Welcome to New York

Goodbye for now, Los Angeles!

As of approximately 6:45 pm EST today, I will have survived being in New York for a full week. Honestly, I have no idea (1) how everything that’s happened / that I’ve done in the past seven days has encompassed only seven days, or (2) how I ended up here in general. No, really. I have no idea how any of it actually happened, and at this point I’ve pretty much given up trying to make sense of it.

What exactly do I mean? Let’s see. It could be:

    • The part where I got a summer internship with two HarperCollins children’s imprints in two departments without actually having applied for the job,
    • The part where the Pomona College English Department semi-spontaneously decided to pay for my round-trip flight, because Professor Dettmar is the nicest department chair in existence,
    • The part where I despondently searched for housing on Craigslist and somehow found a huge, beautiful room in an affordable apartment by the Cloisters, my favorite part of New York, hilarious and considerate roommate included,
    • The part where I was one of the first five winners of the We Need Diverse Books internship grant, without which I couldn’t have afforded my rent,
    • Or pretty much everything that has happened since I actually got here…which is a lot for one week.

The Living Situation

This is my first summer — and first extended period of time in general, to be honest — away from California. Before I started looking for housing, I will admit that I had absolutely no idea how New York worked. To be clear, I mean that I didn’t even realize basic things, such as the fact that Manhattan is actually the city (surprise). It’s ignorant, but I had never needed to know before, so I had never bothered. As hard as I tried to be smart about my searches, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

View of Fort Tryon Park, and the Hudson River beyond, from the Cloisters’ west terrace.

Luckily, I must have done something correctly, because I’ve ended up in an affordable apartment in east Washington Heights, about two blocks away from the 191 stop on the 1 (which I can say that I now vaguely understand — and the A train, too). Best of all, I can see Fort Tryon Park — which is only a ten minute walk away — and the Cloisters’ tower from my window. I find myself wilting if I’m separated from green spaces for too long, so I can confidently say that the highlight of my week was visiting the Cloisters (and paying for a Met membership in order to get a year of free admission). I even made a friend on the hike up, a rising sophomore at the University of Michigan whose mother, a professor, was in town to present at a poetry convention — so cool!

There is no way this isn’t the cutest room I could possibly have found.

Speaking of friends, my roommate is one of the coolest and most laid-back people I could have unintentionally chosen to live with. Her friend is couch surfing with us until they leave for their tour in a week — they’re both finishing Master’s Degrees at Juilliard, wow! — and I’m really going to miss our exhausted “good morning”s and unspoken camaraderie in the early mornings, among other things. (I woke up from a post-work nap yesterday to shrieks and squeals and a cry of, “Feather! Do you like cockroaches?” We proceeded to chase it down, throwing boots and heavy objects, for a good ten minutes before it made the mistake of crawling into the flat of toilet paper, which we tossed into a garbage bag and sacrificed in the name of pest control. It’s a fun environment to return home to, to say the least.)

Our neighborhood is definitely a community, and I love it. Everyone here speaks Spanish, which is not only really convenient and unlike the suburbs where I’m from, but also really neat — in LA, I mostly hear Hispanic/Latin@ people speaking the language, but here I hear it from people of all races and ethnicities. It’s a relief every day to leave the Financial District, stepping off the subway and walking back to my apartment along streets where everyone smiles back at me, where kids play in the side streets (my JFK Super Shuttle driver explained on the first night how even-numbered streets run one-way to the east, odd-numbered streets to the west) and people gather to sit outside shops, blasting music or barbecuing on the sidewalks. The local supermarkets are a lot cheaper and closer than the Trader Joe’s on 72nd, though the latter definitely feels more familiar (like home, and like Claremont).

Existing in New York

The Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony in concert! We are here for Eron’s brother Allen, on French Horn, far right.

The first few days were mostly miserable. I gave myself the weekend to find toiletries, groceries, and complete various tasks (Get library card? Check. Figure out the subway? Check, somewhat. Unpack? Check.). I was incredibly jetlagged. I had no idea what the weather was doing (for the record, it’s basically been LA weather so far, just slightly more humid at certain times of the day). I knew lots of my friends were in the area and people kept messaging me, but I wanted to do nothing but turn my phone off and become one with my bed.

I did, however, get to go to Carnegie Hall with one of my best friends to see her brother’s wind ensemble in concert on my first real night in New York (and they were extremely worthy of the venue). It was a little surreal. I’ve mostly been focused on surviving and settling in as gradually as is possible here, but for a moment I was in a black dress and feeling more like a classy tourist than a temporary resident trying to Figure Things Out.

HarperCollins (Seriously?! Seriously.)

Each imprint gets a section for their display — this one is Greenwillow‘s, and Katherine Tegen‘s is slightly visible on the right.

This is just the first post of many, the next of which will detail (perhaps overly so) what it’s like to intern with HarperCollins, so for now I’m just going to say: I can’t believe how lucky I am to have gotten this internship. As I mentioned above — and I promise I’ll elaborate on this in a future post — I didn’t even apply for this job initially. The more fate-inclined part of me has to admit that this whole experience seems like the literal definition of “meant to be.” To give a brief idea of what I’ve been doing, here are the tasks I’ve completed that sound like stereotypical “let’s just have the intern do that” type things:

  • Make photocopies — or rather, one single photocopy in four days.
  • Fill out generic postcards to mail to authors whose books are reprinting. Which was actually amazing. I can now say I’ve written to Kevin Henkes (Kevin Henkes! I grew up on his books!) and called him Kevin. 
Everyone is so welcoming and friendly! My boss at Katherine Tegen gave me this beautiful Gerbera daisy on my first day. 🙂

Yep, that’s it. Aside from that, it’s been a whirlwind of substantial hands-on work and learning how the publishing industry functions — which sounds much more simple than it actually is. Attending meetings big and small (Did I mention I got to meet the head of sales for the entire Children’s Department on my first week? Or that I set up and attended an Amelia Bedelia summit? Or that I got to watch our upcoming picture books being pitched to Acquisitions?), reading and evaluating submitted manuscripts, giving input on cover designs (they care what I think!), and getting more free books (and food) than I know what to do with. Not to mention befriending the other interns, who are all so fun to talk to and be around.

Anyway, more on the HarperCollins side of things to come soon. There’s a lot of this whole adventure left to experience, but I still can’t believe I’ve only been here for seven days! So much has already happened. So much is different and entirely new. I am still so perpetually stunned that I get to be here — I know I’m saying this a lot, but I seriously do not know how all of it happened — but more than anything else, I am so grateful. I can’t wait to see what the days to come will bring!