What are you doing now?
I’m the marketing/promotions person at Caitlin Press, home of Dagger Editions. Caitlin Press publishes culturally significant books, including fiction, non-fiction (both historical and creative), and poetry. Occasionally we will produce a children’s or young adult title. We have two mandates: the first is to publish works by women (and all those who identify as such) and the second is to publish rural voices that are relevant to urban readers as well. Just recently, we launched Dagger Editions, dedicated solely to publishing literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry by and about queer women (those who identify as queer women, including trans women, or include this in their personal history).
How did you come to be in your current role? Did you know what you would be doing prior to completing your degree?
I was convinced to apply for the position I currently hold by a former employer who had previously worked with Caitlin Press. I was hesitant at first, since I can be quite a city kid and wasn’t sure if a small press on the Sunshine Coast would be interested in me. Nevertheless, my former employer sold me on applying and then sold the Publisher of Caitlin Press on hiring me. I should add that, this was after dozens of job applications over the course of a few years, and after a few years of freelancing and starting up my own ventures.
The job I do now was very much informed by the minor I did in Publishing as well as the Masters of Publishing program I completed after my undergraduate degree. Coupled with my major in World Literature and second minor in Interactive Arts & Technology, I was a perfectly well rounded applicant in terms of skills, expectations, and opportunities.
In what way did your degree in World Literature help you prepare for your current role? Of the skills that you developed during your undergraduate degree, which three do you use most in your current work?
Studying World Literature (and majoring in it) was a perfect way to familiarize myself with the diverse authors, stories, poetry, and ideologies that mirror society’s past, present, and future. As opposed to receiving a straight forward education in the English canon, World Literature brought me face to face with authors of colour, complex story structures, marginalized narratives, and various other texts that the publishing scene simply needs more of. During my degree, I had no reservations about getting involved in all capacities, and began to gain the three skill sets that I use today in my job:
Event Planning and Community Involvement
As an avid volunteer for the World Literature Student Association, I’ve hosted open mics, assisted in author appearances, and generally just been very present in the important literary communities throughout the Lower Mainland. Thanks to partnerships with literary festivals and conferences, I’ve experienced first-hand the methods of marketing that I now organize in my role at Caitlin Press.
Editorial Management & Production
As the Editor-in-Chief of the fourth volume of Lyre, the World Literature student magazine, I was able to quadruple the editorial submissions as well as the published works from past editions. This opportunity to create a published work from start to finish was instrumental in giving me the confidence and general management abilities I have required throughout my career in publishing.
Literary Narrative Mapping
You know when you try and explain your favourite book to someone by comparing it to other books? This is my job, Monday to Friday, 9:30 to 5:30pm, in a variety of capacities. Having read authors from around the world and across time, I am simply very well informed on the influences and traditions writers use when bringing pen to paper. Canadian Literature (or CanLit as it’s commonly called) is undeniably a meeting of stories, ideas, and attitudes from around the world. Where else could I have been better prepared to understand this, than in the World Literature Department?
What career advice would you give to current World Literature students?
Get involved, stay involved. World Literature students have a lot of flexibility and independence to carve out their own education. This usually sounds amazing until you actually try to start your own magazine, host an event, or write a book review. But don’t be afraid! All the stuff I did in my undergrad is pathetic in comparison to what I do now, but without those little lemonade stand successes, I would never have made it this quickly into the real deal.
So, ask your professors and other faculty for help in a) reading the books you want to write/publish later, and b) exercising your skills in this safe zone. Whatever you do, make sure it doesn’t sound like they have to do a ton of work (they still do, no matter what, but they don’t have to know that in the beginning).
Knowing what you know now, is there anything that you would have done differently as an undergraduate student?
Ironically, with all my involvement and with my independence to create ventures outside of my education, I never bothered with travelling abroad or doing co-op. In retrospect, I wish I had done those things, but the reality of life is that you can’t always “do it all.” So while I’m happy with how I did my undergraduate, I still think those students who do a couple of co-op terms or travel the world for a year are just as primed for success as I was.
What would you say was your greatest learning experience as a World Literature undergraduate, one that has made a difference in your career today?
I’ve told people this before, but it’s more true with every I step I take in my career: learn how to read closely. World Literature is all about close reading texts, thinking critically, and forming cohesive written communication. Believe your teachers when they say you’re being unclear. Go read an A+ essay so you understand why following conventional essay structure can be good for you. And if you can, read your World Literature texts to the very last page, and keep them on your shelf for as long as you can. If you can close read those books, you can close read the world.