Editors at Work: Harcourt

A long-time editor, publisher and writer, Jane Isay served for seven years as editor in chief of Harcourt, where she edited a number of best-sellers, including Buzz Bissinger’s “Friday Night Lights.” Isay is currently on the editorial board at The New Press.

What makes you good at editing?

I think it’s love that makes you good at this. I was the kind of girl who read while I was tying my shoelaces. Books have been my salvation. I fit right into publishing, and I knew this was going to be my lifetime work. I also knew what I thought. Being a person who comes to an opinion and trusts it—that’s the first thing about being a book editor. So when there’s a book or a manuscript, if I’m bored, I know it’s going to bore other people. And if I’m excited, I know it’s going to interest people.

Is there something special that makes a particular nonfiction manuscript stand out?

For me, there has to be something new that I’ve never thought or heard of before. Or there has to be, as in “Friday Night Lights,” a window into a world that people don’t know about. So the first is originality. The second is clarity of thought. Sometimes you read a manuscript and the author can’t seem to finish a thought in a paragraph. The writing is writing you could read anywhere. One time I was running a publishing company that was doing a lot of conservative books. And I thought, I’ll do one. They sell. I published a book about juvenile justice, written by a woman who has lately moved to the left politically. I hated everything she had to say. So how could I help her say it better? From that, I learned not to publish cynically. You have to have something in the manuscript that you like. You have to hear some language that resonates with you in order to make it better.

How do you approach authors when you see the need to make a substantial change to their writing?

First you tell the writer all the good things about the work. After all, as an editor, you would not have chosen to publish it if there weren’t good reasons. Then you launch in delicately and, as a colleague, not a judge, discuss some of the problems. Use the pronoun “we” instead of “you.” It’s a team effort.

When deciding to publish a book, do you always try to pick the next best-seller?

Nobody knows what a best-seller is, unless it is the fourth book of a best-selling writer, and even that can fail. A book can be a success without being a best-seller. It can change people’s minds. It can alter the public conversation. I am on the board of a publishing company called The New Press, and we published a book called “The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. The first printing was 3,500 copies, but it’s sold over a million by now, and it’s changed the world. We didn’t know it was gonna be a best-seller. We knew it was important.

What is your advice to young people pursuing a career in publishing?

Go to every website of every major publisher and see if they have an internship program. If you know anybody who’s ever written a book, use that contact. And if there’s a place that publishes a whole lot of books that you are crazy about, then make that part of your application. If you ever get to an interview phase, promise me that you will have studied that publishing company. Give them a sense that you are already engaged in what they’re doing. If you get any internship in a place that deals with words, especially on paper, do it. Because that will give you a leg up in whatever you want to do, especially as an editor.


Students interested in applying for editorial internships with The New Press should visit the company’s website for more information. Harcourt, now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, also offers internships at its various offices throughout the United States.

—Abigail Gorman, ’17

Teaching Opportunities for New Graduates


STA provides personal service as you search for a great teaching job.  They are your advocate in a competitive job market.

They are looking for teachers, counselors, coaches, administrators and all PK-12 positions.

  • Thousands of positions available in private & independent schools
  • Certification not required for most middle- and high-school jobs
  • Certification is required for elementary teaching positions
  • Math, science, and language majors strongly encouraged to apply
  • Placement services are always FREE for candidates

They will be meeting students at:

Delaware Valley Education Consortium

Greater Philadelphia Teacher Job Fair 2015

Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks

Wednesday, March 18

9:00AM to 3:30PM

Southern Teachers Agency

Great jobs for great teachers!



Find Your Inner Author: Consider the SJU Writing Studies Graduate Program

Did you know that St. Joe’s has a graduate writing studies program?  Many of our alumni have gone on to do great things.  Visit our site and discover all the interesting courses available, as well as something about the professors who teach in the program.

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 Here is a list of some of our alumni and their success stories.  Prepare to be impressed!  The Writing Studies Graduate program really paid off for them.


Danielle Bullen (’06) is now Senior Editor at ADVANCE Newsmagazines, a healthcare publishing company with multiple trade journals. She focuses on Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy titles, writing for both print and online, and managing social media accounts.

Anthony Calabro (’12) was recently named Associate Editor at Clinical Orthopaedics, a peer-reviewed journal based in Philadelphia. He is also a contributor to Hoop76, a Philadelphia 76ers website affiliated with ESPN.

Emily Czerniakoski (’08) served as a National News Correspondent in Washington D.C. following her M.A. in Writing Studies. She is now the co-founder of her own media company for kids, CaRu Entertainment. 

Clare Herlihy Dych (’06) started as a grant writer for the Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia after completing her Writing Studies M.A. She recently took on a new role as Associate Director of Development for Penn Medicine.

Kim Krol (’13) was promoted to Managing Editor of Global Traveler and is currently in charge of launching a new travel website aimed at twenty-somethings. For freelance opportunities, contact kim@globaltravelerusa.com

Randy Lobasso (’07) is on the masthead at Philadelphia Weekly as a staff writer. You can follow his articles on PhillyNow.

Bernadette McBride (’06) has published her second collection of poetry with Aldrich Press, titled Food, Wine, and Other Essential Considerations–an Alphabet since graduating from the Writing Studies M.A. program. Her poem, “Flying Lessons,” was recently featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. Visit her blog to learn more.

Marisa McClellan (’06) completed her M.A. in Writing Studies and now blogs professionally for numerous food-based websites, including the Food Network. She is currently on tour for her second book, Preserving By The Pint.

Camille Moore (’14) is now the Assistant Director of the Writing Center at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa.  Her duties include overseeing TRIO/Student Support Services, which is a federal grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. It provides academic support to students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, are first- generation college students, and/or individuals with disabilities.  She will also plan workshops and other events to promote the Writing Center.

Lana Morelli (’12) left law school to get her M.A. in Writing Studies and now works as a legal reporter. She also teaches writing as an adjunct professor at Delaware County Community College and Neumann University. Her blog is still going strong at LanaMorelli.com.

Colleen Mullarkey (’12) phased out of medical writing after receiving her Writing Studies M.A. and is now the Assistant Director of Publications at her undergraduate alma mater, La Salle University.

Jackai Musonge (’09) returned to Cameroon after completing his Writing Studies M.A. and began work for a telecommunications regulatory agency. He was recently appointed Bureau Chief. His manuscript “International Student Part One: Journey to America,” was recently accepted by a publishing company in South Africa.

Elishia Peterson (’13) published her first poetry collection, titled “Black Roses: Five Women and Their Mental Breakthrough,” in November of 2014 through 2 Pens & Lint.

Justin Rademaekers (’09) went on to complete a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University. He was recently invited to join the faculty at West Chester University as Assistant Professor of English.

William Shelton (’14) is now writing a column for the youth supplement of Philadelphia Gay News.