This story refers to recent acts of violence at Michigan State University that may be difficult to read. Resources and assistance are available through multiple campus programs.
From more than 5,000 applicants, Michigan State University senior SaMya Overall was chosen for an internship with the American publishing company Simon & Schuster — a significant accomplishment in an already impressive resume that also includes internships with Macmillan Publishers and The Feminist Press, serving as Editor-In-Chief of The State News, and a recent national award for her work promoting diversity and inclusion.
“Knowing that I stood out of so many applicants, means a lot because the book industry doesn’t look like me,” Overall said. “It’s not a Black industry, and it’s definitely not a female-oriented industry. Being a Black woman in such a selective internship meant that it is possible for me to go into that industry, and it gave me a confidence boost to keep applying and keep trying.”
A member of the Honors College, Overall is majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and minors in French and Women and Gender Studies. She has always loved to read and write, which led her to MSU.
“I love writing features, and I knew that was something I wanted to do,” she said. “So, I came to MSU as a Journalism major, but realized I like creative writing more than journalistic writing, so I switched my major to English.”
“Being a Black woman in such a selective internship meant that it is possible for me to go into that industry, and it gave me a confidence boost to keep applying and keep trying.”
Overall is now looking forward to graduating in Spring 2023 after a college career filled with impressive scholarships, internships, and work experience.
“MSU, especially the creative writing program and the College of Arts & Letters, is a very welcoming community for writers who are not sure of their niches, so when you get to where I’m at now, about to graduate, I know what I want to write about and I know that I want to work in book publishing,” Overall said. “Also, the professors have different expertise and are excited about their craft, which is really inspirational. It makes you want to find that drive as well.”
Working for The State News
Having served as Editor-In-Chief of The State News since May 2022, Overall had the difficult job of managing the paper’s coverage of the Feb. 13 acts of violence on campus, an experience she wrote about in a column published by The State News on February 24, 2023.
In that column, she wrote that “leadership can be a lonely feeling” and that “you have to process your grief while making important decisions because no one will make them for you.”
She expressed how she felt the weight of more than 70 student journalists who were looking to her for what to do next and the countless State News followers who were looking for answers.
“There’s no book on how to be editor-in-chief during a mass shooting at your university,” she wrote. “There’s also no book on how to be a student government president, a professor, or a dining hall worker. Nor on how to be a student, a university president, a founder of a student organization, a resident assistant, an undergraduate learning assistant, or any of the various roles you may find yourself in right now. But that doesn’t make it impossible. It just means you must breathe, look around and get to work, in whatever capacity that means for you right now.”
“Working at The State News has been a love of mine and is part of my identity at this point…The State News is a big factor of why I got a lot of my internships because of the work I’ve done here.”
Overall first joined The State News as a freshman in Fall 2019, working as a campus reporter, mostly covering stories about the Black and Brown experience at MSU. She later became the paper’s managing editor and head fact checker. Now, as Editor-In-Chief, she has worked on expanding diversity in the newsroom by hiring more Black and Brown staff and increasing the coverage of Black and Brown issues and experiences.
“In my four years at The State News, we’ve really paid attention to the amount of Black and Brown coverage that we’ve done,” she said, “and it has to be increased, so I’ve made an effort to hire Black and Brown staff.”
Overall is being recognized for this work as a recent recipient of the 365BLACKPRINT scholarship, which aims to help close the achievement gap Black students face in the United States. The scholarship honors graduating seniors who are dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in their fields and provides funds to help ease the post-graduation transition.
“Working at The State News has been a love of mine and is part of my identity at this point. I’m going to miss it when I graduate,” she said. “The State News is a big factor of why I got a lot of my internships because of the work I’ve done here even though it’s a slightly different industry.”
Simon & Schuster Internship
Overall applied for the Simon & Schuster internship in January 2022 and was notified in July 2022 that she was selected for one of only nine available internships out of thousands of applicants.
“I think my experience made me stand out from the other applicants,” she said. “Before Simon & Schuster, I worked for Macmillan for a year. Then, I worked for The Feminist Press, which is a small activist, feminist fiction press in New York. I’ve done a lot of work with them. I also have some really nice references.”
The semester-long remote internship with Simon & Schuster lasted from September to November 2022 and gave Overall valuable publishing industry experience. Working on three to four different books at a time, some of her assignments included copyediting text, inputting contract data into the computer system, registering manuscripts and creating their International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and designing the back covers of books.
“I sat in on a lot of meetings just to observe, which was really nice to look and see where I’d like to work,” she said. “They would have meetings about the book covers and meetings about acquired manuscripts and how much they were going to offer authors. It was really interesting because there’s such a wide variety of different things you can do at a publishing house.”
“I have a general love for books and love to read; it’s one of my passions. So, it didn’t feel like a job when I was reading manuscripts because I was just doing what I like to do.”
Overall was drawn to many of the managing editorial tasks. Still, her favorite assignments were when she could exercise her creativity and try something new. She loved reading the manuscripts and creating the designs featured on the back cover.
“I have a general love for books and love to read; it’s one of my passions. So, it didn’t feel like a job when I was reading manuscripts because I was just doing what I like to do,” she said. “Also being able to design the back covers was something I wasn’t expecting to do because I’m not a designer by any means, but it was a lot of fun thinking about colors and what colors fit together.”
Graduation and Beyond
Now, as Overall looks forward to graduation and the future, she is searching for a book publishing job and would eventually like to get a master’s degree in publishing. She also would like to write a novel.
“I do want to publish my own novel someday because writing is a big passion of mine, but I want to have some stability first, post-grad,” she said. “However, I am working on this young adult book that I’m very excited about. It’s part of my project for my capstone class this semester. So, I do plan to publish something eventually. I just don’t know when. Right now, I’m just going to go with the flow.”
Written by Molly Wright and Kim Popiolek