IVP - Strangely Dim - Knowing What You Know (Part 1)

July 21, 2010

Knowing What You Know (Part 1)

It's nice to have an intern. They'll do anything you ask if you tell them it's valuable experience: "Clean my car; the state of your car is your author's first impression of you"; "Go walk my dog; feel the tension of harnessing and directing a being with its own agency"; "Taste this; I think one of our competitors may have poisoned it." We are to our interns as Jackie Chan is to Jaden Smith: call it "Karate" and you can "teach" them whatever you want.

So when we found ourselves lacking in creative energy to generate our own blog posts, we made blogging a "learning opportunity" for our current intern, Deborah Gonzalez. A graduate of Northwestern University, where she was active in the InterVarsity and LaFe student fellowships, Deborah hit the ground running here both in her editorial instincts and her grasp of our publishing vision. We're excited to present you with her three-part series of reflections on her time here--not only because it gets us off the hook for writing, but more importantly because she's a sharp thinker and a deep soul, and you deserve to read stuff like that every now and then.




On the first day of my internship at InterVarsity Press, I sat in my car for ten minutes before walking into the building. I hadn't expected to be nervous; I've done plenty of internships in my day and had experienced many first days before this one. But for some reason, I was nervous. I've been reading IVP books for as long as I can remember, so having the opportunity to work here was an enormous privilege. On top of that, this would be my first time working in a publishing environment, and I had no idea what to expect.


The one thing comforting me was that, even though I had never met any of the employees, I felt like I knew them.


I had never felt this before with any other job. I already felt a strong connection with IVP, partly because they are part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship--which was a significant part of my college experience--and partly because their books had played (and continue to play) a huge role in my spiritual development. I was also familiar with their blogs (including this one), and thus felt a connection to the editors who contribute to them. Even though I had never met them personally, reading their published work gave me insight into their thoughts and personalities. In addition to that, I had stayed in contact with Dave Zimmerman (who would be my supervisor), following him on Twitter and visiting his blog. Reading up on him wouldn't necessarily help me in any way, but I figured, why not? The information is readily available to the public, and it's hard not to become curious.


Meanwhile, however, the people at IVP had no idea who I was (other than, perhaps, what they had read on my résumé). So I reminded myself that I would be starting from scratch. Besides, feeling like you know someone doesn't mean you really know them, right?


I had learned a few things about Dave in the weeks since being offered the internship; some were significant (like his thoughts in processing a recent mission trip to Haiti) and some not so important (like how he was taking anti-malaria medication). I didn't bring them up on our first meeting because I thought it might creep him out. Maybe he knew things about me too, but if he did, he didn't bring them up either. I guess doing so would break some sort of social norm that says you should really know someone first before admitting that you know things about them--if that makes any sense at all.


Working in an industry where it is common practice to publish your thoughts and ideas makes for interesting dynamics, particularly when one is a new employee. Most of the editors at IVP are published writers. It becomes possible to learn intimate details about their lives without ever talking to them, even without actually meeting them. I don't think this dynamic is unique to this place; it seems as though we've entered a kind of voyeuristic era, where spying on people has become normal. Social networking sites and digital publishing make it possible to quickly learn things about people without hearing it directly from them. We keep in touch without ever sitting down and catching up. It is surprisingly easy to get to know people without really knowing them.


On the other hand, writers are making their work and ideas accessible on the Internet. They are seeking an audience. So perhaps they are flattered when unknown readers read their work or follow their tweets. For every voyeur in our current context, there seems to be a willing exhibitionist.


Either way, two things are certain: writing (whether through a blog, social network sites or a published book) is an extremely vulnerable act for authors; and reading that work (no matter what the intentions) gives readers a sense of responsibility. This series of blog posts is about the responsibility that comes with knowing people while not really knowing them.


Next week I'll publish part two in this series of posts. In the meantime, here are a few questions to ponder: When you go to work today, who will you get to know? How will you get to know them? And why?


To be continued . . .


Posted by Dave Zimmerman at July 21, 2010 10:26 AM Bookmark and Share


Deborah - I looked you up on Facebook before you started your internship, after you commented on Sandra's status. So we were stalking you too. ;-)


Comment by: Al Hsu at July 21, 2010 1:20 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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