So Much Sky: Career Advice for Aspiring Editors

by Hunter Adcock, Lit Fest 2019 Intern

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of posts written by Lit Fest 2019 interns tasked with sharing notable experiences during the festival's two weeks.

Monday, June 24th, 2019—    

The inside of a Volskwagen Beetle is no place for an interview.

For one, there’s not enough leg room, even without all the coffee cups and crumpled burrito wrappers. Second, there isn’t enough coffee—or burritos.

There is, however, a wide, sprawling windshield, and through it, a panoramic view of the storms that roll across the plains of DIA, reaching toward the ground with shredded tendrils of grey. If nothing else, a Beetle makes for a good show and quiet conversation, a welcome change of pace after a long day of business. So much sky.

When driving an editor to the airport, always comment on the sky.


Editors love good stories. They like telling them even more. That’s why I try to let Sarah Murphy do the talking as I keep an eye on the crawl of I-70, counting the seconds between one lightning strike and the next. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong. It feels like I’ve swallowed a bee that’s still buzzing in my stomach. I’m sitting next to Oprah’s editor. This is big. This is an open door if ever there was one, gaping and spilling light in front of me. But I owe her my silence—a chance to talk about herself. She’s everything I want to be, but she’s still a human being.

Sarah Murphy likes to hike. She watches the yellow hills in the distance pass with wonder, marveling at the uninterrupted expanse around us. It’s hard to find a place like this between the towers of New York, where she’s lucky if she glimpses even a shred of cloud above her. She tells me about a place I know well, at the base of the Flatirons, which I guess are Boulder’s answer to skyscrapers. I smile a little, but I guess it makes sense. If I lived surrounded by steel and concrete and glass each day, I might jump at the chance to explore something else, too.

Or maybe I wouldn’t. I feel awkward, predictable, as she asks me about my interests, which brings us to the conversation I first set out to avoid. I’m an editor, I tell her. Words and stories are my lifeblood. I would give up just about everything if I could move to New York, and if I’m being honest, I’ve been looking forward to meeting Sarah for weeks, in the hopes that I could ask her how she got to where she is. As I say it—at the risk of sounding too forward, too aggressive, too passionate—the bee rattles furiously in my gut. But Sarah grins. And nods. And asks me what I want to know.


Below are the things I learned about editing through my internship with Lighthouse Writers Workshop this month—courtesy of Sarah Murphy, Senior Editor at Flatiron Books, whose business card is as thin and white as a bolt of lightning striking a yellow hill:

            1.) This is an industry of apprenticeship. It truly isn’t what you know, but who you know—and if you really want to walk through that shimmering door, it behooves you to know many. Internships are a good start.

            2.) As long as you’re moving, you’re moving in the right direction. Be light on your feet, though. The industry changes like the wind.

            3.) Leave the coldness to the rain. Cold calls, if you should find the proper number to dial, will thaw before they can condense. An e-mail may be slightly better—but there are still more fruitful ways to put your name in the hat.

            4.) LinkedIn is often not one of them. Try BookJobs, or Writer’s Market.

            5.) Ambition is good, and admirable. Don’t lose that.

            6.) Move to New York City if you can.

            7.) People may tell you that you need a master’s degree to succeed in this field. Take this with a grain of salt.

            8.) All you really need to do is write. And read. And network. And take opportunities when they come. Keep in mind that there are seasons to this kind of thing. Chances are, you’re in the middle of one.


It’s never a perfect formula, of course. All you can do is try, and then keep trying. Collect as many business cards as possible. Keep every line of communication open. Listen to the bees in your stomach, and let them build their hive.

Above all, even though the future looks a lot like a storm, never take your eyes off the sky.


Hunter Adcock is a YA author, freelance book editor, and recent graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver. Lit Fest 2019 was her first time getting familiar with all that Lighthouse offers, but she hopes to continue her involvement with the house in the future. When not immersed in the wide world of words, Hunter enjoys going for hikes, discovering new craft breweries–and hot wings.