Editor Zaleski finds her home at the Nebraska Press

Elizabeth Zaleski, associate project editor for the Nebraska Press. Photo courtesy of University of Nebraska Press.

By Meghan Straub, NewsNetNebraska

Like many professionals in the journalism field, Elizabeth Zaleski followed several different career paths before becoming an editor at the University of Nebraska Press in Lincoln, Nebraska. Zaleski was born in rural northeast Ohio and went to Ohio State, graduating with degrees in English and Linguistics. When serving as an editor for her high school newspaper as a senior, she planned on becoming a biologist. After her sophomore year of college, she switched majors and began editing the small Ohio State newspaper, The Engineer.

Zaleski said that even though she had editing experience, she never actually took a class pertaining to her future career.

“The track that I took as an undergrad was called the language track, so I had to take History of English Language and Contemporary Issues in Grammar. I never actually took a copy editing class. I am more self-taught,” she said.

After graduating college, Zaleski didn’t pursue editing for a couple of years.

“I had taught for six years during graduate school, but teaching wasn’t really my thing. I am someone who liked to see tangible results right away, but with teaching, you don’t really get to see them,” she said.

During her last year of graduate school, Zaleski was able to volunteer as the managing editor for Ohio State’s literary magazine. She realized that she would rather become an editor than continue teaching.

“I got to see what project management and copy editing looked like. I also got to see how the production side of things worked, and I really liked it,” Zaleski said.

When she began searching for a job, she applied at many university press locations because they are a great fit for her.

“I like that this work is associated with the university, but it is also on a 9-to-5 schedule. Teaching is very hard to shut off, and that was a struggle for me. I don’t have to continue my work at home. I can shut it off,” she said.

Her current job at the press also complements the attributes that she has.

“I have a background in linguistics that provides me with a deep knowledge of syntax and language, which helps me keep a healthy perspective,” she said. “My background in scholarship and creative writing is very helpful for this particular position. It is very rare that you get to work with both. I also have great attention to detail and learning and applying a new system.”

She also stated that one of her biggest assets was her time management skills.

“I wish I had more time. I am working on 20 manuscripts right now, and I have fewer than any other copy editors. This job is really project management, and it requires a lot of time management skills. If something new comes up, you have to be able to shift your other responsibilities and quickly move to another task.”

She said that during college she started the practice of using a color-coded system along with a running list of items that she had to get done, and it still works for her today.

Zaleski said, “If you can handle going to school and handle the coursework, while also managing other responsibilities, that’s a good indication that you will be able to manage your time after college.”

Along with utilizing her time management skills during her job, Zaleski follows a pretty similar plan and schedule each day.

“All days are fairly similar. Everyone starts their morning by checking their emails from copy editors and indexers about schedules,” she said. “I send materials out to copy editors, review the files, prepare the work for designers and email them about a lot of other little details.”

For up-and-coming journalists and editors, Zaleski said that it is very important to be open to working in smaller, Midwestern areas.

“Especially with publishing, if you are willing to work in other areas, there are jobs available,” she said. “Really big cities like L.A., San Francisco and New York are obviously where most of the jobs are, but there is also a lot more people applying for those jobs.”

Her willingness to try something new and different is the main reason why she has her current editing position in a location other than Ohio and the coasts.

Zaleski has been working at the University of Nebraska Press for nine months, but she plans on continuing there as long as she can. She enjoys the people she works with and the books she produces. Throughout her time at the University of Nebraska Press, she has been asked to write a couple of blogs on its website, www.unpblog.com. On this website, Zaleski has been able to write about some of her favorite books that she has read outside the office. Although she doesn’t have an online portfolio or website, she does belong to the website, www.aaupnet.org.

If you would like to know more about Zaleski and some advice that she has for future journalists, please click open the video below.

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