I began my professional life as a teacher and have taught the gamut: from preschool to high school. What I found most frustrating was the lack of compelling outside reading available, especially for my students of color. While teaching in Boston, I was also pursuing my MFA at Emerson College. It was there that I discovered Book Publishing as a career option. On a lark I took my first publishing class as a way to build-up the pre-requisite credits I needed in order to take my fiction workshops. I never expected to find myself so taken and invested in the material and the industry. In fact, before my book publishing courses at Emerson, I thought books were a gift from some mythical book fairy that I conveniently picked up at my local bookstore on a weekly basis. I never gave much thought to the industry behind the books I consumed so compulsively. But I caught the publishing bug quickly and left the teaching profession soon thereafter with my sights set on publishing those books that felt missing to me and to my former students.
My first job in publishing was a lucky and invaluable internship at Lee & Low, an independent multicultural children's book publisher in New York. I learned a great deal about editing, acquisitions as well as marketing and publicity from this experience. While working at Lee & Low, I contacted quite a few publishing professionals requesting informational interviews. I knocked on a lot of doors and was told the same thing over and again: you seem great, but I don’t have a job for you. I was starting to feel a little hopeless, though the truth is I’d spent only a summer looking for a permanent position and that wasn’t very long at all.
At the end of that first summer in publishing, one informational interview I had at FSG finally panned out leading to a job as an Editorial Assistant working for a Sr. Editor and the President and Publisher. Though it was on the adult side of the industry, I was ecstatic and just like with my internship learned a great deal, specifically how to repackage hardcovers as paperbacks, the process of which is a microcosm of the entire book business and a way to learn the business quickly. Suddenly, from soups to nuts, I was all in.
I stayed on the adult side of the industry for several years, working at FSG and then HarperCollins, before I got the opportunity to return to my roots and the reason I wanted to pursue a career in publishing--kids--by starting a Young Adult list for another independent publisher, Kensignton. After successfully launching the Dafina imprint into the world of kids books, most notably the Drama High series, I took a job at Penguin/Putnam Books where I've been ever since publishing great new talents, just having a complete ball. Children's books is wonderfully satisfying and there is no feeling like the one when new books come into the office or when I spot a child reading a book I worked hard to publish.
So how did I get into publishing? Complete and total accident. If I’d taken Medieval Poetry (totally don’t think this was really a pre-requisite option at Emerson) instead of Book Publishing 101 as a way to amass my needed pre-requisite credits, I might be somewhere wooded and cabin-y writing really bad...I mean deep poetry, piling up rejection letters, having christened myself a sort of misunderstood mad medieval poet-genius...or not. But having proudly published a few of those missing books like Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado, The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante, Black Angels by Linda Beatrice Brown and Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter, it’s hard to imagine this path I’m on is such an accident after all.