On the Books: An Interview With Elizabeth Jahns

For quite a long time I have been very fortunate to have book-related professionals reach out to me to read and review various books among other things. These people have inspired me to start a new series called “On the Books,” a Q & A feature with authors, publicists, editors, publishers, interns among others to tell me about their experiences in the book biz. My first interview is with Elizabeth Jahns, who interned with Beacon Publishing Group. Ms. Jahns was instrumental in getting my interview with Kip Addotta. She impressed me with her professionalism and enthusiasm and I thought she would make for a good interview.

First, can I get some background information on your college education, major and work history.

I attended Sarah Lawrence College and received a Bachelor of Arts degree, concentrating in English and Creative Writing. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to work with words. However, when I got to college, I wanted to explore different subjects and see what else was out there, just to make sure that books/writing was really what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing, since I’d never really done anything else. I considered majoring in Political Science, in Philosophy, and even (very briefly) going Pre-Med. What I wanted to do, above all, was make the world a better place. Becoming a writer or a literary agent seemed a trivial thing in comparison to following the path of, say, Mother Teresa. I completed internships with Student World Assembly (a now defunct nonprofit whose main goal was to raise global awareness regarding human rights issues and to get college students involved in the process) and the Mary J. Blige Center for Women (a center in Yonkers, NY that offers programs for women that empower them to pursue personal goals and become self-sufficient). However, after a couple years of this, I realized that what I truly wanted to do was work with words, either by writing or in the publishing industry, or both, and that I would strive to make the world a better place by whatever means were available to me through those channels.

After college, my husband and I moved to Columbia, Missouri, where I got a job as a barista and wrote during my free time. I am currently working as a Financial Associate at a bank here in Columbia. We are planning to relocate to Kansas City within the next few months, where I believe that more publishing opportunities will be available to me.

How did you get your internship and why Beacon? What were your duties? Describe a typical day. What challenges did you face and what was the best thing your internship? What advice would you give to other interns?

This is the very first publishing internship I’ve done. I had been searching for a remote internship on Indeed.com, as I was eager to gain experience in publishing and build my skill set, and I saw that Beacon Publishing Group had posted a position that would allow me to do just that. My duties so far have been to query book bloggers and reviewers who may be interested in reviewing our recent publications and/or interviewing our authors. Since I am completing this internship remotely, I can’t really say what a typical day looks like. Usually, I’m sitting at my laptop sending out these queries on my lunch hour at work or after I get home in the evening.

The best thing about my internship has been the experience I’ve gained by seeing how a small publishing house gets their publications in the public eye. Media coverage and bestsellers don’t just happen; a lot of work goes into it behind the scenes.

As far as pieces of advice for other interns, I have two that I think are important. Number one: do your best. This may sound trite, but it is something that will set you apart from others. If you are consistently pleasant and upbeat, while delivering impeccable work that you’ve obviously spent valuable time working on, you are going to catch someone’s eye. Number two: keep in touch with your internship supervisor(s) after the internship is over. Add them on LinkedIn and other social media, and regularly like/comment on their posts. Send them articles that you think they would enjoy. Keep on their radar. Building relationships like this is crucial in any industry. No one can get to the top alone.

 What are your future plans?

My future plans are to move with my husband to Kansas City within the next few months, where I hope that I’ll find more opportunities to pursue a career in publishing. I want to continue gaining experience by completing remote internships, eventually transitioning to paid online work, such as freelance writing. I would love to get back to New York City at some point, although this is more of a long-term goal right now.

Favorite books and why?

My two favorite books in the world are The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I read them over and over again. The sense of disillusionment and loss that permeates The Great Gatsby is something that I relate to more and more as I grow older. I don’t mean that that’s all my life is–definitely not! But those are sensations that I think many people feel at some point in their lives. The characters in the novel are also larger than life (as were F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald themselves), which is why I think it has translated so well into film, and which is something that I enjoy in general. My friends would not hesitate to describe me as “extra,” an adjective that I proudly embrace, so it’s not surprising that this is the kind of novel toward which I gravitate.

As for The Bell Jar. When I first read it in high school, I couldn’t believe that Sylvia Plath, a woman who had died over a quarter century before my birth, had somehow reached into my consciousness and plucked out these secret feelings and thoughts that I thought were just mine. It was a realization that I wasn’t alone in my particular darkness. (Like Plath, I also dropped out of college temporarily due to my declining mental health.) Each time I read it, I feel the same way. I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not imagining this patriarchal oppression (even now, 55 years after the novel’s original publication), and by the fact that another female head has housed these same dark and self-destructive thoughts. And, most of all, I’m consoled by the fact that this well-educated, twenty-something young protagonist, with whom I seem to have a lot in common, also struggled with anxiety and doubt on her journey toward selfhood and fulfillment.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for your thoughtful questions!

 

 

 

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