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Headshot of Mira Kennedy
Photo Credit: Sierra Sumner

Mira Kennedy '19

Mira Kennedy is a senior English major, pursuing specializations in the Study and Practice of Writing (SPOW) and Creative Writing. She is currently involved with UMass Press, Jabberwocky, and is a Writing Center tutor. View her LinkedIn profile to learn more or to connect with her.

How did you start out as an English major? 

I realized I wanted to be an English major my sophomore year of high school; I took this really great class. It was fantastic. I had this phenomenal teacher and I had been directionless before. Academically, I didn’t know what I was passionate about, I just knew I liked to read and I had this teacher who really inspired me. I realized this was what I wanted to do. I’m glad I came here [to UMass], because there are so many opportunities at this big school. We have access to many alumni, resources, and we have a pretty sizeable English department with really great professors.

How did you hear about your internship with the UMass Press?

I took English 200 and I did my group presentation on “opportunities to get involved in publishing on campus,” focusing in Amherst and the Five College Area. I had heard of the UMass Press beforehand, but I definitely learned more about it from my group presentation. I first applied for a position my sophomore spring for my junior fall. But I didn’t get it. Then I applied my junior fall for my junior spring, and didn’t get it (although I don’t think they hired anyone that semester). I applied one last time... and I got it!

A good way to keep up with what they’re looking for is going to the UMass Press website. They usually have their internship opportunities listed. The English Department site posted the current internship I’m doing.

How did this internship meet your expectations and how did it surprise you?

Before UMass Press, I’ve had two previous internships. My first one was very informal because it was remote. I’m not sure if I had any specific [internship] expectations coming out of that one, but the internship I did this summer was formal and professional. It was in a big company, it was business casual, and I had to be mindful, sitting in an office for eight hours and doing my work. For UMass Press, it’s smaller and there are fewer than ten employees (who aren’t students) and everyone is super supportive.

Can you tell me about a typical day at your internship with UMass Press?

I do a small variety of different things. As I go [up in my experience working here], new tasks will be added to this list. I come in and I talk to my boss about what she wants me to get done that day. Usually, I’m working on this project that’s logging and returning art that has been used in books that are no longer in production ... We are logging the art in a spreadsheet, packaging it up, writing a little memo in InDesign. I’ll work on this project for a while [during the day].

I also do a lot of filing, both on the computer and with actual files. I’m working on the database and all the information that the Press must have to make a book. It’s not just the manuscript. They have to have what editor acquired the manuscript, at least two addresses for the author, all the production information, and the cover image. There’s a lot of information you need to keep in the files and having this exposure—seeing what needs to go into a file like that—is really helpful. I also do character counts on manuscripts and that is so my manager can figure out prices. It’s a really good experience learning what goes into the process for a printed book. My typical day is doing these “little” projects, but I can see why they are so important.

What advice would you give to people who are looking for an internship that will suit them? 

When looking for internships, be really broad in your search terms. You might know for a fact that you want to do specifically “copywriting for a catalog,” but unless you’re very lucky, you are not going to find that “dream” internship the first time around. You need to look for as many experiences as you can. When you’re looking for internships, it’s important to look at all of the options, even they are not exactly what you want to do, and what is going to help you get to your goal. There’s a whole world out there [of work and internship experiences] that will teach you skills and that will help you move towards your dream job.

What’s next for you (professionally)?

Ideally, I want to go into publishing. That’s why I’m at UMass Press, because I really want to do editorial work at a publisher. Hopefully, I will be at some kind of publishing company at the back end doing publishing or editorial. Production is such a broad category, but I’m interested in the behind-the-scenes work.

Can you speak about your extracurriculars, such as tutoring at the Writing Center, or any other interests? How do these complement your English education?

Working at the Writing Center, I’ve learned to have a greater appreciation for the power of individual words. Just working at the Writing Center has taught me more about how what words you use directly impacts people. For example, on the “word level,” what you say can set up power dynamics. It sets a tone for you as a person, especially in a professional capacity, because we are both peers and professionals at the Writing Center. We need to be careful that we are both casual and friendly to a certain extent, but also professional. Words are loaded. It’s made me a better writer, a more careful writer in my essays (academically), and more conscious towards helping people.

Working with Jabberwocky, the literary journal, I started out as a Fiction Staff Member and then last year I was Managing Editor. As Managing Editor, in particular, it was important to have my English background. Because on a personal level, it gave me a greater appreciation for the work that we were doing for putting together a literary journal and putting together student writing. And in administrative roles, you have to be able to think critically and prioritize.

What is your favorite book (or author)?

One of my favorite authors is Maggie Stiefvater. First of all, I like fantasy, and love beautifully crafted sentences and paragraphs and ideas. She just puts a lot of thought into everything that she does. Her writing style is so beautiful and simple, it's not just that they're fun and exciting fantasies. But it also appeals to me as a writer and as an English major. She wrote The Raven Boys in the Raven Cycle series. My favorite and introductory series by her was the Shiver trilogy and Scorpio Races as well.


Interview by Sierra Sumner, Digital Communications Intern