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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Catching up with Stuart Roberts

By Alyssa Bender

In an effort to get to know our Oxford University Press staff better, we’re featuring interviewing our staff in different offices. Read on for our Q&A with Stuart Roberts, editorial assistant for our religion and theology Academic/Trade books in New York.

Editorial Assistant Stuart Roberts
Editorial Assistant Stuart Roberts. Photo by and courtesy of Alyssa Bender.

What was your first job in publishing?

Does paperboy count? My first related internship was at the mighty Ugly Duckling Presse.

What publication do you read regularly to stay up to date on industry news?

There are many! Some of my favorites: MobyLives from Melville House. Galley Cat and Publishers Marketplace. Book Business Mag, PageView for academic publishing.

For book news and reviews: LARB, The New York Review of Books, Sunday Book Review, Book Forum, The New Yorker‘s Page Turner. Book Beast is doing some very cool stuff. I try also to stay up on the larger media climate. For this my go to is the Media and Advertising section of NYT.

What is the strangest thing currently on or in your desk?

My favorite Möbius & Ruppert single hole brass pencil sharpener. It’s indestructible, fits in my fifth pocket, and does its job well.

What one resource/site would you recommend to someone trying to get into publishing?

People in the industry itself — reach out, make relationships, go on informational interviews. Publishing is an intricate world with many entry points and places of interest; stay curious.

What are you reading right now?

Javier Marías’ new novel The Infatuations. It’s a haunting, beautiful murder mystery. I’ve already gifted several copies. Bedside, I’m enjoying evenings with one of Oxford University Press (OUP)’s own — The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean. It’s an adventure story at heart.

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.

The Infatuations: “All those speaking objects have been left dumb and meaningless, as if a blanket had been thrown over them to silence and soothe them, making them think that night has come, or as if they, too, regretted the loss of their owner and had withdrawn instantaneously, strangely aware that they had become redundant, futile, and were thinking: “What will we do here now?”

aeneidWhat’s your favorite book?

Oh jeez… Virgil’s Aeneid? Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet? Goodnight Moon?

If you didn’t work in publishing, what would you be doing?

That’s a great question.

What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

Pull the chain on my green glass banker’s lamp, assess the day’s work, and like a moth to a flame, handle the morning’s email.

Who inspires you most in the publishing industry and why?

The list is long. I look up to all the talent that fills the halls of OUP. I admire the creative and experimental ways Molly Barton is handling digital at Penguin. Also Michael Pietsch at Hachette. He has an infectious intellect and determined optimism that has always been and always will be necessary in publishing.

What will you be doing once you’ve completed this Q&A?

Thanks for reminding me: I have to mail a manuscript to Germany, generate book cover ideas with an author, draft back cover copy, get budgets in order for a few forthcoming paperback editions, grab lunch with a friend at Grand Central Oyster Bar— “The Freshest Seafood in Manhattan”.

What is the most exciting project you have been part of while working at OUP?

I’m working on a monograph by a very young, talented scholar that I’m excited about. It’s his debut work and I think it will be an important book.

What is your favorite word?


What drew you to work for OUP in the first place? What do you think about that now?

OUP has successfully navigated and shaped 400-odd years of publishing, and I think they’ve done quite a good job. Here’s to 400 more —

Stuart Roberts is an Editorial Assistant at Oxford University Press, where he can be found ushering manuscripts through their Madison Avenue offices. He is a 2012 graduate of the Columbia Publishing Course. Have a question for Stuart? Email him at stuart[dot]roberts[at]oup[dot]com.

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