Minutes before the airplane landed, I knew I was not in Kansas anymore… I am just kidding with all of you. I happen to come from New York. But, I have come to a land that I never thought of coming: El Paso, Texas.
I bet a lot of people would instantly assume that I have come here to do some work with immigrants because I am coming to a place very close to the border between Mexico and US. I don’t know, I get the sense people would just think something completely opposite to what I have really come here to do. To answer your questions, I found an internship in Cinco Puntos Press, which is a publishing company that exists since 1985. Their main aim when the founders, Bobby Byrd and Lee Byrd, created Cinco Puntos was to publish stories that would represent different diverse groups of people in literature. What I have been able to discover, in the little time that I have been here, is that they publish literary work that focuses beyond the Chicano (Mexican-American) experience. I mean right now I am proofreading a book, called Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel, which is coming out in October. The story is about an Indian-American girl, specifically Gujarati, who deals with her parents’ divorce and a dreadful sexual abuse experience through hip-hop in the early 90s. The book takes place in Moloka’i, Hawaii, and what makes it interesting and compelling is this clash of cultures in this remote place we do not hear about too often. Mrs. Byrd told me that the great thing about publishing books, such as Rani Patel, is that the book is a vehicle to another world; a portal that yearns for other people to glance at a completely different world from ours.
The book won the BEA (BookExpo America) Book Buzz Award in the YA (Young Adult) section and it is getting ready to come out this upcoming October. But first I am going through the text, proofreading it, before the press prints the all copies that will be distributed all over the country’s bookstores. In addition, as a way to promote the book, I have also been sending ARCs (Advance Readers Copy) to different critics and reviewers all over the nation, including at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, among others.
What I love about the working environment at Cinco Puntos is that it is quite calm and informal. The staff is incredibly amicable and they all want me to learn and glean as much as possible about the publishing industry through their internship. For instance, John Byrd (the vice-president and son of the founders), told me to read The Chicago Manual of Style. He said that every editor needs to know this manual by heart. The book sort of introduces you to a new world. It explains you the dos and don’ts of being an editor reviewing a writer’s work or a writer submitting work to an editor. If you are an editor reviewing a writer’s work, there are even several different marks that you need to learn when proofreading—always, of course, with a red pen, which John Byrd emphasized very well.
I think the world of work is different to my academic life, in the sense that it focuses on two aspects: quality but also making business. Selling a book is not easy, especially these days with a lot of self-publishing books, meaning way more competition. A book must sell, that is the primary concern that an editor questions when reviewing a manuscript. In my academic life, I do not worry so much about whether what I am reading is publishable or not. Or whether the work has been read by a lot of people or by very few. At school, we concern more about interpreting what we read and understanding it. However, this internship has allowed me to do both, hone my skills interpreting and close-reading texts, but in addition to learn more about the business wise aspect of it.
I am quite content working this summer at Cinco Puntos. My bosses are nurturing and caring. They care about me as a human being and my learning—they bring this human quality that is unforgettable, and that I bet it is hard to obtain if I were interning, perhaps, in New York. I mean, they even bothered to pick me up at the airport and have invited me twice to their house for dinner and it has only been a week.
The skills that I am learning here will obviously transfer to the way I will interpret texts in the future and it has also opened a door for me to conduct more research on the different efforts that have been made to diversify the book industry. Mrs. Byrd and Mr. Byrd have their own take on the subject and it is refreshing and nuanced. I think, whether I decide to work in the publishing industry in the future, my time at Cinco Puntos Press will definitely prepare me for me to plunge into it.
Santiago Montoya ’19