On September 13 I gave a Zoom presentation on my career in religious publishing to a class of students who hadn’t decided on majors and were getting advice from several professionals. Little did I know that 9 days later, I would receive news that my job as editor & author relations manager was being deleted as of September 30. Here’s what I said in my presentation to the students. I wish I’d had time to practice it, time it, and whittle it down, but I did the best I could in the time I had available.
Hi, my name is Anne Leonard Trudel, and I graduated in 1980. I turn 63 this week, and I’m still enjoying my career in religious publishing. I currently work at The Upper Room in Nashville as an editor, writer, and author relations manager.
I majored in English at Carson-Newman. I had trouble deciding on a major because there were so many subjects I was interested in: music, biology, physiology, and religion, to name a few. If there had been a communications degree offered at the time I was in college, I would have chosen that as my major. I took Spanish courses, mostly in Spanish literature, and I was 3 hours short of a double major but never thought about using Spanish in my career.
While in college, I was an active member of Callies, or the Calliopean Literary Society as it was officially called (it was the closest thing to a sorority that we had). I held various leadership positions in Callies, serving as president the first semester of my senior year. In my junior year I joined Gamma Sigma Sigma because I was interested in the service aspect of that organization. I worked on the yearbook staff for 2 years in college, and I really enjoyed that. It pointed the way for me to decide to pursue a career in religious publishing.
I earned a teaching certificate in English and Spanish in college, but I never used it. I figured that getting certified to teach as a career to “fall back on” was a lousy reason to become a teacher. I grew up in a family of teachers, and I saw how hard they worked in their hours at home. I wanted to have a career where I could leave my work at work and be present with my family when I was at home. I met my husband in Dec. 1980, and we married in Aug. 1982. All along we planned to have two children, but we didn’t discuss exactly how we would manage raising our children. I never planned to stay home. I liked my job, and all our benefits were through my job because my husband was self-employed.
My first real job was an entry-level editorial position at the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources). I was a manuscript assistant, which meant I verified factual information and helped edit manuscripts for grammatical errors. I was interviewed in May after college graduation for a manuscript assistant position in the Church Music Department. Sadly, the hiring supervisor chose another candidate because he figured I wouldn’t stay in that job long. The person he hired stayed in the job less than a year. I really wanted to work at the Baptist Sunday School Board. I contacted someone who was the minister of education at my church when I was a kid; he was a supervisor at the BSSB. I told him I was really interested in editorial work and would appreciate if he would recommend me if a position came open.
In early August a manuscript assistant position opened in his department, and he called me. He offered me the job over the phone, but we arranged for me to come to Nashville for an interview. I worked on a Sunday school curriculum called Bible Discoverers, designed for 3rd and 4th graders. In my church I took leadership training to learn how to teach children, and I wound up working in children’s choirs. There were a couple of years I worked with Acteens, the missions organization for teenage girls. I decided that children were much easier to teach, and I was interested in teaching them about God through music.
What post-graduate work have I done?
In spring 1981 I took an extension course with Southern Seminary. The course was on the religious development of children. I was fascinated by what I learned and wrote a paper on helping children deal with grief. About a year later, I took a college course in media writing at Middle Tennessee State University. This class taught me about writing for various media, and that learning came in handy later in my career when we started producing videos for children’s choir leaders.
I still wanted to do graduate study, but I wasn’t sure in what area. Besides, my husband and I were planning to start a family, so I put my dreams of graduate school on hold.
In 2019 I found out about a certificate in spiritual formation offered by Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago. The coordinator of the spiritual formation certificate turned out to be an author I had worked with at my current employer, The Upper Room. I took three of the five courses required for the certificate. I took introduction to spiritual formation (that is the study of how we are shaped as Christians—really of how God uses events in our lives to shape us into the people he dreams for us to be). I also took a course on spiritual direction and had the experience of both receiving and giving spiritual direction. For those of you not familiar with spiritual direction, it is having sessions with a trained spiritual director who listens for ways God is working in your life. The spiritual director does not tell you what you should do but acts as a spiritual companion to help you think about directions God may be leading you in your life and work.
A Summary of My Career
I worked for 2 years as a manuscript assistant in the Sunday school department. I wound up applying for a transfer to another manuscript assistant position in the Church Music Department —that was the job I had initially interviewed for after college graduation. I worked on 2 curriculum lines: Music Makers for grades 1-3, Young Musicians for grades 4-6, and The Music Leader, the teacher’s magazine for children’s choir. After I was in the Music Department for 2 years, the assistant editor left, and I was in the right place at the right time—in 1984 my supervisor promoted me to assistant editor. During this time we started using computers for our work. When I was a manuscript assistant, I had worked on an electric typewriter, and it was before Post-it notes—I would write notes all over the manuscript.
In 1987 when our first child, Daniel, was born, the Baptist Sunday School Board began offering flex time, which meant—HALLELUJAH!—I didn’t have to be at work by 7:30 anymore. I chose to work from 8:00-4:30 when Daniel was a baby. I went back to work when he was 6 weeks old.
In 1990 our daughter, Julie, was born. This time I took a longer maternity leave (9 weeks) and asked my supervisor if I could work at home 3 days a week. I did this for 4 months. In January my supervisor said it was time for me to come back to the office full-time, so I did.
In 1994 my supervisor retired. He had been my boss for 14 years, and he promoted me just before he retired. I was a coordinating editor, which meant I was responsible for the features (articles) part of The Music Leader magazine. I worked with two design editors and two manuscript assistants to edit the curriculum for three-year-olds through sixth graders. My last position at LifeWay (the Baptist Sunday School Board was renamed in 1998) was as design editor, the highest editorial position. I planned writers conferences and edited materials for 4 curriculum lines. We underwent a redesign and started offering more curriculum materials including videos.
Things at LifeWay were moving along pretty well. I had two more bosses for a short time after my long-time supervisor retired. Then one of the curriculum writers I’d worked with was brought into the Music Ministries Department as a supervisor. She was my boss for a couple of years. We kind of butted heads because we had different philosophies. She wanted our children’s choir curriculum to become more academic. She had a lot of friends in music education. I felt like our materials were educationally sound, and I knew that many children’s choir leaders didn’t have degrees in music. I was a champion for practical materials that people who weren’t music majors could use to teach children about music. Struggles between bosses and employees often don’t end well. While I had a glowing performance review in May of 1998, by August of that year my supervisor started hinting that I needed to look for another job. I asked her how long I had, and she wouldn’t be specific. I wound up finding a job at another publisher, Thomas Nelson, and I left LifeWay on my son’s 12th birthday in 1999.
At Thomas Nelson, a nondenominational Christian publisher, I was a managing editor in Nelson Books. I worked closely with an acquisitions editor who was my boss. She telecommuted before it was a common practice. She lived in South Carolina and came to Nashville for meetings about once a month. We handled business by telephone or email. Editing books opened up a whole new world to me. I enjoyed working with the authors, and I was responsible for hiring freelance editors to edit our books. I also worked with the packaging team to get copy written for the back covers of books and participated in meetings where titles were decided and editors presented books to the sales team to get forecasts. The pace of work at Thomas Nelson was much faster than the pace at LifeWay. Also we were a publicly owned company, which meant that if we had a bad quarter, sometimes there would be layoffs. After I’d been working at Thomas Nelson for about 1 ½ years, Janet, my acquisitions editor, decided to semi-retire. The publisher decided to eliminate my position, but Thomas Nelson as a company saw fit to keep me. I was moved to another department to work on books that had been previously published. We updated the content, so I worked with the authors to do that. I still did many of the things I’d done as a managing editor, but I missed the process of taking a book from manuscript to completed book. Since things were pretty stressful, I decided to look for another job in religious publishing.
I found a job at The Upper Room as a project editor in Upper Room Books. The Upper Room is best known for a little devotional magazine that began publishing during the Great Depression. I starting working in Upper Room Books in 2001 and spent 9 years as a project editor. I enjoyed getting back to hands-on editing of books after the acquisitions editor worked with authors to acquire books and do the big picture editing. My favorite part of the job was working closely with authors to see a book through the production process from start to finish. While I was in Upper Room Books, I used my background in Spanish to coordinate the production of Spanish books. I also got the privilege of leading a recording session for a CD that went along with a curriculum line for children that Upper Room Books produced.
In 2010 I was asked to move to the marketing department. My job description was kind of vague, but my boss told me she wanted me to be the marketing wordsmith. I didn’t know beans about marketing, but I learned how to write back cover copy, catalog descriptions, online bookstore copy, plus I edited every marketing piece our department produced. I’ve had four different bosses in the time I’ve been in marketing, and my job has changed. I am the editor and author relations manager for the marketing department. I work with authors to provide them with tools they can use to market their books. The marketing department, of course, publicizes their books through catalogs, e-newsletters, and ads in online resources as well as print magazines.
This year I celebrated my 20th anniversary at The Upper Room. It has been a wonderful place to work, and the people I work with and the work I do changes lives. We help people grow in their relationship with God through books, programs like The Walk to Emmaus and the Academy for Spiritual Formation, and by providing events that help others learn how to go deeper in the Christian faith. I love learning new things, so marketing has kept me hopping over the years as we develop new processes and try to stay on the cutting edge of what is happening in the religious publishing industry. What has kept me motivated over the years is learning new things and continuing my education. I work with a wonderful team of people and manage a variety of projects. I can’t remember ever being bored with my job.
What advice would I give you as students preparing to enter the professional world? Learn everything you can while you’re in college. Be curious. If you can get an internship in your field, that will give you a good idea of whether you’re suited for that particular field. It’s good to have high expectations, but be realistic as you search for jobs. You may have to start in a lower position than you would like in order to get your foot in the door. My husband told me in the first four years that I worked at the Baptist Sunday School Board, “Sometimes you have to plow corn for a while.” In other words, don’t give up. You will encounter challenging situations wherever you go. Whatever you can do to learn about working with difficult people will serve you well. Find out what your personality/work style is and be flexible and willing to learn to work with people who are very different from you. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one tool I’ve used, and I’ve also learned about myself through studying the Enneagram. Make it your goal to be a lifelong learner. Take advantage of training and development offered by your employer, and be assertive enough to ask for your employer to send you to professional training.