Part IV: A User’s Guide to the Practicum
by Nicole Aronis
It’s the end of the semester.
The anthology is finished. The posters have been taken down. The senior readings have come and gone. It’s time for me to graduate.
And what did I have to do to get to this point?
Just produce a whole book.
Oh yeah, you could say I’m a little exhausted. But it’s okay. Because now, I have skills I can use, experience to show my employers, and a real-live book in my hands that I helped to design.
But you don’t get the whole picture of the course from the description in the catalogue. So, for anybody out there considering taking the Publishing Practicum (and stop considering already and just do it, really, because it’s amazing), here are a few tips for getting through to that awesome book at the end of the tunnel.
One: do not throw your Bookbuilding notes away. Don’t sell the InDesign and Photoshop manuals. Don’t even be tempted. Trust me when I say that I was carrying all of these things around for months and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do my designs (see interior spread above).
Two: go ahead and get used to the idea that you’ll be imbibing copious amounts of caffeine this semester. From copyediting to the design to the class sessions you’re going to spend picking apart and voting on every little detail, coffee is going to be your best friend throughout.
Three: clear your schedule. Seriously. There’s nothing that’s so important that you have to procrastinate coming into The Pub Lab for. Get your work done, and try to get it done early. If you’re like me, you’ll also be working on your thesis (please refer to tip two for this).
Four: learn about Google Drive and other cloud methods. Pick your favorite and use it. It’s a lifesaver when it comes to having all your work together so you don’t have to pick through your inbox every time you want to work on something. And do like we did this semester: use a shared drive so everyone’s stuff can be available for everyone all the time. (You’re also going to want a flash drive so you can double-back-up your files; you know how horrible crashes are, and sometimes there are going to be other people working on your Pub Lab desktop.)
Five: track changes, Chicago Manual of Style, and Merriam-Webster’s are now your second, third, and fourth best friends (behind coffee). If you think you’re a good copy editor, you’re not. The good ones have a longstanding relationship with these three and they’ll be together until the end; make sure you will be too. There’s no such thing as a perfect copy editor.
Six: collaborate. Your head will explode unless you have the other practicum students helping you along the way. Do your work when it’s due and help out the other students if you have a few extra minutes. Go to Einstein’s or Hawk’s Nest together. Sit down in the Kenan lobby and talk about the projects before or after the practicum class meeting. It’s the only way I got through it, and it’s going to be the only way you get through it too.
Seven: you’re almost done, so don’t let senioritis ruin your motivation to be creative. You’ve probably only got a semester or two left before you’re heading out into that big, scary place called the real world. Don’t let that affect the anthology. Because once you’re done and you know you put everything you had into it, you are going to be so happy.
So, all in all, aside from the sleep deprivation and the eye strain, it’s all worth it. Don’t wuss out. Don’t panic. Don’t think that you can’t do it. If I can do it, you can certainly do it, and probably better, since you have my advice to guide you.
So relax. Sign up for the class. Get excited.
You’ll be sorry if you don’t.