A Guest Post by Olajide Salawu
Hello! I am Olajide Salawu, a new PhD intern at University of Alberta Press. I am the fourth in the pantheon of amazing doctoral students and look forward to emulating their successful work at the Press.
I commenced my PhD Program with the Department of English and Film Studies in January 2021, attending class remotely from Nigeria, joining in-person the following fall. The Edmonton chapter of my story is nothing short of a thrill.
My journey into literature came early, learning folktales at the feet of my grandfather, who introduced me to the oral African literary world. I now possess BA and MA degrees in Literature from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. My academic adventure opened my eyes to the richness of the book world. I am fascinated by a book’s life cycle, which begins fledglingly from the mind, then onto the blank page, and finally moves through the processes of production that follow before the reader’s consumption. As a writer, each time I check my mailbox for a contributor’s copy, I love the mint smell of a book, the experience of holding it, the reading practice, and the aesthetics of the page. I wonder about the amount of labour that goes into collecting drafts that eventually become a handful of stories that can change the world, or at least the way we see it.
Coming from an environment with a prospering literary enterprise, I believe that expanding the publishing market in Black-diaspora Canada would offer further insights into the inclusion and diversity challenges that confront us today. These concerns were a springboard for me into the editorial and publishing field. In addition, literary history in Nigeria has shaped my interest in print culture. I have been guided by these questions in my investigations: which forces dictate the literary scene in Nigeria? What is the origin of alt-publishing like Onitsha Market Literature? How is publishing instrumental to the survival of Indigenous Nigerian languages and cultures? I have attempted to answer some of these questions in a recent article.
I started freelancing during my master’s degree program in Ife where I assisted writers and graduate students by proofreading their theses and reading drafts of stories. This was intriguing for me as well as challenging. I would agree that my journey started there, learning, sharpening my editorial skills, and strengthening my eye for little details. Since then, I have been asked by friends and academics to participate in peer-review processes on a number of editorial projects too.
Through my work and experience, I learned that the success of a book is not only in the fitness of the ideas in it, but also in the language that conveys it; the task of which does not only lie with the writer alone but also the various hands through which a draft passes before the final birth of a book. I have been fortunate enough to work as a Managing Editor at Olongo Africa, a member of The Brick House Cooperative, which offers immense opportunities for young and veteran African writers in telling their stories. In my year as a Fulbright scholar at North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University, I took a non-credit course in Editing and Proofreading where I understood that editorial cannot be summed into a single office duty. There are levels such as developmental editing, copyediting, line editing, and so on.
Finding myself in a research community like the University of Alberta, with its strong commitment to training young researchers like me, is a big step into what I have always hoped for in the field of English. A partial concentration in Editing and Proofreading will be an addition to my scholarship, and by exposing me to the rigour of publishing methodologies, help me see how my research can impact society and humanity at large. While I am currently looking critically at Internal Migration in Postcolonial Nigeria, this internship is a career advantage for the future whether that be in working at a press, setting up my own publishing company, or serving as an academic journal editor.
Although I have only spent a week at University of Alberta Press, I have met amazing people who are eager to teach me and extend my knowledge of book business beyond writing. I look ahead for what the future holds here at the Press!