Name: Mack McCormick
Position: Publicity and Rights Manager
Hometown: Selma, AL
Tell us a little bit about your position at the press.
My primary responsibility is publicity—writing press releases, mailing review copies, coordinating media interviews for authors, setting up book signings and other events. I also coordinate the press’s subsidiary rights program. The bulk of our rights activity is translations, though it covers everything from professors who want to use a chapter from one of our books for a course packet to audiobooks to first serial excepts in magazines to movie deals.
What’s one of your favorite UPK titles and why?
There are so many I’ve worked on over the years, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one, so if I’m forced to do so, I’ll pick a more obscure title—Growing Up Hard in Harlan County, by G.C. “Red” Jones. It’s a memoir, originally published in 1985, and brought to the press by Harry Caudill. We released it in paperback in the early 2000s, shortly after my son was born. It was the first book I read after he was born that I lost sleep reading (and when you’re already short on sleep, it takes something special for you to give up more). Red Jones led a fascinating life that included running a team of mules through the Appalachians as a preteen, bootlegging, the depression, Bloody Harlan, World War II, and more.
If someone was visiting Kentucky for the first time and you were their tour guide, where would you take them? Any specific restaurants, landmarks, etc.?
It completely depends on who it is and when it is. If Keeneland is in session, that’s a no-brainer. It’s an experience and atmosphere you can’t get many other places, but one of the nice things about Lexington is there are lots of options, from historical to cultural to muscial to outdoors to sports.
What’s your favorite word?
It’s hard to pick just one. My favorite phrase might be “Eschew obfuscation.” And while I like both of those words individually, neither rises to favorite. As a category, I’ve always loved a lot of clothing terminology, which is a bit ironic, since I’m not what you would consider a natty dresser. I find myself intrigued by many of those words—tattersall, gaberdine, seersucker, madras, houndstooth (I did graduate from Alabama as well), gingham, muslin—not for their meaning or etymology, but as words themselves. Their sound. Their construction.
Do you have a favorite font? If so, what is it? [if possible, make image of font name in font]
Perhaps Palatino. I’m not a true font geek, though I did see and really liked Helvetica and I do notice and pay attention. I like and use a lot of more modern and streamlined fonts, but if push comes to shove, I’m a fan of old-style fonts, and Palatino is a nice modern version of one. As my eyes have gotten weaker, I’ve grown to appreciate Sabon as well, which is another modern take on an old-style design, but more open and easier on the eyes. It’s also one we’ve used extensively over the years on our film list.
Did you always know you wanted to work in publishing? When you were a kid, did you want to do something different as an adult?
I started college with a physics major in mind. I was always good at math (higher math, I need a calculator to add) and science. Second semester calculus disabused me of that notion, and an amazing freshman English class left me an English major. Publishing/writing didn’t enter my mind until I started working on the staff of Marr’s Field Journal, Alabama’s undergraduate literary magazine. The one creative writing class I took there showed me how much better I was on the editing end. I had the ability to write, but not the voice for it or the need to do it. I continued to work in publishing from there—Marr’s Field Journal business manager, then editor; the media planning board at Alabama; Alabama Heritage and Southern Accents magazines; Limestone, Kentucky’s graduate literary journal; then UPK.
What’s something most people don’t know about you? What’s a random factoid about yourself?
I actually alluded to it above—I’m a closet physics junkie. While I can’t follow the math in the journals, I follow the popular press. I subscribe to Scientific American and I have a shelf filled with titles like A Brief History of Time, The Black Hole War, The Meaning of Relativity, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Notes from the Holocene, The Trouble with Physics, and Reality Is Not What it Seems.
If you could bring any fictional character to life, who would you choose?
Thursday Next. If you don’t know who that is, I won’t deprive you of the joy of discovering for yourself.
What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
The last (non-work-related) book I completed: Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Liu Cixin (The Three Body Problem is the first in the trilogy). If you’re a fan of big, complex space opera (or of contemporary speculative Chinese fiction), yes. Otherwise, there are better introductions to the genre than this amazing, complex trilogy, but if you enjoy those, by all means check this one out.
The books I’m reading now: The Real and the Unreal/The Found and the Lost, by Ursula Le Guin. One is her selected short stories; the other is her collected novellas. Both are amazing collections from a writer whom we recently lost. Both are worth a read, though as collections, they’re something I can dip into and out of, so I don’t tend to read those straight through.
Novel I’m reading now: The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Phillip Pullman. I’m not far in, but so far so good. This one is a follow up to Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which in my opinion is the best, most ambitious YA fantasy to be published since The Hobbit. Start there before getting this one, and don’t bother with the movie version of The Golden Compass. If you have seen it, don’t think it is an honest reflection of the book either.
What’s your favorite song to sing at karaoke and why?
“Mack the Knife,” by Bobby Darrin. I have my own theme song, though I was probably 14 or so before I even figured out why so many of my parents friends called me Mack the Knife. If I do get up to sing it though, run—I’m tone deaf and perpetually flat (or so I’ve been told—it sounds on key to me).
If you could live in any TV show, what would it be and why?
The West Wing. Any the “why” should be obvious.