Over spring break, eight Rocky Mountain College students traveled to New York City with English professor Ashley Kunsa as a part of the Writing and Publishing course.
During the trip, students met and interviewed Harper-Collins representatives and other representatives in the publishing industry.
The class first met with Ellen Schecter, a children’s book author, former writer for the children’s television show “The Magic School Bus,” and producer for “Reading Rainbow.”
In addition to writing numerous children’s textbooks for Scholastic, Schecter also wrote a memoir detailing her battles with lupus and peripheral neuropathy. One valuable piece of advice she gave to the class of aspiring writers was, “take advantage of every opportunity.”
The next representative students met with was the publicity director of Harper-Collins’ New York branch, Katherine Beitner. Beitner’s job focuses on the marketing aspect of the book publishing industry. Her near 20 years of experience and expertise in the industry made her an invaluable source of knowledge for students as they asked her questions.
Later in the week, students met Rachel Kahan, the executive editor at William Morrow, an imprint of Harper-Collins. Kahan described her personal journey and shared insight with students about her current responsibilities as an editor of multiple book projects coming out in 2019 and 2020.
In addition, Kahan’s editorial assistant, Alivia Lopez, shared her story of how she came to work for Harper-Collins after completing one of the company’s competitive internships.
Both women shared the details of their job responsibilities such as acquisition, requisition, the editing process, marketing, and book production, to name a few.
Students were able to learn about the processes of the publishing industry directly from industry professionals.
Kahan emphasized how much she loves working on books that really make a difference in society. Using her platform as an editor to shine light on minority voices in the publishing industry is a passion for Kahan — bringing more diverse stories to the American book market in order to expand the public’s taste while also combating stereotypes of different ethnic groups.
Kahan advised students to “Read books out of your comfort zone.” She also explained to students that each book published takes approximately 2,000 human work hours to complete.
Students not only met representatives from Harper-Collins, but also with agents in industry.
Students spoke with agents like Stephanie Delman of Greenburger Associates, who described the process of obtaining query letters from potential authors, reviewing them, and working alongside publishers, editors and illustrators.
When not meeting with publishing officials, students were granted opportunities to attend various cultural events and visit cultural institutions within New York City.
These institutions included the American Museum of Natural History, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Students also took trips to Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Apollo Theater. They visited places like the Nuyorican Poets Café and the KGB Bar.
Some students attended Broadway shows like “Mean Girls” and “Hamilton: An American Musical.”
Overall, the trip provided Rocky students with a diverse cultural experience, valuable insights into the publishing world, and a thrilling adventure in the Big Apple.