Carnegie Mellon University

Labor of Love

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The University Press Experience

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A pair of footsteps echoes in the concrete basement of Wean Hall. Carnegie Mellon student Liz Barsotti (CMU '09) — one of the chosen few who work at the University Press — looks up momentarily from her reading and scans the windowless room. Rows of postal crates overstuffed with manuscripts separate Barsotti from the door. The footsteps grow louder, then softer, until she can't hear them any longer.

Rubbing weariness from her eyes, she returns to the manuscript at hand — the 20th she's read tonight — and decides this one will have to be the last until she can catch a few hours of sleep. She may be tired, but she loves what she is doing.

Across the Mall on Baker Hall's second floor, Senior Editor Cynthia Lamb explains. "The common misconception about the University Press is that we print things. We're so much more than that."

Founded in 1975 by English Professor Jerry Costanzo, the press has over 450 titles to its credit. Five to seven student interns from his editing and publishing course work to publish about 20 titles each year — including poetry, short fiction and works authored by Carnegie Mellon faculty.

Once a book is accepted for publication, the designer — a student — is chosen to format the book's text. After reading the manuscript, the designer chooses appropriate typeface, lays out the text in book format and often designs the cover. During the process of designing the book, the students communicate with the author, working through various stages of corrections or modifications to achieve the final result.

"I couldn't have gotten this kind of opportunity at another university press," said Michael Szczerban (H&SS '07, H&SS '07), an information systems and creative writing major.  Lamb says reading the manuscripts gives the would-be writers an idea of what they would be up against, should they choose to submit their own work to a publishing house someday.

The work of Anne Marie Rooney (H&SS '08) has already been accepted for print by a poetry journal. "It is an incredible and humbling experience," she said.

Julia Brown (H&SS '08) sampled acting, traveled as a swing and blues dancer, and performed with Carnegie Mellon's Scotch 'n' Soda troupe before Costanzo recruited her to the Press.

"Working for the Press has really brought me into the creative writing community," said Brown.  "I've gotten to know some really intelligent, talented people, as well as gained some truly valuable experience."

As a result of having worked for Carnegie Mellon's University Press, numerous Carnegie Mellon students have launched publishing careers. Two U.S. poet laureates and four Pulitzer Prize winners for poetry either started or spent some portion of their careers with the Press.

Photo (clockwise from bottom left):Rubén Quintero, Michael Szczerban, Julie Brown, Liz Barsotti, and Erika Holmquist

Related Links: University Press  |  Dept of English