California Fancies

Alisha Saville, Sales and Marketing Intern at Heyday in the Fall of 2012, now works at California Alisha SavilleNewsreel. 

A launch meeting gathered the staff my second week in. A lively debate on word meanings and titles concluded in the unusual unanimous decision, and I walked back to my desk reveling in the linguistic high.

“Who are you?” Malcolm Margolin, punchy founder and publisher, appeared in my doorway.

“Um, Alisha.” I haven’t rehearsed my intriguing and cheeky biographical narrative yet!

“What brought you here?”

“A childhood dream.”

My off-the-cuff answer was more truthful than anything I intended on revealing. “A childhood dream” doesn’t sound smart, ambitious, or professionally calculated when you’ve managed to blunder your way into an internship at an amazing regional press without prior publishing experience. Thankfully, the literary industries have high regard for childhood fancies. It’s a field built around imagination, after all.

I’ve been intrigued by the publishing and literary industries for years, mostly because my youthful yearning of being a writer just won’t die. When I moved to the Bay Area eleven months ago, I set out to find the literary heart of the region. A social justice bent, fascination with community history, and love of stories led me to Heyday’s website early on. Thanks to a lucky turn in August, I found myself interning at the place I’ve been cyber-stalking since February.

I’ll forgo gritty specifics of interning to share the biggest shocker of all – the small press community in the West is quite tightly knit. Interning in fall is a blessing because the literary event circuit revs up and gathers all the publishing heavy hitters for countless nights of glamour, much to the delight of bibliophiles and other hopefuls. The magic of the literary life introduced me to some great folks in the biz and diversified my view of what a career in publishing might actually look like.

That’s when my imagination failed me.

A chat with another intern who wants a career in publishing revealed a troubling detail – I’m not strictly into publishing. I’m into Heyday. Their focus on regional history, local voices, and marginalized perspectives tapped into what I find so amazing about the power of books and writing in general. I volunteered this past spring with the Writer Coach Connection, an East Bay nonprofit that pairs students with writer coaches during school hours. I imagine them seeing beautiful photos in Soul Calling: A Photographic Journey through the Hmong Diaspora or reading Masha’allah and Other Stories and thinking, hey. My voice could be in this. I could write.

That is the true core of why I’m drawn to literary industries, and it is Heyday’s dedication to publishing stories not often heard in mainstream spaces that captures my heart. (This is by no means a reflection on other small presses. I just haven’t interned with them yet!) Heyday is a California treasure not because of some inherent brilliancy (though there’s a good dose of that) but because it focuses on the communities it lives in and loves. Like a parent who unconditionally loves a child, Heyday finds all histories worthy because they exist. The sociology major in me is proud.

In September, I thought this internship would expose the industry’s fleshy innards for me to poke and prod to my advantage. Now that December is arriving with a new job in hand, I realize my original off-the-cuff answer was right. I wasn’t in it to become a publishing titan. I was in it to stamp The Land of Publishing with Heyday’s logo. My passport of childhood dreams is a little fuller because of it.