By Alyssa Bender
The publishing industry can be a little mysterious for those of us who don’t work inside it. I sat down with Religion & Theology Editorial Assistant Marcela Maxfield to discover the daily grind of one of the many people at Oxford University Press (OUP) who shepherd books from idea to crisp bound paper.
What drew you to work for OUP in the first place? What do you think about that now?
One of my professors in college was published by OUP and he suggested that I email his editor to ask about internship possibilities. Now when I look back I think that if I had known more about the company, or that the internship might turn into a full-time job, I would have been way more stressed out about applying for it.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found about working at OUP?
I think everything was surprising at first: the amount of detail at each stage of the process; the number of people responsible for one book; the number of books one person is responsible for (see what I did there?). This is my first experience in publishing and the first year has been a huge learning curve. Actually, that might be the most surprising thing I’ve found: how much I didn’t know about the industry.
What’s the least surprising?
The least surprising thing I’ve found about working at OUP… the books, I guess? I was pretty sure those would be a part of the deal.
What is the most important lesson you learned during your first year on the job?
Write everything down! We’re working on so many different things simultaneously that unless it goes on the to-do list, it will be immediately erased from my brain.
What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?
Check my email.
If you could change one thing about working for OUP, what would you change and why?
The cubicles. One day I got a headache from staring at my computer screen. When I tried to look around to give my eyes a rest, I realized that almost every surface around me is less than four feet away from my face. I might be slightly claustrophobic, though.
What is the strangest thing currently on or in your desk?
Paper from a fortune cookie that says “You love Chinese Food”.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Bossypants by Tina Fey.
Open the book you’re currently reading and turn to page 75. Tell us the title of the book, and the third sentence on that page.
In Between Days. “The girl in the pool.”
What’s your favorite book?
I don’t think I have one favorite book, but the one that inspired me to study literature in a serious way was Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
- Sunscreen (that’s just practical)
- Tarp (because every survival story involves someone’s life getting saved by collecting rainwater or building a fort with it)
- Sawyer from Lost (#teamsawyer)
Who inspires you most in the publishing industry and why?
I’m inspired by many of the people I work with—a lot of intelligent, ambitious, and kind people.
What will you be doing once you’ve completed this Q&A?
According to my to-do list it looks like I will be updating some of my review projects. Part of my job is sending out proposals or manuscripts we are considering for publication. This involves sending invitations to scholars in the field and, if they agree, mailing them the material for review.
Tell us about one of your proudest moments at work.
There have been two times this last year when I’ve been able to suggest ideas for books, one for a series called What Everyone Needs to Know, and another for a group trying to come up with books that use popular online content. The feeling that I am contributing creatively to this company is very gratifying.
Marcela Maxfield is an Editorial Assistant on the Religion and Theology list. She started working at OUP at the end of September 2012. She previously interned briefly on the Economics list.