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Drew University’s Creative Writing Program Hosts Publishing Symposium

Welcoming panelists in the publishing industry

March 2024 – Drew University’s Creative Writing program hosted the 2024 Publishing Symposium, an annual event to demystify the publishing process and highlight various editorial roles.

The esteemed panelists consisted of Thomas Gebremedhin, vice president and executive editor of Doubleday; Monika Woods, literary agent, writer, editor, and founder of Triangle House; and Michele Filgate, contributing editor at Literary Hub and the editor of a critically acclaimed anthology based on her Longreads essay, What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.

The conversation was moderated by Associate Professor of English and Director of Drew’s Creative Writing Program, Courtney Zoffness.

Zoffness asked the panelists to define their respective roles in the industry and to speak to their career trajectories.

“An editor is focused on language and text, shaping it and creating a beautiful, accessible, challenging narrative,” said Gebremedhin. “I believe that style and form should tell as much of the story as the actual plot.” 

Gebremedhin majored in English at Duke University. “Being an English major can be applied to many different industries,” he said. A creative writing course revealed a love of writing. “I always loved books as a kid,” he said. “I knew I wanted to work with words, so I majored in English. I never really considered writing, but I found that it was really nourishing.”

After graduating from Duke, Gebremedhin earned his MFA at Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which led to his first job at Vogue magazine.

“I support writers in all their goals,” said Woods of her role as a literary agent. “An agent is a diplomat for a writer, we’re here to support the writer. It’s a fun job because every day is different and unpredictable.”

Woods earned undergraduate degrees in English and political science at SUNY Buffalo. After college, Woods debated obtaining her MFA or moving to New York City to gain life and career experience. “I moved to New York and did a lot of volunteer work, started a blog, interned, and started working at The Feminist Press.”

A publishing course at Columbia University helped her land a job at Trident Publishing Group as a literary assistant for legendary agent Ellen Levine. “That was where my education really started. I found that on-the-job experience was valuable.”

Filgate graduated from the University of New Hampshire with an English/Journalism degree. An internship at 60 Minutes was a segue for a full-time position at CBS Evening News with Katie Couric post graduation. “The whole time I was there, my heart was in print,” she said. “I always wanted to be a writer. I felt a little bit like a misfit in broadcast news even though it was a wonderful experience.” 

She returned to New Hampshire to run events at a local independent bookstore. “It was one of the best experiences possible for writing and learning how the literary world works.”

She currently teaches and is a freelance writer and editor. “Editing and writing go hand in hand and make my own writing better. Editing also informs my teaching,” she said. “Behind every good writer is a good editor. My whole goal as a teacher, writer, and editor is to open doors for others.”

“It is a frequent misunderstanding that professional paths are linear,” noted Zoffness.

The panelists offered advice to students seeking to break into the competitive publishing landscape. In short, get as much experience as possible through internships and fellowships, which are often announced on social media. And, of course, read!

 “If you want to work in publishing, you have to demonstrate that you really want it,” said Woods.

The publishing symposiums are co-sponsored by The Casement Fund and the English Department and are always free.

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