Camille Kellogg ’17 talks to NER intern Bel Spelman ’23 about editing manuscripts, books as mirrors, and reading widely.
Bel Spelman: What do you remember from your NER internship?
Camille Kellogg: I remember my time at NER vividly. I was so excited to intern there. At the time, I was writing my thesis, so I would leave the library and tramp through the snow over to the NER office, which is this lovely, cozy building full of books. It was a very warm place, in every sense of the word. Everyone who worked there was so kind and friendly and put me at ease right away.
At NER, I got to sort query letters, format website posts, choose art for the website, proofread pieces, and read submissions then discuss them with the team. One of my favorite tasks was editing audio recordings of authors reading at Bread Loaf: I got to listen to incredible readings from Garth Greenwell, Natasha Tretheway, Peter Ho Davies, and more.
Interning at NER convinced me that I wanted to work in publishing. I looked at the NER team and saw a life I wanted to lead. It’s a lot of work and it’s not all reading and editing (there’s plenty of paperwork!) but the work was inspiring and exciting. When I got the issue of the magazine we’d worked on and held it in my hands it made me very sure that this was the kind of future I wanted.
BS: What were some of the steps that brought you to Bloomsbury Publishing?
CK: Once I graduated from Middlebury, I attended the Columbia Publishing Course to get an overview of the publishing industry. When the course ended, I crossed my fingers and moved to New York without a job. I actually had a broken arm at the time from a rugby injury, so I only brought one suitcase with me! I applied to as many editorial assistant jobs as I could find and got hired at HarperCollins Children’s Books. A few years later I moved over to Macmillan, but I was only there for about a year before my entire imprint was shut down during the pandemic. They say if you work in publishing long enough, you’ll eventually get laid off, so I’m hoping that was my one time! While I was unemployed, I spent my time working on a book of my own, which is being published by Penguin Random House next year. After four months, I was hired at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. I’m now an editor here, working with the wonderful Bloomsbury team and acquiring books from truly incredible authors.
BS: How does your work challenge you?
CK: Editing a manuscript is always challenging, no matter how many times you do it, because every book needs something slightly different. The first time you read a manuscript through, you know there are parts that you love and parts that feel off. Then you have to sit down and figure out why things feel off. Is it the pacing, the character development, the plot? Once you can identify the problem, then you can work with the author to come up with a solution.
The biggest challenge in publishing, though, is always time management. There’s so much to do! There’s always paperwork to fill out, emails to send, and submissions to read. The job is never really “done.” I always wish I had more time, especially for reading.
BS: Bloomsbury has a focus on publishing children’s and young adult stories. What do you enjoy about working with these stories?
CK: I decided to go into children’s books because, as a queer person, I didn’t see myself in books growing up. It’s so important for kids to see themselves in the stories they read—it helps them develop confidence and feel like they can be the hero of their own story. I wanted to help make sure every kid gets that experience. Being a kid or teen can also be really scary and overwhelming, so I tend to be drawn towards books that don’t shy away from the darkness of childhood but instead show readers how to find light when things get dark.
Kids and young adult books are also fun. One of the goals of every book I publish is to teach young people to love reading, to publish stories that they don’t want to put down. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you’re editing chapter books about dragons or YA novels about K-pop stars. There’s always a note of fun in the work I do.
BS: Any advice for college students looking to enter the publishing industry?
CK: The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to work in publishing is READ. Read a ton of books in the genre you want to work in and read RECENT books. When you go to an interview, you want to be able to talk about books published in the last two to three years, not just the books that you read in your English classes. Read a really wide range of books, too: commercial books, literary books, bestsellers, flops, everything. When you finish a book, think about what worked in the book, what didn’t, and what you would suggest changing if you were the editor. Doing this helps you get to know the current publishing market and also develop your editorial skills.
BS: Do you have a long-term goal for your editorial career?
CK: My long-term career goal is to publish a lot of wonderful books, do my absolute best for my authors, and help to put more stories out into the world for people who might not have seen themselves in stories before. That’s also the same goal I have for my career as an author: my debut novel, which is a queer adult romcom, comes out in 2023 and is for queer people who feel lost or uncertain about how to navigate the world. It’s the book that I desperately needed when I was younger to tell me that things were going to be okay.