So, this internship began with a strange mixture of feelings: excitement, because I was lucky enough to meet someone who could give me the opportunity to intern in one of the UAE’s largest media and publishing companies. Nervousness, because I still felt like a clueless teenager trying to walk around in shoes too big for my size. There is something dizzying about walking under the shadow of the high-rise media offices in Dubai Media City, from CNN to my workplace at Motivate Media and Publishing. And I got through (and even enjoyed) three weeks of this!
As it happened, there was no dramatic reason to worry. The first day went by in a surprising rush. Equipped with a quick tour around the buzzing office, introductory leaflets and samples of magazines, myself and another two girls from my college were sent off to our desks. I think I spent a moment or two letting it sink in that this was where all the magazines I casually glanced at in line for the cashier were “born and bred”: from What’s On to Emirates Woman to dozens more.
Past the glamorous, fast-paced air of the magazines, I headed off to the quieter Books team. Admittedly, I knew little about what they did; just the fact that they worked to bring out the best in my favourite things (books, what else?!) was magical to me. What did I really end up doing? Here’s a summary:
Proofreading and highlighting inconsistencies: One of the first projects I got involved with was a series of short stories by an Emirati author that were first published in 1994. Since it was a translation, the text contained a number of ‘Britishisms’. This is where I came in, scanning for the odd word like ‘lad’ in the midst of a narrative about Bedouin settlements. Reading over 20 short stories was an added bonus.
Writing sell texts, author bios and key features: Critiquing other authors’ work was easy enough, until I had to write a boiled-down ‘pitch’ (150-200 words) for each book due to be published, a short bio of the author and a few summary points about what the book covers. All of this was packed into an Advanced Information Sheet that helped the sales team to get the books into bookstores (that was an ohhh, so that’s how it works moment for me). It took a few tries to get the delivery right, but overall, it was a fun exercise in copywriting.
Reviewing manuscripts: Orphans and widows live in manuscripts, too, apparently. I learnt how each publishing company follows a ‘style guide’ to make sure all the books they publish are formatted consistently. And I’m still in wonder over the fact the editor manages to keep almost all of it in her head.
A dull job here and there: Someone has to do it. The inevitable part of being an intern and frankly, any job on the face of the earth. Once I had gone about it, I asked for other work, and my ‘mentors’ were kind enough to supply it.
At times, I was ‘borrowed’ by teams working on other publications for companies like Emirates. Going from books to travel writing was quite a jump: it took some time reading through past issues to learn how to pick out pull-quotes, write by-lines and pick up the distinctive ‘voice’ of the publication.
After two weeks of hopscotching between Books and the other print publication teams, I decided to try my hand at magazines (with some apprehension, as I wasn’t entirely sure how the department would react to having an intern on top of end-of-the-month deadlines). The team was much bigger, but thanks to having another mentor there, I got to know quite a few friendly faces.
Going from print to web: My first task was to sift through the past issues and shortlist the ones that would go on a new website for the magazine. Thanks to the help of the web developers and designers, I even managed to transfer the articles across using inDesign and WordPress.
Reviewing media kits for new events: This was exciting, as I got an insider’s look into some of the new events to be organised on behalf of the magazine before they were out in the press.
Writing content: Working with an editor, the highlight of my time in the magazines department was undoubtedly interviewing a charitable figure in the local community and writing about them in a special 500-word column. Plus, I typed up an array of short snippets of content across the magazine. The process launched me in the deep end (not having done anything like it before) but I can imagine how some people may enjoy the adrenaline rush. As for me, it was incredible to hold the finished product in my hand and see all the work come together in one magazine, in the matter of one month, with much of my writing still intact.
Thank you for reading! Publishing internships are notorious for being hard to come by, so I’m truly grateful to the team at Motivate for giving me this opportunity and making it a great experience.
Keep reading and readjoicing,