A career built on dual passions

watkinsLife is an exploration. Those willing to search for their true calling, and those who are lucky enough to find it, are living a rich life. Part of what makes this life even richer is appreciating and sharing their gifts to benefit others. One of the many things that makes Lexington special is the fact that so many passionate, interesting folks call the Bluegrass home.

One such Lexingtonian is Anne Dean Watkins. She’s senior acquisitions editor at the University Press of Kentucky and is also a devoted yoga practitioner and teacher. In a recent conversation, she shared more about herself and her career.

When growing up, did you know where you wanted to head professionally?

Since I was a kid, I always knew that whatever I did when I grew up would involve writing. I was a creative writing major at SCAPA and then an English major at the University of Kentucky, but [I] did not have any idea what I wanted to do. I took a course called Professions in Writing, where we learned about various paths one could take as a writer. Publishing was a path that had never crossed my mind, and upon visiting the University Press of Kentucky [UPK], I applied for an internship. After interning at the press for a couple of years, combined with working at a local bookstore, I was hired full time in the acquisitions department at UPK. I guess school put me on the path of my current career in academic publishing, but I always knew that writing and books would be present in my life.

As for teaching yoga, I grew up surrounded by exercise. My mom taught aerobics, and I spent a lot of time in various studios and gyms. Teaching wellness and mindfulness are in my blood.

What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?

The relationships I build with authors, colleagues and various scholars and writers is my favorite part of the job. There are a ton of really smart people out there, and I feel lucky that I know them and that they trust me with their work. Just knowing how happy it makes an author when I mail them an advance copy of their book with a handwritten note from me, congratulating them, makes me feel like I have succeeded. And also, having a tangible product at the end of the day that I had a part in creating is, of course, fulfilling.

The most fulfilling part of teaching yoga is seeing the look of pure joy on students’ faces once they open their eyes at the end of a practice. The looks range from bliss to gratitude to drunken grins to tears. Witnessing them listening in and spending time with themselves is amazing.

What books do you look back on as special finds?

UPK just published Jason Howard’s new book, A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music, and I would have to say that it was a favorite of mine to work on last year. Books that connect to the region but that also transcend a national audience are my favorites. Plus this one was about music, which pulls another heartstring in me. Other special finds include film books on lesser-known actors and/or directors. The books that I acquire in the film genre get reviewed very well nationally and internationally.

What changes do you see in publishing these days?

Changes are occurring daily. We’ve had to alter our thinking greatly since the significant rise in eBook sales, including how we title, price, promote and print a book. People are buying, viewing and reading more online. We are constantly working to keep up with the changing technology, and as a nonprofit academic press, I believe we are doing an excellent job.

What do you think makes Lexington such literary fertile ground?

This beloved place is a rich cultural intersection. We are Southern, we are Appalachian, we are hillbillies, we are hipsters, we are farmers, we are artists, we are passionate — Kentucky kicks ass, right?

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