Ká dúpẹ́! Time’s Up at the Press 

Guest post by Olajide Salawu

My interesting time at University of Alberta Press has come to an end. Goodbye is hard to say! But I am not leaving the world of publishing, editing, and writing behind. That, I can say, is a permanent destiny! 

I remember the first virtual meeting I had with Douglas Hildebrand (Director & Publisher), Cathie Crooks (Associate Director), and Mark Simpson (EFS Grad Director). It was a blistering afternoon in July 2022 and I was in Osogbo, Nigeria. That introductory conversation made me fall in love with the Press. And I am most grateful for the encouragement from Mark to take up the internship role, to upgrade my professional life while preparing for my PhD candidacy exam. My colleague in the graduate studies program, Alex Ventimilla, for whom I also hold much gratitude, was persistent in luring me to see the opportunities and skills I could gather through an internship at UAlberta Press. I learned a lot from Alex in the first year of my internship (his second).

Cathie’s guidance was also invaluable on many fronts. She is in charge of marketing and sales at the Press. One of the best learning experiences was preparing the Press’s award submission packages for the Alberta Book Publishing Awards in 2023 and 2024 under her guidance. Pulling together all of the activities that we undertake for individual publications into one document was a fantastic introduction to everything that goes into publishing and selling a book, and gave me an appreciation of all the hard work that is done by the authors throughout the process. It was also a chance for me to obtain my first introduction to InDesign, a powerful design program. A large amount of time was spent drafting and preparing publicity posts and graphics for our social platforms: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And I helped to prepare publicity and sales campaigns for Black History Month and Women’s History Month. I enjoyed promoting our annual reading event, Literary Editions, along with so much other good news, from reviews to interviews to book launches. Writing blog posts for the Press was especially fun. I learned everything “from the inside:” drafting catalogue copy, the unwritten rules of email marketing, how to write crisp sales copy for holidays, how to write a pitch for a review outlet, and the intricacies of updating our title database. Altogether, it has been an enriching and rewarding experience for me. Thanks for sending me reminders to update my hours in Google Calendar. I wasn’t that meticulous with that particular process!

While the Press helped me learn many skills, I was especially glad for the journey that Acquisitions Editors Mat Buntin and Michelle Lobkowicz took me through. Reviewing authors’ proposals with Mat was really an eye-opener to the demands made upon an acquisition editor when assessing a project. The series of meetings that we had on book acquisitions and the vital points he raised were beneficial to my training as an associate acquisitions editor (coupled with my acquisition work at OlongoAfrica). Because poetry is my eternal love, I was elated that I was able to assist with the longlisting process of many brilliant manuscripts submitted for consideration for the Robert Kroetsch Series. Writing alt-text captions for our books and learning about what makes an edition truly accessible were part of an important learning curve. As a PhD student, I was curious to know how a dissertation becomes a monograph. Michelle and Mat were kind with their time in organizing workshops on the processes, revisions, and conceptual reconsiderations needed for a dissertation to become a book manuscript. 

Duncan Turner (Production Editor & Digital Coordinator) wanted me to learn as much as possible about the editorial process, so he included me on every part of the copyediting conversation for For the Public Good: Reimagining Arts Graduate Programs in Canadian Universities. The project is now reaching the final stages, and I wish the book a great launch. Let me not forget that I must now “up” my coding skills (which Duncan remarked, “are easy to acquire”!). 

Truly, the generosity of the Press team was electrifying. Friendship and team-feeling from Elisia Snyder (Administrative Assistant), Alan Brownoff (Designer), and Duncan made my stay easy. Those Wednesday production and staff check-in meetings chaired by Douglas helped me understand the significance of the contributions of every team member and contractor to the success of a book throughout its lifecycle. Thanks to Elisia for those beautiful comp copies of the books I worked on at the Press, and to Alan for our occasional chats about the music of Ali Farka Toure. I am indebted to Douglas for the constant support and providing such a rewarding environment for learning. 

When I look back to the scrupulous demands of publishing, I also recall the fun times: the BPAA publishers’ dinner, occasional snacks, gift cards, books, and emotional support unabashedly offered. This is for my wife, Lola, too, who is always pushing from the home-front. Those encouraging words and skills will definitely help me on my continuing learning journey! 

Finally, I consider it a perfect part of the ritual to have recruited Anindita Mukherjee, my colleague and friend, to join the Press. Her partnership with me at the Press soldered my faith further–not only for the professional life in publishing, but research work.

Ire gbogbo lọ́jọ́ gbogbo!  

Phrases in Yoruba:
Ká dúpẹ́: thanks/gratitude
Ire gbogbo lọ́jọ́ gbogbo!: All the best always