Book lover Halle Smith '20 takes her experience working at the COA Thorndike Library to an intern...Book lover Halle Smith '20 takes her experience working at the COA Thorndike Library to an internship with Feminist Press at City University of New York. Credit: Sara Lӧwgren ’20

Halle Smith ’20 loves books, writing, editing, and publishing. She has pursued these passions through her classes, her work-study job at COA’s Thorndike Library, and writing and reading whenever she gets a chance. She was able to take her interests to the next level with a four-month internship at the nonprofit Feminist Press.

“It’s like, you love books and then you learn there is so much you can do!” Smith says of her time at the Press.

Smith loved books already as a young girl, but, for a long time, it was only a hobby. Viewing science as the best, most practical path to a career, she was working her way through various science classes at COA. Her academic direction changed, though, after a conversation with literature lecturer Katharine Turok during her second year at COA helped her realize that embracing her passions and preparing for the work world did not have to mean two different things.

Feminist Press“Katharine asked me, ‘What makes you think books aren’t practical?’ and went on to tell me about different options for working with books,” Smith remembers.

Shifting her focus towards writing, Smith enrolled in courses like Advanced Composition and Nature of Narrative. The internship at the Feminist Press presented a perfect next step in her academic trajectory, she says.

“Publishing is so important…part of what I love about books is getting them into the world,” Smith says.

Books are powerful tools of communication, Smith says, reaching wide audiences and influencing values and culture. Publishing companies still hold a lot of the power of deciding which books will be available to read and thus shape our culture and society.

The Feminist Press is committed to harnessing this power, publishing books by underrepresented groups to “advance women’s rights and amplify feminist perspectives.” Smith says that she enjoyed the Feminist Press’ focus on feminism for all.

“If publishing is like gate-keeping, the Feminist Press is broadening the gate,” Smith says, explaining that by publishing diverse authors, the nonprofit expands feminism beyond the white middle class and invites everyone to the movement.

Halle Smith '20 with co-workers from Feminist Press at City University of New York, a nonpro...Halle Smith '20 with co-workers from Feminist Press at City University of New York, a nonprofit, educational publishing organization that works to "amplify feminist perspectives" through literature. Credit: Halle Smith ’20

Smith plans to pursue publishing after graduating from College of the Atlantic. She used to believe that the only way to work with books was by being an author, but the internship showed her many more possibilities, she said.

“This has opened so many doors,” Smith says. Working and interacting with professionals in editing and translating helped her realize how much she liked those parts of the process as well.

Smith’s passion and talent are clear for Turok, who has continued to support and advise Smith throughout her studies.

“As early as her second year at COA, Halle responded to complex works in world literature by showing sensitive appreciation of each writer’s artistry as well as a given work’s wider cultural significance, always keenly aware of its political-historical context,” Turok says. “She seems equally comfortable as a literary critic and as a creative writer in her own right.”

Smith is able to pursue her passion for books while at work in the Thorndike library, she says. Hours pass quickly while she is busy organizing shelves, cataloging new books, and assisting other students with research.

“I love working in the library and I have learned so much! Work-study is really doing its thing–I am working and learning,” Smith says, adding that her colleagues at the Feminist Press were impressed with her extensive experience doing library work.

All COA students complete a 2-3 month, off-campus internship. This lets students explore career options, network and make connections, and learn skills that cannot be learned through coursework alone. Students do internships at businesses and companies, nonprofits and schools, and in research labs in the US and around the world. They work closely with faculty and staff to find internships that are good matches for their educational and career goals.