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Catherine Forrest

Associate Director, Journals Production, American Society of Clinical Oncology


Please tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).

I’m originally from Maryland and have lived here for most of my life—excepting a stint in the Los Angeles area working at SAGE Publications and playing roller derby with the Ventura County Derby Darlins. I studied English Language and Literature at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland, where I loaded up on coursework in linguistics and advanced grammar. I originally thought I might turn this into a teaching career, but life had other plans.

Describe some of your current responsibilities and what type of organization you belong to.

Presently, I work for the Publishing Department of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a nonprofit membership organization. In my current role, I manage production services for the organization’s journals within the Journal of Clinical Oncology brand. I am also working on streamlining production processes for other publications at ASCO, including our ASCO Daily News, Educational Book, and Meeting Proceedings. I’m also proud to participate in ASCO’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force as the Publishing Department’s representative.

What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?

My first publishing role was as an editorial assistant in a busy books production department at a publishing company with a large list of academic, scholarly, and commercial books in numerous subject areas. I still remember my first day with great clarity: I filled out cataloging-in-publication (CIP) data applications for the Library of Congress from 9 till 5 and decided not to come back the next day. I was encouraged to give it a little more time, and fortunately the next day I was given some real editorial work to do—I’ve loved working in the publishing industry ever since Day 2.

I worked my way up to a senior production role over the course of several years and then made the leap to my first management role as Assistant Managing Editor for production of the scholarly list. Shortly thereafter, I transitioned to a new role leading the organization’s Digital Publishing Group to shepherd our frontlist and backlist—and those of our client publishers—into the new world of digital formats like EPUB and MOBI.

I went on to lead the production of higher ed, library, and directory publications at CQ Press in Washington, DC, shortly after their acquisition by SAGE Publications, which is headquartered in Thousand Oaks, CA. Within a year we had decided to consolidate production under one group in Thousand Oaks, so I hopped on a plane to follow the job.

After several rewarding years with SAGE in Los Angeles, I realized I missed friends and family on the East Coast and decided to head back home. I began my work with ASCO shortly after returning and I’ve been here ever since.

If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.

The most pivotal moment in my career was the decision to uproot and move across the country to take on increased responsibilities with a larger organization. In hindsight, I realize that before making the move I had really grown as much as I was able to in the current environment. Plunking myself down in a totally new environment, with a very different social and professional culture, gave me an opportunity to grow and develop in ways that I likely would not have been able to had I stayed in the professional culture of the DC metro area for my whole career.

What tools, websites, and organizations do you find most valuable for your career development?

A key aspect of my career development has been to keep learning—I try to keep picking up new skills, learn new technologies, and discover new tools and services as they launch. To that end, I get a tremendous amount of use from my LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Eventbrite accounts.

I also keep up with publications like The Scholarly Kitchen and Publishers Weekly to see what’s new and interesting in scholarly publishing and in the wider publishing industry.

What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?

Change management might be the biggest recurring obstacle of my career. The publishing processes, technologies, and best practices have been in a state of constant change since I started my first publishing job. It’s comfortable to stick with what you know and what you feel confident in; embracing change is uncomfortable. But this is an industry that never stops evolving and you barely get a breather before the next big thing is coming at you. Helping others embrace change as an opportunity and feel confident in their ability to adapt has been a big and ongoing challenge, but also tremendously rewarding.

What do you wish you knew more about?

I dearly wish I knew more about news publishing. I’ve published books of all kinds, scholarly journals, and glossy magazines—but I’ve never worked in a news environment. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands dirty with the ASCO Daily News in the future.

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?

In my off time, I write two articles each week for my publication, Shelf Life, on writing, editing, and the publishing industry (and sometimes other adjacent topics).