How to turn an English major into a career

How to turn an English major into a career
Samantha Vanderberg '12 works on her internship at Zondervan, a local publishing company.

For as long as I can remember, I have been reading and writing. Some of my earliest memories involve The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Nancy Drew.

I always knew I would study English, but for my first two years at Calvin, I thought I wanted to teach. After my first classroom experiences, I wondered if what I really liked about teaching was editing students’ papers and helping them develop their voice and style.

Fast-forward to my senior year—I applied and interviewed for an editorial internship at Zondervan, one of the largest Christian publishing companies in the world. I was thrilled when my supervising editor, Bob Hudson, told me I would be his spring intern.

Being an English major at Calvin taught me to be a critical reader, pay attention to detail and consistency issues, use correct but not overbearing grammar, be succinct and cut redundancies, and be gracious in reviewing others’ work. I carried these skills and my love of literature into my internship.

At Zondervan, I tore a book apart to see how it’s constructed, learned about skills that every editor should have, read The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, proofread book covers, studied the psychological impact of typography and design, considered word connotations and audience needs, copyedited Tim LaHaye’s Brink of Chaos and attended publishing board meetings.

My English degree, combined with the Zondervan internship, makes me feel ready to join the publishing industry.The internship also gave me the skill and confidence to apply to graduate school at NYU for my master of science in publishing.

At Calvin's biennial Festival of Faith and Writing, Newbery Award-winning author and a dear professor of mine, Gary Schmidt, said, “If you want to be a writer, you must love the utensils of your art. Love words—love their sounds, love their meanings.”

If I want to be an editor, I must love books, words, book covers, Microsoft Word, my Webster's dictionary, The Chicago Manual of Style, stories and my editing pencil.

And I do.

VERGE: winter 2012

First-Year Experience