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By Sophia Lorusso (she/her), Junior English Major.
Pictured above: Ciera Leanne Cox
The publishing industry has a wide variety of jobs and English majors are often the perfect fit. SOU alumni Reilly Nycum and Ciera Leanne Cox both work at Blackstone Publishing and are great examples of the diversity in this industry. Blackstone Publishing is a company founded in Ashland, Oregon and has expanded to Portland and New York.
Ciera Leanne Cox graduated from SOU in 2019 with her BA in English and now works as a manuscript editor at Blackstone publishing. As a manuscript editor, Ciera receives manuscripts from the developmental editor and reads through them, editing format, grammar, spelling, and checking for consistency in the plot and characters. After editing a manuscript, she works closely with the author to implement her suggestions. Another part of her job is proofreading – after the manuscript has been edited and is almost ready for press, checking for any last typos and design errors. In this process, Ciera usually works with the editor who worked on the original manuscript and if needed, they contact the book designer or compositor to fix design issues. Compositors put the text and pictures together for a book, magazine, and other printed projects.
During her undergraduate career at SOU, Cox worked as a PEAK assistant for the Oregon Writing Project her senior year, helping Dr. Brook Colley of the Native American Studies Program copyedited a book she had written. Ciera recalls her copyediting experience, “Copyediting parts of that book was what piqued my interest in being an editor, and it was the most standout item on my resume, according to my bosses.” The English Program constantly has opportunities like this and professors love connecting their students with internships in the publishing industry and beyond!
Pictured Above: Mansuscript editor Ciera, with her guinea pig.
Ciera finds her English major being used every day and loves helping authors achieve their dreams. Her advice to her freshman-year self is to “follow her instincts a bit more. I changed majors a couple of times before landing on English, simply because I believed nobody would take an English major seriously in the job market. I was so wrong and feel very lucky to have finally been encouraged by my family to follow my passion. The English department felt like home to me immediately and I’m so glad I made the switch.” Ciera’s experience proves that pursuing an English major can lead to an array of career opportunities.
Reilly Nycum is an Audio Proofing Specialist with Blackstone. Audio proofing entails that she reads the manuscript while listening to the audiobook to check for discrepancies: pronunciation errors, misreads, missing lines, noises and other things that need correcting. She also makes word lists for narrators to use while recording upcoming audiobooks; the word lists serve as pronunciation guides to help ease the recording process.
Pictured Above: Audio Proofing Specialist Reilly Nycum.
Reilly graduated from SOU with a BA in English and History in 2019. After graduation, Reilly pursued a three-month copywriting internship with Harry & David. She explains, “Copywriting and proofing are two very different jobs, so many of the skills don’t overlap, but it did prepare me to work in a professional environment.” Even though the internship did not give her specific skills for proofing audiobooks, she was still able to take the professional experience and apply it to her current job at Blackstone. Reilly advises that internships are always helpful to explore potential career paths, but it is important to keep in mind the skills you need for your prospective career.
She has proofed around 200 audiobooks now, and loves being a part of this process. Reilly explains, “I believe proofing makes a huge difference in how much someone enjoys listening to audiobooks and whether or not they’ll continue buying them in the future. It can ruin someone’s listening experience if a book is riddled with pronunciation errors, strange pauses, and annoying background noises. It’s important to have a good narrator and compelling writing, but there’s so much more that goes into making audiobooks than most people realize.” Every stage in publishing has a vital role in making the book sellable. Audiobooks are very important to people with disabilities and others who choose the listening experience. Reilly’s role is to make sure that audiobook listeners have an immersive experience just like readers do.
“I learned valuable skills being an English major that I think most employers look for in applicants”
— Reilly Nycum
Reilly and Ciera both said that during their time at SOU, the class ENG 556 “History of Publishing” with Dr. Ed Battistella stands out the most for them. They got to tour the Blackstone facility and learn foundations of the publishing industry. Recalling Battistella’s class, Reilly said, “Prior to this, I hadn’t known about Blackstone and visiting helped me realize that there were job opportunities for English majors outside of teaching. I learned valuable skills being an English major that I think most employers look for in applicants. Being able to write, edit, research, work under a deadline, and think critically are all skills I foresee using in pretty much any career I pursue.”
Ciera Leanne Cox’s all-time favorite book that she edited is Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher. She says, “If you’re reading this go buy a copy ASAP!”
Some of Reilly Nycum’s favorite projects have been Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, And Then She Vanished by Nick Jones, and The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth De Veer.
If you’re looking for opportunities like the one Ciera Cox got to experience through SOU or Reilly’s internship at Harry & David, keep your eye out for the English Program’s weekly newsletter. Department Chair Margaret Perrow highlights internships, contests, and job opportunities for English majors and minors. This can be great ways to build your resume and gain valuable experiences!
If you’re interested in sharing your story with the English Program blog, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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