The Skills of a Historian Applied to a Career in Publishing

Monday, January 5, 2015: 9:30 AM
Sutton North (New York Hilton)
Alisa Plant, Louisiana State University Press
When I began my graduate training at Yale University, I believed—like so many new graduate students—that I wanted to be a professor. I loved research and writing, the critical engagement that comes with working out an issue, and I believed that academia was a natural home for me. Some early bumps in my graduate school career, however, led me to question my assumptions. I found myself engaged by different fields; my interests, while scholarly, had something of a magpie approach. I honed my skills in writing and critical thinking as I finished my dissertation, but I didn’t close any professional doors. When opportunities presented themselves—such as freelance copyediting—I took them, thus broadening my skill sets. By the time I gained my degree, I knew that a tenure-track teaching position was unlikely (my mobility was limited for personal reasons); I also knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in manuscript editing. When an acquisitions position opened up at LSU Press, I applied for the job and was hired, and I’ve been very happy as an acquiring editor ever since. Acquisitions, for me, is the best of both worlds: scholarly engagement, but engagement across a variety of fields (and even disciplines!). And my Ph.D. was invaluable not only in helping me land my job, but also in giving me the intellectual tools to do it well. A certain amount of being in the right place at the right time also was involved—but as the old saying goes, sometimes we make our own luck.