Bethany Wasik – Cornell University Press

More than anything else, we believe it is the people who make publishing, so we’re taking the opportunity to really get to know those who make our partner AUPs what they are by asking them to write about a Day in their Life for us. This is Bethany Wasik, Assistant Editor at Cornell University Press:

My day still starts at 7am, but now instead of dropping kids off at daycare and school and heading to the gym before work, I spend the day as one half of the “stay-at-home” team with my 9 year old son. At 8am, my toddler and husband (the “outside-world” team) head to daycare and work, while we head to our laptops. Pre-pandemic mornings would involve checking in with co-workers in their respective offices in Sage House, the beautiful and historical home of Cornell University Press. Now, my remote check-ins are done via Slack as I dive into a second cup of coffee in my repurposed sunroom-turned-office, which provides a pleasant view of our bustling neighborhood intersection.

The busiest part of my day is from 8am to 12am. I first check my email to see what requires an immediate reply or more investigation before responding. Next, I scroll through TweetDeck to see what the outside world is up to early in the morning. This is a handy Twitter-based platform that helps organize the groups that I follow into visually pleasing columns of lists – Mine is organized into four lists: Cornell University Press (my colleagues, our authors, the Ithaca community), Publishing (Association of University Presses (AUP) colleagues, journalists, scholarly news), Classics/Archaeology (scholars, prospective authors, academic departments, museums), and Science (academic colleagues, departments, and news/journals). Then, I check the early morning Google alerts that I set up for my sponsored books and series to see if any reviews or blogs have been published that I should read and/or share. Altogether, this mini routine provides an easily digestible snapshot of what is most important to focus on during the day.

With few Zoom meetings until the afternoon, mornings primarily consist of balancing the different hats that I wear at the press. My roles in the Acquisitions Department include assistant to the editorial director, assistant editor, unofficial manager of the assistants, seasonal list planner, and interdepartmental liaison. These hats and the responsibilities attached to them have evolved in wonderful, unexpected ways since I arrived at CUP 6 years ago. At that time, I shifted from a postdoctoral fellow in the sciences to a publishing assistant – a transition fueled not only by a passion for editing and reviewing scholarly content, but also a desire to promote that content to a larger audience. My progression to assistant editor in the last few years has also been an adventure, and I currently acquire projects in the fields of Classics (history, literature, etc.) and Archaeology (my undergraduate minor). 

Back to the hats… my inbox or Slack on a given day typically include a combination of the following responsibilities: sending feedback on author manuscripts, updating our press database, checking proofs, preparing cover design ideas, writing jacket copy for books in the pipeline, composing grant applications, submitting book orders, soliciting new reviewers, confirming endorsements from existing reviewers, finalizing our monthly Faculty Board agenda, and emailing editors to refine our seasonal list lineup – information that I then share with our editorial department as the season progresses. I also contact authors to share the happy news that their books will be released soon (As I write this, I realize how much I miss sending authors advance copies of their books. Writing a handwritten note of congratulations on our official Advance Copy cards was truly a highlight of my job, and I look forward to reigniting that little tradition when I return to the office). 

Around 11am, I take a brief respite from correspondence, refill my coffee, and check TweetDeck again for news and updates. Then, I head over to Slack and send random emojis and gifs to the assistants to see how things are going, which I have decided is an essential responsibility of my unofficial manager position. 

Not unlike the pre-pandemic days at Sage House, the stay-at-home team breaks for lunch around noon. I do miss walking down the hill to the eclectic cafes and restaurants in downtown Ithaca with my colleagues for working lunches, as that brief change of scenery away from email was surprisingly productive to talk about upcoming books, meetings, and even to check new selections at the local independent bookstores (there are several!). In the interim, my lunchtime activity usually involves 30 minutes of a film or reading an article (or three) on what should be on my watchlist. Then, more emails and usually one or two Zoom meetings early in the afternoon, which is either with prospective authors, launch meetings with my marketing and publicity colleagues to discuss promotion strategies for upcoming books, or acquisitions department meetings to say hello and share any news or updates.

Around 3pm, the stay-at-home team head outside for a walk to gorges and creeks, lakefront trails, or the library. These walks are a little nostalgic since I live close to Sage House and are similar to those I used to take with colleagues for late afternoon coffee (though the current conversations focus more on video games than publishing). When we return, the stay-at-home team resume our jobs in the office and on the couch for the remainder of the afternoon. 

As my colleagues’ green Slack icons begin to dim at 5pm, I step away to make dinner and take a break. However, a few evenings a week, my work is not yet over, as quiet evenings have become essential for completing anything that requires mental focus (especially when the couch is finally available). I spend these “evening office hours” studying project summaries for our weekly editorial board meetings, reading manuscripts, or watching recorded seminars and webinars that I missed during the week. Recently, I started working through a module-based career development program on supervising to improve my unofficial manager skills (and learn the proper motivational uses of Slack emojis). Finally, the couch transforms into a getaway to read a few chapters of a book, turn on the Criterion Channel to battle my watchlist, and (more-often-than-not) reflect on how grateful I am to work with dedicated, supportive book-building enthusiasts whom I miss dearly and hope to see again soon in the non-remote world.

Bethany Wasik is an Assistant Editor at Cornell University Press, acquiring projects in the fields of Archaeology and the Classics. She also is sponsoring editor of the Agora EditionsBrown Democracy Medal BooksCornell Studies in Classical Philology, and Myth and Poetics II series. Prior to joining the Acquisitions team at Cornell University Press in May 2015, she completed a Ph.D. (Indiana University) and two postdoctoral fellowships in molecular genetics and evolutionary biology (Yale and Cornell). Her other passions include hiking, genealogy, bourbon, and experimenting with unique Twitter hashtags (#Acquisitioning, #EndearinglyTenaciousEditor).