A Q&A with Temple University Press’ new Editorial Assistant, Will Forrest

This week in North Philly Notes, we get to learn more about Temple University Press’s new editorial assistant, Will Forrest, who joined the Temple University Press staff this week.


You are “returning” to the Press having worked here as a student. Can you talk about your experiences at the Press?

I first worked as an intern for TUP during my senior year as an undergraduate, mostly working on rights and contracts. I was amazed at the variety of responsibilities I was handed and their importance. It was not your typical mindless gofer intern busy work. I loved my time as an intern and got a feel for nearly every aspect of what it takes to publish a book. I am overjoyed to return as an editorial assistant!

What book(s) do you like to read/are you currently reading?

I am currently reading By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age by Paul Boyer. History is probably my biggest love, and oddly enough, I have been interested in the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war for most of my life (although the Soviet Union did not exist when I was born). I am also rereading Anthony Heilbut’s The Gospel Sound, his look at the vibrant and often underappreciated world of African-American gospel music. It might be my favorite book on American music.

Has any single book made a particularly strong impression on you? (What and why or how)?

Many of my strongest responses to books came early in my life, and the book that I credit with really sparking my interest in writing and storytelling is Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. It was the first book I remembered reading where I felt like I identified with the character, understood that he was speaking from a unique point of view, and made me feel less isolated. It launched me into reading Blume’s other books as well as other stories about teenagers and young adults. I still find that I especially like reading novels and consuming other media about young people, and my creative ideas are often filled with young people working things out.

You have an interest in playwriting. Can you tell us about that?

I have loved theater for most of my life, and writing has also been a major part of my life, but it wasn’t until around college that the two began to dovetail. I like the freedom and sparseness of writing plays compared to other forms. Most of my play ideas end up being rooted in history one way or another, and often my plays are places to string together seemingly separate interests and ideas I have. I actually have a play I wrote being read online at Temple this fall called Window of Vulnerability about nuclear war planning and its psychological impact on ordinary people during the Cold War.

When and how do you read?

I am a very undisciplined reader. I typically read in the evenings after most of my daily business is done, and read essentially until I get tired or disinterested, whichever comes first. Even if I am very engaged by a book I don’t usually feel the urge to finish it right there and then, and I sometimes then end up reading multiple books at a time. 

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I would venture to say that many of my books on the Cold War might surprise some given the event took place before I was born. One that might surprise most people, especially people of a certain age, is Richard Zoglin’s biography HOPE of Bob Hope. It’s natural to wonder why any young person would be interested in the life of a comedian known for being a conservative square who performed well past his prime and toured the world with the USO. But American entertainment history is a major interest of mine, and like him or not (and some of his early movies aren’t bad), there are few entertainers as important to 20th century America as Bob Hope.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?

To be honest, I never really identified much with superheroes or superhero/comic culture in general aside from watching some of the films. I used to wear a Superman t-shirt that I won in a crane machine on the NJ boardwalk when I was much younger, and I suppose I still think he’s pretty cool. I also like Superman because he’s not as omnipresent as the Marvel heroes in today’s culture.

What Temple University Press book has particular meaning to you (and why)?

This is an unusual and obscure choice, but it is a book the Press published in 1974 called Broadcasting in Africa: A Continental Survey of Radio and Television. When my brother, who shares many of the same historical interests I do, found out I worked for the Temple University Press and that they had a library of their catalog, one of the first things he asked me about was this book. He wanted to know if they had it because it is very hard to find and one of the only books written during the era on the topic. It was this experience that made me realize the unique vision of TUP to publish pioneering works on topics that are not often written about, and it crystallized that the books TUP publishes are interesting to many diverse groups, including my brother.

What Temple University Press book would you recommend to someone?

I think Mary Lou Nemanic’s recent Metro Dailies in the Age of Multimedia Journalism is an incredibly important read for anyone who cares about truth. As local newspapers shutter around the country in the face of the digital revolution, especially in smaller communities, local stories and viewpoints slowly start to disappear from the nationwide conversation along with their invaluable investigations. Local dailies are often the first papers to report on what will become major national stories, and when they fall on hard times, things start to fall through the cracks.

What book will you read next?

My backlog of books to read is quite extensive. I have Peter Guralnick’s biography of Sam Cooke entitled Dream Boogie on my shelf, and as a huge fan of Cooke, that era of American music, and Guralnick’s other books, I will devour it. I also just bought Vincent J. Indonti’s African Americans Against the Bomb and am very excited to read it.

What three writers would you invite to a dinner party?

Even though I read largely non-fiction, I think great fiction storytellers might make better dinner party guests because of their natural inclination towards dreaming worlds and listening to their characters. So I would invite Judy Blume and Elena Ferrante, two of my favorite living novelists (I hopefully will have learned Italian to speak with Elena) as well as Sarah Ruhl, a playwright I admire very much. I would pay homage and hopefully we would spend the evening talking about everything other than their work. I’m also not much of a cook, so if any of them have any specialties or feel inclined to provide courses, I would be ecstatic.

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