Internship Spotlight: Eliza Prestley

My name is Eliza Prestley, and I am a rising fourth-year student at McGill University majoring in English – Cultural Studies, with minors in Political Science and Communications. I was originally drawn to these subjects by my interest in storytelling. I’m captivated by the stories we tell, how we tell them, and why we tell them, as well as the stories we hear, and how and why we hear them. In my personal life, I feed this love for storytelling through writing and other creative works, but as I move forward in my professional life, I am exploring avenues through which I can engage with and support the telling of others’ stories, whether they be personal, historical, political, or—as stories often tend to be—a layering of these different elements. This exploration has led me to consider a career in editing, and in publishing more broadly. I became interested in the role publishers play in building, presenting, and preserving stories—stories of both personal and societal import; stories of our cities, our countries, and the people who constitute them.

This past summer, I directly contributed to such work at Véhicule Press, an independent literary publisher based in Montreal, QC. Active since the 1970s, Véhicule shares stories that speak to the distinct individuals, cultures, places, and times from which they emerge. The press has a fiction imprint, Esplanade Books, which publishes new fiction works, as well as translations; a poetry series, Signal Editions, which publishes original poetry and anthologies; and Ricochet Books, a series of republished vintage noir mysteries, most of them set in Montreal of the early 1950s. Véhicule also publishes a variety of nonfiction works, ranging from social histories to city walking guides.

In my internship at Véhicule, I had the opportunity to learn about and participate in the publishing process in each of these areas. I began the summer by keyboarding poems for Resisting Canada, an anthology of resistance poetry grappling with Canadian colonialism. I went on to proofread The Damned and the Destroyed, a 1962 noir about a Montreal heroin ring in the early 1950s. As I progressed in my internship, I was tasked with books that required increased judgement and responsibility on my part. I fact-checked and updated a walking guide of Old Montreal, editing sections to account for radical changes undergone in the neighborhood since the guide’s most recent publication in 2006. Finally, I proofread, developed front and back matter for, and contributed to the editing of Resisting Canada, set for release in September, 2019.

My contributions to Resisting Canada were my greatest—and most fulfilling—projects of the summer. Because the book is a poetry anthology, compiling it required careful attention to the intent of the authors and publications from which the original poems were sourced. I had to do extensive research on these authors, twenty-eight of them in total, and at times I had to balance preserving the integrity of the original works with maintaining consistency and working within the constraints of the anthology. In addition to proofreading Resisting Canada, I also offered editorial assistance, making suggestions that led to critical changes in its introduction.

While I did not receive academic credit for this internship, it has been absolutely invaluable as my first field experience in publishing and editing. Through my work with Véhicule, I not only confirmed my interesting in editing; I developed my editing abilities tremendously, learning the considerations that publishers must make when editing literary works—considerations that extend far beyond grammar and punctuation to matters of clarity, consistency, appropriate handling of controversial topics, and communication and compromise between author and editor. Following this experience, I feel significantly more confident in the skills and judgements that I can offer as an editor, and I look forward to doing similar work both at Véhicule, where I may offer my services for various projects throughout the upcoming academic year, and in future positions. My internship has merged the literary foundation I have gained in my English degree with field experience that allows me to draw from this foundation.

I am incredibly grateful to the Arts Internship Office for facilitating this opportunity, and for the generous donors who contribute to the Arts Undergraduate Improvement Fund from which I received my Faculty of Arts Internship Award. This award allowed me to stay in Montreal for my internship, rather than returning to the United States (my home country) to work outside of my field for the summer. As I approach graduation in the upcoming year, this additional time and experience interning in Montreal is invaluable to me in preparing to apply for permanent residency in Canada and in building contacts for future professional endeavors. Beyond gaining experience in publishing, I gained experience in distinctly Canadian publishing, which, due to differences in public funding, entails a vastly different process than publishing in the States. Because I plan to settle in Canada, the privilege of staying in Montreal, supported by my internship award, is absolutely critical in the start of my professional life here.

A special thank you goes to Anne Turner and Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo of the AIO, to the donors who made this experience possible, and to my supervisor, Simon Dardick of Véhicule Press.

Back to top