Out West student blog

Telling the stories of California and its communities

Kyla Figueroa (she/her)
Hometown: Stockton, CA

Major: English ‘24

Internship: Heyday Books

Kyla Figueroa reflects on her summer editorial internship at Heyday Books in Berkeley, California

During my first day at the office, and as a part of my editorial internship, I had begun working on selections for Heyday’s 50th Anniversary collection, which would round up impactful and representative work the nonprofit had published into an anthology. I was reading and jotting down pages and chapters from The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin—an oral history-turned-memoir of the founder written by Kim Bancroft—that could serve as key excerpts. Other tasks I would eventually do included drafting copy for the catalog, providing feedback on manuscripts, and editing documents to prepare for formatting. 

That day, though, as I read about Malcolm Margolin’s fascination with California, its natural beauty and landscapes, and the communities that encompass it, the chants for honking began. If we hadn’t been at a busy street in West Berkeley with no water around, I would have confused their demands and squeals for actual geese honking. These kids, about 5 years old and presumably walking back to a summer educational program, began yelling at the cars driving past to honk their horns. Presumably, out of innocence, it was fun for them to get a vehicle to beep. And presumably, out of making a child’s day, these strangers obliged. Each success earned a cheer from the group. They continued repeating their wishes of honk, honk, honk, as the atmosphere filled with joy. It was funny to hear, and it was humorous each time they returned over this past month. Strangely, though, instances like so make me so excited to work at Heyday and support their mission of uplifting the communities of California.

In the office, I find myself in a perpetual state of learning about the state I call home. From Margolin’s memoir to recent releases—such as the SF Chronicle bestseller with geological history in Deep Oakland and collections like Know We Are Here that center indigenous narratives—every book has a purpose to shine light on what is in the dark. I get excited when I go to bookstores like City Lights or even stand in line to buy ferry tickets and see Heyday books for sale. Playing a part in hearing the stories that live unknown and putting them into the limelight has been the most rewarding part of this internship. 

A goal I had for this summer was to embed myself into my surroundings and get to know the greater Bay Area better after escaping the Stanford bubble. This summer, I’ve refilled and depleted my Clipper Card. I’ve hit up the record stores and bookstores to explore the indie arts scene in Berkeley, and plan to attend events hosted by literary magazines, such as ZYZZYVA and Dispatches. I’ve gone to SF Pride to celebrate queer joy and the activism of those before. I’ve gone to SF Giants games, vibing to sets from the local DJ Umami, and gone to concerts where the headliner yells What’s up, Bay Area! I’ve even trekked into enemy territory, taking a self-guided tour through UC Berkeley and exploring the fauna and flora at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (I was able to recognize some of the plants after reading nature guides at Heyday). The beauty, the culture, and the environment is a story in itself, and the people that call the Bay their home contain multitudes. 

I’ve been reflecting on what I want for my future, as a writer, artist, activist-scholar, and soon-to-be-senior, and being here has influenced my trajectory for the better. Internships are a place to experiment and try new things, a place to consider what is in front of you and see if it’s something to carry with you. No matter what I do,  I want to support California artists. Giving feedback on manuscripts not only requires fixing the prose and adding in commas, but ensuring the work effectively becomes what the community member wants it to be. All editors on staff believe in the mission of the books, no matter the niche, and want the words on the pages to be heard in every valley, forest, beach and city. I will not only be taking the stories with me as I leave, but I intend to help plant the seeds for our communities in the future.

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Photo courtesy of Brandon Kapelow

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