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What I Did With a B.A. in English

I used to work at a market research firm in Los Angeles. Day in and day out, I stared at Excel spreadsheets and wrote formulas and moved around numbers, all while (not so) surreptitiously watching Friends on the corner of my laptop screen—the only benefit of a job that was otherwise costing me a great deal of peace, happiness, and creativity.

I was stifled. I needed out.

So I turned back to what had always been and will always be my constant: words. Not publishing, yet; that was still one of those laughably unachievable dreams, the ones you admit in a mumble under your breath, blushing into your coffee mug, when your family asks what you want to do for a living. Instead, I chose what I thought was slightly more feasible: writing. It’s okay, you can laugh—because yes, hilariously, even that seemed more likely than my fantasy of becoming an editor.

I left the west coast for the east to join an MFA program in New York City—and, as so often happens in New York, my fantasy started feeling attainable. I took a chance and sent out my resume. Every publishing internship I then landed felt like a miracle, a step closer to having a hand in creating work that made a difference. But even as I applied to publishing positions across the country, my excitement was hesitant. After all, jobs in our industry aren’t exactly a dime a dozen.

Then, Hachette happened. I say it that way because it feels, still, like an event—something for the books, headline news. I was in the Union Square Barnes & Noble when I got the offer: that unholy squeal you heard in the Careers & Employment section? That was me.

Working every day surrounded by books and the people passionate about making them? Being one of those people? It felt unreal. I spent the first couple months here still accustomed to thinking of jobs as temporary—wondering what I’d do when this position ended, when I should start looking for a new one, if I’d have to go back to California. In fact, on my first day here, out of habit, I introduced myself as the intern. (Don’t worry, now I know I’m here to stay.)

My journey here might have started with a desperate need to escape math, but, of course, joining the world of words didn’t take me away from numbers: after all, publishing is a business like any other. Still, in the short seven months I’ve been here—a span of time that feels more like seven minutes—I have helped edit novels, worked on a #1 New York Times bestseller, listened to editors ardently advocate for their proposals, and felt the palpable energy of a room full of people there simply because they love a good story. What’s more, I’ve had my voice heard.

Which is all to say that publishing is so much more than the numbers.

In college at UCLA, a good friend and I used to talk about flying to New York with folders full of resumes, banging down the doors of publishing houses until they gave us jobs. We won’t take no for an answer, we’d joked.

That’s not how it happened, but happen it did. The fact that I’m here is still sometimes hard to believe, but I’m so grateful I am—and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Nidhi with some delicious pie!