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Up the south stairwell to the third floor of the Grauel Building, second door to the right, first door to the left lies an office. The fluorescent lighting inside radiates a soft chemical glow onto the eggshell white paint covered cinder blocks. To the left of the door is a series of tall grey metal bookshelves where archive editions of the Southeast Missouri State University Press publications lie. In the far right-hand corner of the room is a bank of computers where publishing interns spend countless hours each semester reviewing, editing and formatting books, such as the governor award-winning Gold of Cape Girardeau, and the journals Journey and The Big Muddy, as well as the winning entry of the annual Copperdome poetry chapbook competition. And, in the right front, at a desk almost adjacent to the door, is the overseer of this literary nook, horn rimmed bespectacled assistant editor and office manager Mandy Henley.
For two years, Mandy has been the publishing assistant for the Southeast Press. An alumni twice over earning both her bachelor and master of arts degrees in English, she is nearing a decade at Southeast, and is now is responsible for the same office in which she previously interned.
“I make sure the interns have plenty of projects to give them a variety of experiences,” she says.
In addition to overseeing interns, her tasks include editing, bookkeeping, page layout and design, working with Photoshop to improve the quality of photos before publication, shipping book orders, trying to keep things organized, maintaining the press Web site, and dealing with anything atypical that may arise, which happens so often it is almost the rule.
“My favorite aspect of this job is that I never have the chance to get bored,” she says. “There is such a variety of things for me to do.”
Independent publishing was not Mandy’s original career path. She changed her major four times before realizing English was her passion. Every time she got into something, she decided it wasn't for her. That is until she took a class with Dr. Susan Swartwout who interested her in the small-press publishing minor. She had always been obsessed with books, so it only made sense that she would want to publish them.
“I love books. I can’t stop buying them, even though I haven’t read nearly all of the ones that I currently have. It’s tough to pass up some of the sales because I know that, eventually, I’ll get the chance to read them,” she says.
In addition to her love for reading, Mandy is also a writer and member of the local writing group Prescription Strength Poetry.
“I love to write poetry,” she says. “We meet once a week to trade and discuss poems with each other. Having this support group of fellow writers helps keep me motivated to write.”
Although her love for books and writing may have been her key, Mandy says she believes all students will find their path if they keep their eyes open. Looking back on her educational experience, she suggests students seek a major in something they enjoy and not be afraid to change.
“Don't be afraid to change your mind,” she says. “You might learn things about yourself that never even occurred to you.”