fanmail. I started my blog before I got into publishing, and stopped after I got my job at Penguin, which wasn’t so much a decision, more that I didn’t make the time. Listening to Joanna, I wish that I’d documented my first year in publishing, and while I can’t go back and do that, I can promise to keep up my blog and document my second year in publishing. So among everything else it’s done for me, thanks for that too, Columbia Publishing Course.
p.s. here is a link to CPC Super-Grad. Every year the USA’s main publishing news website, Publishing Trends, compiles the best parts of the students’ biographies into one ‘super’ biography. Enjoy! http://www.publishingtrends.com/2014/08/columbia-publishing-course-2014-super-grad/
We’ll always have Columbia