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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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My advice would be, “Take as many good courses in English as you can, reading other people's writings...not necessarily the stuff that we had to read, like Silas Marner and The Oregon Trail and all of these books that kids hate, but reading, certainly, Dickens and Hardy. Then I'd suggest a long course in writing and learning what the big authors of today are doing. Then, work, if you can, in a retail bookstore for awhile on holidays. There is nothing like working in a Doubleday shop or in a big department store for most of December if you can do it, learning the actual business of selling books. What are people asking for? What are they looking for in a book? What kind of jacket attracts them? What kind of blurbs do they read? Why do they buy books? This is what you learn by working in a bookstore, especially when it is busy at holiday time. Then, if possible, get a job as a stringer or researcher on Time or Newsweek for another summer of college vacation, learning that end of the business and finally getting a job, if you can, in a publishing house. While you're in school, try out for the campus daily or literary magazine. I went to the Columbia School of Journalism, as you know. I got more out of being the editor of Jester and doing a daily column for the Spectator than I got out of the whole School of Journalism curriculum. As night editor of Spec every month I had to get the paper out. Jester...well, one time I was writing half of the whole magazine. The editor usually does in college. The other kids cop out on him, and he's stuck with getting out the issue. If he's like I am and my boys are, that's fun.

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