You’ve met the staff and seen the books, but have you ever wondered what it’s like to work on BatCat Press? In this three-part blog post, see what past, present, and future staff members have to say about their experiences on the press. Reunite with staff from the past nine years, say goodbye to our seniors, and meet the newest faces of BatCat Press.
For the past three years, we’ve been posting “Meet the Staff” updates, blog posts that focus on each member beyond their BatCat jobs. However, it’s difficult to separate our lives from what we do on BatCat. The press isn’t just a class to us – our staff has dedicated countless hours outside of school to binding books and attending events. Our time here on press has taught us skills we’ll be utilizing for the rest of our lives. There are currently six graduating seniors on staff, and, as of June 8, we’ll all be moving on to the next step in our lives.
For Sarah and Layla, this will be an end of an era. These two have been on staff since 2015, having joined at the beginning of their sophomore years. Layla’s been eager to join since all the way back in sixth grade. When applying for Lincoln Park, she was torn between the theatre and literary arts departments. BatCat was a deciding factor for her.
Some people, like Sarah, specifically wanted a publishing experience. “Being able to see the other side of the publishing world has been really informative. We’re required to submit a certain amount of pieces every year, but we never really see what happens on the other side. Being on BatCat, we get to be part of that,” she says.
Rachel is another graduating senior, but this was only her first year on staff, so she had a lot to look forward to when she was accepted. “I applied for staff because I thought it would be really fun,” she says, “and I wanted to helpful.”
And she sure has been. This year, Rachel made some gorgeous marbled sheets for our handouts at AWP, and really took to making our signature haiku pins. Just this week, the department has been buzzing about her and a junior’s new project: LeRoy quotes pins, taking the most memorable sayings from our department head and turning them into merchandise. Rachel’s been running her infamous twitter account, @leroy_quotes, for over a year.
In fact, this graduating class has a wide range of skills. Since we bought it last year, Layla and the printing press have been inseparable. She was also one of the leading contributors for our new publication Ghost Woodpecker. “When Hailey and I found [Ghost Woodpecker] last year it was our goal to letterpress an entire book, and I just got really close to the book itself. I pretty much know it word for word at this point because I’ve set it, reset it, and printed it so many times. It kind of just feels like an extension of me at this point. It was so fun watching it all come together.”
Layla isn’t the only one to be close to a publication. Sarah Bett is our perfect binder master, and she has headed up the reprint project. She specifically focused on Snowmen Losing Weight this year, and there wasn’t a step in the process she didn’t contribute to.
As for myself, I feel particularly bonded with Parakeet. Last year, I was in charge of the designs and communication with the author, Jason Olsen. The past two years I’ve been in charge of teaching the new staff basic bookbinding, which is one of my favorite hobbies.
Torie, another first-year staff member, took to some innovation of her own. This year, she perfected a method of binding little soft-bound sketch books, and she contributes dozens of them to BatCat’s inventory. Another senior, Dorien, has become incredibly skilled with calligraphy.
The seniors aren’t the only thing that have changed in the past few years; BatCat has also evolved! “We’ve been reaching a larger audience, and we’ve been able to get more additions to what we have. We have the letterpress and the hand press and we have a new room. We have a lot more supplies that we didn’t used to have access to and a better understanding of our goal,” Sarah explains.
In the past four years, BatCat has gone from having one supply closet to two full rooms, and we hope to keep expanding. As we’ve gotten new machines (the letterpress, hand press, perfect binder, et cetera), our products have gotten even better and more advanced. It’s been amazing to watch the press expand in such wonderful ways.
Sarah hopes it won’t slow down any time soon. “I’d really love to it see it reach a larger audience and become more well known. Just seeing growth in the press physically and how it’s known would be swell,” she says.
After graduation, BatCat’s six seniors will all be going in different directions. Layla will be attending Pitt-Greensburg for political science, and Sarah will be studying civil and environmental engineering at Penn State. Dorien plans to become a pilot, and Torie will be attending CCBC. Rachel is training to become a dog groomer, and I will be heading to Emerson for writing, literature, and publishing.
Many of us still hope to stay involved in the literary community. Sarah Bett hopes to continue writing throughout college. Layla wants to get internships at presses before buying her own letterpress and having a small print shop. Outside of BatCat, I have a small paper goods business, and I hope to pursue a career in publishing at a press not unlike BatCat.
Even though we’re all going in different directions, there’s one thing we can all agree on: how much we’ll miss BatCat.
“I don’t think I would be the same if I hadn’t been on press. It’s given me a lot of real-life experience with people and businesses, and I’m really appreciative of Mrs. Baringer, and the press itself, and all the people that have been on it with me,” Sarah Bett says.
Rachel will particularly miss the atmosphere of press. “We all just have a lot of fun together, and we’re all nice to each other, and we goof off with each other. It’s a good environment,” she says.
Many people have even gone as far to call the fourteen-person staff a family. We have so many fond memories of assembly lines watching Netflix and singing along to the radio that it’s hard not to be attached.
I’m lucky; I’ll be joining BatCat again as the post-graduate intern, so I don’t have to say goodbye just yet.
I don’t think anyone could sum up the senior’s thoughts than Layla already has: “I am so grateful to have been a part of staff. It has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
-Olivia Smith, BatCat Staff Member