Wrapping Up the Semester & Returning Home

It’s only been a few days, my semester in NYC feels like a dream, and I’m already missing the people I met there! But there will be no sadness in this post, only fond memories and a celebration of my time in NYC! Here’s how my semester wrapped up:

During my second-to-last weekend, my roommate and I decided get dressed up, do our makeup (i.e. she did both hers and mine because I know nothing about makeup), and go to the Museum of Illusions and take fun pictures together!

And as always, my roommate and I concluded our weekend by meeting up with the local chapter of the international writing group, Shut Up & Write!. The group meets for an hour every Wednesday and Sunday evening where participants literally gather to write silently for an hour. This group has been key in helping me complete my final project.

For those of you who don’t remember: the NY Arts Program is a little different than most off-campus programs in that instead of enrolling in classes, most of your time is taken up by internship(s). This is paired with seminars, artist talks, journaling and a final project. Final projects can be anything that you want them to be, as long as they’re in-depth and you’re applying something that you learned over the semester.

For my final project, since I was interning at a science fiction & fantasy publishing company, I decided to continue working on the next draft of my fantasy novel (a story I actually started in Dr. Trembley’s Novel Writing class last spring!). I ended up turning in 100 pages to my advisor! This was not even the first quarter of my planned out plot, but that’s okay because if my internship with DAW Books has taught me anything, it’s that fantasy books can be SUPER long. (As in, google “list of longest books” and you’ll find a DAW book on that list.)

In between my last two weekends, my roommate and I managed to snag some lottery tickets to the Broadway show, Beetlejuice, on its last night of previews! It was such a bizarre, but hilarious performance and I’m so glad I was able to see another Broadway show before I left NYC (I saw Anastasia the first weekend I was there).

beetlejuice broadway curtains

Now, for my final weekend in NYC, both my parents flew down to help me pack (I had way too many things, and this didn’t even include the many books I accumulated over the semester and had to mail home) and explore the city. We visited Central Park and simply walked around for a couple of hours and caught up, which was so gratifying and refreshing. We also went to this chocolate restaurant called Max Brenner, stopped by the famous Strand bookstore, and visited the Statue of Liberty. Here are a couple of pictures, most of which my father took, because he’s much better about taking pictures than I am:

My parents and I flew back to Michigan on the morning of April 29th. As I said before, I was sad to leave the people I met in NYC, but I was very much ready to return home. It has been weird readjusting (I have to use a car to get to places now?! Omg, there’s so much green grass everywhere!), but I’m glad to be back for the summer. Seriously, how is it already summer?? I don’t understand–time flew by!

My time with the NY Arts Program was an amazing experience and have no doubt that I made the right choice by enrolling in it. I learned so much about the publishing industry and grew in so many ways.

New York was an incredible trip, but I can only hope that it was the first leg of a longer journey, and that I’ll be able to find my way back there in the coming years.

NYC Differences

aerial view of Manhattan

As my time here in New York begins to come to a close, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the differences I’ve noticed between Michigan and NYC. Given that I’m still in the United States, you wouldn’t think there would be so many cultural differences, but there honestly are!

Here’s my current list of differences:

Multi-Level Stores: Everything here is so squished and condensed! It’s a rarity to walk into a store and for there to not be an escalator or two. I must have gone up at least four escalators when my roommate and I went to see Captain Marvel in theaters (it was so weird)! Even a few Starbucks here will have a partial upper floor with additional seating (because abundant seating is also a rarity in NYC).

No one owns a car: Instead, everyone uses the subway, which makes sense, because the drivers in NYC are crazy! Even though the metro is dingy and breaks down frequently, it’s super convenient! It’s so nice to be able to hop on a train and simply read a book while you wait to get to your destination. I have been purchasing 30 Day Unlimited passes, which means I can take the subway as much as I want!

Everything here is so much more expensive: I mean, I knew this going in, but I still mourn my wallet’s empty state.

There’s no green or trees here: If you want to see trees or grass or really anything that isn’t a dull gray, you have to go to Central Park (at least in Manhattan, parks are more frequent in other places). It’s kind of a bummer. Then again, Central Park is such an expansive and beautiful place. My first time going there, I wandered around and explored, and it was really peaceful.

Gray Slush: Any snow we get quickly turns into a gray slush that makes my toes freeze. I mean yes, I’m totally grateful that I missed out on that Polar Vortex everyone in Michigan was suffering from early on in the year, but I’m still kind of sad that I haven’t seen real snow this year. Who would have thought?

It’s dirty and gross and smells everywhere: Might want to come with nose plugs. If not, you get used to it…somewhat.

It’s easy to find your own unique corner of NYC: There’s so many events and meetups happening, it’s so easy to find your own niche. I’ve been able to go to some many writing and book events that I wouldn’t have had access to in Michigan!

Never ending activity and noises: Gotta love police cars zooming by at 2am, though in all honestly, Hope has prepared me well for this with the railroad tracks that go by on campus.

Diversity: There are so many different cultural corners to NYC! You have places like Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Poland, etc. The weekend before Fat Tuesday, I made my way down to Little Poland and my friend and I got pączkis from an authentic Polish bakery.

Everything is so easily reachable:  I can walk out of the New Yorker and cross the street to reach CVS. Target is only a 7 minute walk away. You walk to almost any sort of store or fast food place.

One Dollar Pizza: I appreciate the existence of $1 slices of pizza so much. Honestly, I purchase it on a weekly basis; my roommate and I have made it a tradition. (And it’s also easily reachable: only a 5 minute walk!)

 

Regardless of these differences, NYC has really grown on me during my time here. I sincerely hope I’ll be able to return in the near future.

Interning with a Publishing Company

books published by DAW

Two months in (over halfway done with the semester, where did the time go?) and you’re probably wondering what I’m actually doing here in New York, huh? Well, I’m participating in the New York Arts Program (NYAP), where the primary focus is to set students up in internships that appeal to their creative passions. I’m specifically enrolled in the Writing & Communications section, though the NYAP also works with students involved in visual art, theater, and music.

For the program, I’m interning with a small publishing company called DAW Books (named after one of its founders, Donald A. Wollheim) for 30 hours every week. Despite being located in the Penguin Random House building, the company is actually private, meaning that the two amazing women who own the company, Sheila Gilbert and Betsy Wollheim, make the final decisions.

Though DAW is small, they have a lot of big names in fantasy and science fiction associated with them, including Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, C.J. Cherryh, Kristen Britain, Seanan McGuire, Merecedes Lackey, and Tanith Lee.

DAW Books is run by a handful of people, so my internship isn’t in one department or another, but allows me to witness all aspects of the publishing world and gear my internship towards what I am interested in (which is primarily editorial, but honestly, everything fascinates me).

internship badge

Lately, a lot of my job has been reading manuscripts from the slush pile (unsolicited manuscripts aka work from writers not represented by an agent). I’m required to read the first 100 pages of the manuscript and then I decide if I want to “reject” it or recommend it for further consideration. If I want to recommend a manuscript, I have to read it to its entirety. With each manuscript I read, I have to write a “book report” for it, which includes filling out four categories: overview, summary, review, and other thoughts. So far a lot of the manuscripts have been…erm, cringey, but I’ve learned that’s to be expected with the slush pile.
(UPDATE: After meeting with my sponsor–who was rather pleased with my reports–I’m now allowed to read as little as the first 20 pages. *brushes shoulder in attempted nonchalant manner*)

At my internship, I get to juggle a lot of other back burner projects, as well. I regularly check google alerts for book reviews to add to the quotes database, update their cover catalog, and send out semi-weekly emails with publishing news. I’m also working on a project that involves updating online information for some of DAW’s backlist titles.

In addition, I have the frequent duties of copying manuscript pages with edits (in case the original document gets lost), proofreading covers & dust jackets, compiling praise quotes, and helping organize books.

DAW is incredible in many ways such as providing free lunch and coffee everyday to all their employees, including me! As a woman who hates cooking and who is currently in NYC where everything is expensive, this is literally a godsend.

As a book nerd completely smitten with the fantasy genre, interning at DAW Books has been an invaluable experience so far. Not only has my knowledge of the publishing industry grown leaps and bounds, but my time at DAW has reaffirmed my dream to pursue a career in publishing after college.

Living in a Hotel for the Semester

Much to my disappointment, it is not “The Suite Life of Keri and her roommate, Christine.” (They don’t let residents ride on the luggage carts! What a shocker, right?)

But, yes, I am living in a hotel called the New Yorker, located in Midtown. In the hotel, there are about 6 floors that belong to EHS (Educational Housing Services), which is the housing program that the New York Arts Program uses.

I know that I’ve been here for 5+ weeks, but I thought you guys might be curious about where I’m living, so I wanted to devote a whole post to it and supply a few pictures!

My room, which I already stated that I share with my roommate, Christine (who is an awesome gal with pink hair and a passion for comics) overlooks 8th Avenue. It’s a pretty standard dorm setup, with partially lofted beds, desks, and two short dressers. We also have the nice addition of a mini fridge and an attached bathroom!

My room is located on the 9th floor. On the 15th floor is where all the EHS facilities are located, such as the main office, mail room, a lounge, TV room, and a quiet work space.

(Please forgive the slightly darkened pictures; I took them at nighttime when they’re weren’t many people around.)

There’s also a really classy kitchen and a small gym, but I don’t use those enough to take pictures of them (not to mention, I get self-conscious about taking pictures in a public setting).

Fun tidbit for you dog lovers: The Westminster Dog Show was last week at Madison Square Garden (which is literally across the street from the hotel!) and a bunch of the dogs and their owners stayed at the New Yorker. Let me tell you: walking through a lobby full of dogs was a fabulous addition to my day.

And now for the book portion of this blog (because it wouldn’t be a post by me if it didn’t talk about books for a little bit!)… Because I’m technically a student living in NYC, I was able to get a New York Public Library card! This means I now own 3 library cards! Do you see this? New York has 92 branches! I’m swooning.

new york city library card

Last week at the library, I listened to a panel called “Mid-Sentence | Modern Lovers: Changing Faces in Romance Fiction” which was about the (slow) changing tide in the romance book industry to include more diverse protagonists that accurately reflect its wide range of readers. In my reading, I generally lean towards YA (young adult) and fantasy novels, so I wasn’t all that familiar with the genre, which is why I decided to go! I’m slowly pushing the bounds of my comfort zone, traveling to places by myself and exploring events that favor interests similar to mine, but that are also mixed with something that isn’t familiar to me.

So there you have it: an insight into where I’m living and what I’ve been up to lately. My anxiousness and stress seems to have finally settled, and now with my unlimited metro card, I’m eager to continue expanding the edge of my comfort zone!

Maintaining My Book-Nerd Status Away from Home

As an English major and a book-nerd, I eat, sleep, and breathe books, so it only makes sense that I talk about them here!

I’m slowly adapting to the busy life style of New York and starting to explore events around the city. Of course, my favorite excursions have included hitting up nearby bookstores and comic stores with my roommate, especially the times when I got my books signed and meet some of my favorite authors. I’ve only managed to go to a couple events so far, but I will no doubt be keeping my eyes open for more!

On January 17th, I hit the subway and made my way up to the Barnes & Noble on 86th street to hear 3 YA (young adult) fantasy authors (Roshani Chokshi, Melissa Albert, S.A. Chakraborty) speak and celebrate the release of Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves. I had been fortune enough to win an ARC (advance reader copy) of the book beforehand, so I was ecstatic to hear and meet the author. I was completely unaware of the event until a couple days prior when I was googling “Free Events in NYC,” so it was such a coincidence that I had been reading the book at the same time!

The week after that, on January 23rd, I hit up the famous Strand bookstore to see Holly Black, co-author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, and author of the Tithe series, The Cruel Prince, and the recently released The Wicked King. Holly Black is amazing and has been dubbed by her many fans as the “Queen of Faeries” (she even has the bright blue hair and pointy ears to prove it!).

(As you can see above, I totally failed to ask Holly Black for a picture, so my roommate only managed to snap a quick pic of me getting my book signed, hence my head being cut of in the picture)

One of my favorite things about book events is the sense of community it provides. When the author references their own work, everyone in the crowd knows what’s they’re talking about, allowing for inside jokes and shared laughs. A lot of my friends don’t read the same type of books I do (or at least not to the same extent that I do), so it’s comforting to sit beside readers similar to myself and “fangirl” alongside them.

And as a book-nerd, hearing all of these brilliant ladies speak was insanely inspiring. From hearing Holly Black explain how she never writes a book right on the first try, to Roshani Chokshi stating that writing projects don’t have expiration dates and that “they won’t go bad if you give them time,” really spoke to me as a student, artist and a writer. Not to mention, my TBR pile (to-be-read pile) has grown immensely from hearing these writers speak.

Prior to NYC, I had only been to a handful of book events and I have ambitious plans to change that this semester. I have no doubt that by the end of the semester, I will be leaving NYC with a suitcase full of books.

A Journey to the Past + NYC

It had been 8+ years since I had been on an airplane, so flying into New York was exciting in more ways then one. Given that I’m participating in a domestic program, I was lucky enough to have my mom fly down and spend the weekend with me before orientation on Monday. In order to get reasonably priced tickets, our flight had a layover in Chicago. How it makes sense to go from Detroit to Chicago and then to New York City, I do not know.

My first couple of days in New York were spent exploring the nearby blocks and buying the necessities I couldn’t fit into my suitcases (such as coffee for the coffee maker I did make sure to pack). As someone who’s lived in Michigan their whole life, I found it so bizarre to see your typical chain stores, e.g. Staples and Target, in multi-floor buildings! Take an escalator to buy some bananas? So odd.

I’ve also quickly discovered that it’s quite dangerous (read “dangerous” as “extremely-tempting-and-bad-for-my-wallet”) to live across from Taco Bell and Starbucks, and especially with Arby’s only a couple of blocks away. I have yet to succumb to the 99 Cent Fresh Pizza shops, but I know it will be soon.

I’m currently staying at the New Yorker Hotel (I know, educational housing in a hotel, weird right?) in midtown of Manhattan, so there’s constantly a bustle of noise going on outside my window. Honestly, the first couple of days were nerve wrecking as my mother and I attempted to navigate the streets and poured over app upon app trying to figure out how the subway worked, but we did not get lost, huzzah!

Right before my mother left, we were fortune enough to attend a showing of the Broadway musical Anastasia. I adored the movie Anastasia, so I was ecstatic to see this performance and it did not disappoint! The renditions of my favorite songs from the movie, “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past” were beautiful. And everything else, from the special effects to the scenery, was amazing.

As I’ve already hinted at, I didn’t really do much during my first weekend in NYC besides seeing Anastasia. At first, I felt ashamed by my reluctance to explore the city, holing up in my room as much as possible. But I’ve been reminding myself that I’m here for 15 weeks, and that I have time to explore. Pushing the bounds of my comfort zone and trying new things doesn’t need to be rushed. Growth takes time.

As I’m putting the final touches on this post, orientation and my second day of interning have already passed, and I can already feel the nervous energy that surrounded me being replaced with an acceptance of my new environment and an excitement to start properly exploring New York.

Let this journey begin!