Monday, April 29, 2013

An Intern's Observations

by Katie Turnbloom

Frances Hodgson Burnett's observant robin-on-the-wall
in The Secret Garden
A while back, one of my supervisors joked with me, saying that I’ve had the opportunity to be a “fly on the wall… but an interactive fly!” (or Ben Weatherstaff's robin redbreast on the wall, if we're looking at Godine's edition of Burnett's The Secret Garden) with all of the meetings and out-of-office experiences I’ve been able to observe. And it’s true, in my time as an intern here at David R. Godine, Publisher, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people who occupy all ends of the literary world, the ends that stretch beyond the walls of our tiny Boston office, across the country, and towards bookshelves around the world: from buyers to authors and illustrators (and those aspiring to become such), curators, librarians, bloggers, reviewers, academics, ever-devoted interns, and amazing warehouse workers.

I’ve met and spoken with a vast group of people who encourage a book to thrive, from the very beginning when in the diligent hands of those in the publishing house, to the brave literary patriots (the librarians, buyers, reviewers, sellers, and so many others) who encourage the texts into the hands of loyal readers. Each profession takes on a different role in the life of a book; each is responsible, in myriad ways, for the birth of the book, the growth, the nourishment that allows a text to thrive and, in a best-case scenario, become timeless.

Despite their different responsibilities in the literary world, they intertwine on multiple levels, each being a significant link in the literary chain that connects reader and text. Yes, the business side is important – we have families to provide for, student loans to pay, new books to buy – but in my experiences speaking with the literary enthusiasts we work with here at Godine, the emphasis is still on the book.

One children’s book author expressed her concerns over lunch with David and I one afternoon about how her characters and settings would best capture the essence of the peoples and environments they are meant to emulate and how the visual text, or the illustrations, would effectively narrate the cultural atmosphere in her most recent manuscript. To this David replied that, of course, only an artist who knows the setting and has experienced the culture should be illustrating this particular text; the artist must not just have a vision, but also a relationship with the characters and setting.

Other raised concerns interrogate how books relate to people, where the humanity is in them, what these books actually say. Of utmost importance, too, here at Godine will always be, as it has been for over forty years, the quality of the physical book; Godine readers have come to expect great narratives (cloth)wrapped and (foil)stamped in the highest quality of production materials. On the two sales calls I’ve sat in on, Morgan, our sales manager, only has to let the buyer hold the book and flip through its pages to prove that book needs to be on their shelves. Godine is committed to quality – and our readers know quality.

The people we work with here in our Boston office, our Jaffrey warehouse, and expansively beyond our walls are book people. And at the end of the day it is our relationship with books that keep the gears churning and chain strong: between author/illustrator and their texts; texts and readers; and readers with, and as, librarians, teachers, bloggers, reviewers, theorists, curators, buyers, and, of course, other readers. After all, what good would it do striving to fulfill a motto as strong as “Books that matter, for people who care” without arming ourselves with anyone but those who are most devoted to literary quality for the sake of both the book and, of course, the reader?

1 comment:

  1. This was wonderful Katie. I especially liked your phrase "brave literary patriots" encouraging your marvelous books into the hands of those who will love and appreciate them!