What I’m Looking Forward to at AWP…

The AWP Conference & Bookfair is upon us! This year, the event will be held in Minneapolis from April 8 – 11th. I’m excited since this will be my first time in the Star of the North state and my first time attending the conference. Past editor and author attendees have written that AWP is overwhelming and advise everyone to have specific goals in mind when they attend. Consequently, I wanted to take a minute to share what I’m looking forward to and what I hope to accomplish while I’m there.

Let’s get the fun stuff out of the way first:

  • Author signings: Three of my favorite fabulist writers will be there for book signings. I can’t wait to meet Kate Bernheimer, Kelly Link, and Karen Russell and get books signed.
  • The bookfair: I’ve heard incredible things about the bookfair and have to check out other literary magazines and small presses, talk shop with editors, and discover new authors.
  • Panels: While not all panels will live up to their promise, I’m excited to hear what authors have to say about creating literary magazines, writing “unlikable” characters, conducting research for fiction, creating dark fiction, and finding their voices. I’m especially eager to hear Roxane Gay, Kate Bernheimer, and Karen Russell discuss their writing processes.
  • Camaraderie: I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that I’m pumped to spend time outside of Rosemont with my peers and the program directors. After two years, I’m still settling into Philadelphia (by way of Brooklyn) and feel as if I’m finally starting to make friends…thanks to Rosemont. This event will give me a chance to connect with this lovely like-minded group outside of the classroom.

Now lets get serious. I’m kidding, because my goals for AWP aren’t insufferable (unlike doing my taxes, which I should get done before I board the plane!):

  • Represent Rosemont: Naturally, I’ll be “womanning” the booth for part of the time. I’m happy to talk to AWP attendees, authors, editors, and potential students about Rosemont’s Master’s in Creative Writing and Master’s in Publishing, not to mention the Rathalla Review.
  • Recon: Next year, I’ll be the managing editor of the Rathalla Review, which means I should explore what other literary magazines are publishing and what design elements they have that make them stand out. I want to observe the mind blowing and the not so amazing so I have clear ideas what the lit mag staff should strive for and what we should avoid.
  • Networking: Since I run my own writing, editorial, and creative services company, I figured I would introduce myself to publishers of all sizes to offer my services in the future. I can’t wait to connect with those who are making good books and literary magazines happen.
  • Observe: Like any conference, I’m sure I will learn what works at a conference of this size and what doesn’t. I’m also sure I will learn a lot about my peers, the industry, and how to plan for next year’s conference. Of course, I hope to have some fun as I pay attention to what’s happening.

That’s all for now. If you are attending AWP, visit us at Booth #1600.

Think YA Book Publishing Jobs Are Hard to Get? Alexa Pastor Will Change Your Mind

Winter storm Juno was a bust, but Alexa Pastor was working from home when I called her last Tuesday, the day that the storm was predicted to pummel the Northeast and New England. Alexa didn’t let the weather deficiency ruin her mood. She was happy to speak about landing her dream job at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, where she is the assistant to Justin Chanda, the Vice President and Publisher of S&S Books for Young Readers, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Margaret K. McElderry Books, and Saga Press.

Alexa_photo

Alexa has always loved YA novels and been an avid reader, and her passions have inspired her professional goals. “When I was growing up, I had a group of friends that passed books around at lunch. That experience helped me build a community, plus it shaped many strong associations that I have as an adult. That is unique to the YA genre. That’s why I want to be part of a publishing house that puts out books that teens love.”

After graduating from Villanova University with a B.A. in English, Alexa was accepted into Rosemont’s Masters of Publishing program, where she focused on children’s and young adult books. She also had internships at YA publishing houses Running Press Kids and Bloomsbury U.S.A.

“Human resources said that I was one among a thousand applicants applying for the editorial assistant position at Simon & Schuster. My Masters in Publishing set me apart from the pack. It introduced me to the basics of the business and the terminology utilized in the field so that I could hit the ground running. Because of my degree, I have a unique perspective shaped by seasoned professionals in the industry and a wide range of experience that helped me land the job.”

On a day-to-day basis, Alexa attends meetings, manages Justin’s schedule, assists him with acquiring books, handles administrative tasks, and assists in editing manuscripts. She hopes to advance in the editorial track of book publishing. “I love being part of the creative process,” she said.

When asked if she had advice for other students that hope to break into the YA book publishing industry, Alexa said, “Read as much as possible—that includes classics but also contemporary authors. You will have to understand what is current, so you must become part of the audience in order to be able to acquire and edit books. Be persistent and focused on your dreams and goals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and form connections so that you can get your foot in the door.”

Alexa is currently finishing her Masters in Publishing at Rosemont remotely. Her favorite YA authors include Morgan Matson and Rainbow Rowell.

Student Post: Maintaining and Operating a Small Press

by Sally Beeson

Each Wednesday, I, along with eight other publishing students, meet in Mayfield Hall for class. This building, recently reopened, now houses the Publishing and MFA programs here at Rosemont and, with this new home, comes a new project. Each week when we congregate in Mayfield Hall, we embark on a journey to start Rosemont College’s very own small press.

If you were to enter the classroom where the Operating and Maintaining and Small Press class meets, you will be met with pictures of ravens, lions, and rising suns taped to the wall, a seemingly random list of adjectives on the board, as well as themes and possible titles for our first book. Our first publication will be an anthology of poetry, short stories, personal essays, excerpts, and flash fiction written by Rosemont faculty and MFA alumni. The book, titled “Another Breath” so as to symbolize the republication of these pieces, will launch at the MFA holiday party on December 11, 2014, meaning we’re on a strict time frame to get everything ready to send to the printer. It can get frustrating and overwhelming (especially since all of us are taking multiple courses), but one thing the Small Press class is teaching us is the whole messy process that occurs before we can print and sell our book, the frayed ends that will eventually tie together as a neat package. I hope to take you all through the process of what we’re learning and offer some insight into what goes on behind the scenes at a small press.

The first order of business is department roles. Who is going to edit? Who is going to design the layout? Each student leads one of the four teams-Editorial, Business, Production, and Marketing, but we all take part in multiple aspects of the process. In just the first few weeks of the semester, as a class we have already:

  • Read submissions and either accepted/rejected each piece
  • Drawn up a contract for the authors
  • Estimated words per page for the layout of the book
  • Come up with a mission statement for RC Press
  • Developed a logo for RC Press
  • Created a title for our first book
  • Created and posted to social media sites about the press

The cover for Another Breath has also been a topic of great discussion in class. It was decided pretty early on in the process that publishing alum Sarah Eldridge would take on this task. It has been a packed few weeks that already has us balanced on the brink of insanity and with the final push upon us, the weeks to come will be even busier. Errors are bound to happen in any new venture, and in this course, mistakes are not only inevitable, they are encouraged. Though we are frazzled, we’re all quickly learning that even though it is stressful and tiring work, it is also incredibly rewarding to one day look at this anthology with the knowledge that it is very much our own creation.

If you want to receive updates and learn more about Rosemont College Press, please take a little time to “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @RosemontCPress.

Student Post: Embracing the Golden Age of Publishing

by Rosalba Ugliuzza 

We are currently in the “Golden Age” of publishing. With the inventions and popular sales of tablets, apps, and mobile devices, this “Golden Age” is more than just holding the power of a red pen in your hand. It’s more than just the text in a book or magazine.

I grasped this knowledge after attending the “Trends in Digital Publishing” panel discussion on Monday, March 24. Moderated by director Anne Converse Willkomm, the featured panelists were some of the most extraordinary intellectuals in today’s publishing industry: digital content producer and Rosemont graduate faculty Thomas Hartmann, digital publishing consultant Scott Chappell, writer and Wild River Review social media director Don Lafferty, and Publisher’s Weekly senior news editor Calvin Reid.

I enjoyed the panel discussion so much that halfway through the seminar, I stopped taking notes so that I could absorb the words of wisdom. Their background and experiences are different yet extraordinary. They provided very insightful, informative, and thought-provoking opinions about the digital content and the future of the entire publishing industry. They took turns defining content and who owns it. On a social media outlet, you are a partial owner of what you write. Content is all around us. It’s a delivery vehicle. A book can be a combination of many things, not just a solid object.

The panelists were profoundly optimistic that change in the publishing industry is a good thing. Traditional publishers are joining the bandwagon of applying the digital aspect to their business model. Not only will digital publishing help the consumer masses grasp up-to-the-minute information with one easy touch, it will also encourage the well-rounded producers – such as authors – to come up with more than one way to publish their latest work. For example, if an author opts not to use or gets rejected by a traditional publisher, he or she can still publish work through Amazon, social media outlets, or blogs.

With the latest changes and upgrades, we must not be preoccupied or scared. Curiosity is the key to educating ourselves in order to stay on top of the publishing game.

Student Thoughts: Managing Stress

by Laura Crockett
Scribbles & Wanderlust

For as long as I can remember, my schedule was packed. From music lessons to rehearsals, school and after school activities, honors societies and work, I was constantly on the go. Somehow, some way, I managed my stress just fine in those days.

But graduate school is a whole different ball game. The classes are fun and interesting, so the workload doesn’t feel like a burden. Working 40+ hours per week can be exhausting, but if you’re like me and you love your job, you don’t mind the hours. I blog for Quirk Books whenever the idea actually makes it to a word document and is sent to their editors. And this semester, because I’m always curious about writers and their word babies, I’ve edited and looked over two manuscripts for our MFA students.

The thing is, I love doing all these things. I love learning, I love working, and I love editing. So why does graduate school feel so much more stressful than any other time of my life? Well, I don’t have the answer to that, but I can certainly help you figure out how to manage it!

We all need some prescribed ice cubes.

We all need some prescribed ice cubes.

Remember: You’re Not Invincible
Everyone has their limitations. Once you start realizing you’re losing sleep, not eating properly, and on the verge of some sort of mental breakdown, it’s time to cut back on things in your life. What’s absolutely mandatory? What can be made more flexible? What can wait till the winter holidays?

Find a Way to Express Your Stress
Whether that’s wailing into your pillow, all woe-is-me and making your neighbor very concerned, or calling up your parents and listening to their voices, or even writing it all down in a journal, notebook, or on a sheet of paper — vent your stress. Talk to someone. You don’t necessarily need them to solve your problems. What you need is a way to get all those thoughts out of your head and in the open. You’ll feel lighter, liberated, once you’ve expressed yourself.

Make a Happy List
This sounds so cheesy, but it’s immensely comforting. Create a list of things that make you happy, things that aren’t related to school or work. Finger painting, rolling down a hill of leaves, a nice hot meal at a restaurant, watching a movie with a friend, you name it! Write it down — then go out and make it happen. You deserve that mental break.

Self-Care Days Are Important
A friend of mine is getting her PhD and she told me last year that I must schedule a day of the week for self-care. “You’ll go crazy without that one day,” she said. Last year I made sure I had everything done by that one day of the week I didn’t have to work or go to class. And on that day, I was reading for fun, chowing down on nachos and popcorn and cookies, watching BBC dramas with friends, catching up on TV shows. I forgot to do that this semester, and immediately felt the effects. It’s not a happy place, folks. Schedule that day of rest, that day of fun. You’ll feel so much better for it!

Learn to Say No
You’re brilliant, intelligent, hard-working, and wonderful — everyone can see that, everyone admires that. So of course, they think you’re invincible (I repeat: you’re not) and pile on more favors. “Could you edit this? You’re so great at it!” “I love your design — could you help me with mine?” “My manuscript needs some development. Could you look at it?” You want to help, you really do, and you’re interested in these tasks — but you’re overwhelmed. Say no. It’s kind of like turning down a date: It may break your heart at first, and you may feel really guilty initially, but say it anyway. Tell the person you’d love to but can’t, you’re already swamped with other things. They’ll understand. The world won’t end. One day you may find time to help them and maybe they’ll return the favor — but that day is not today.

How do you handle stress? Any tips and tricks you’ve learned over the years?

Student Thoughts: DC’s National Book Festival

by Emi London

Among the politics, traffic, and National Treasure references, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the fact that D.C. is home to one of the largest libraries in the world. But the National Book Festival is exactly what it sounds like: a festival hosted by the Library of Congress, dedicated to celebrating the written word.

The National Book Festival started in 2008 by former First Lady Laura Bush. Once a year over 80 authors, poets, and illustrators are invited for lectures, book signings, readings, and interviews on the grounds of the National Mall. Last year over 200,000 people attended. After experiencing the crowds this year I wouldn’t be surprised if that number doubled, especially with superstar names like Margaret Atwood, Terry McMillan, and Joyce Carol Oats scheduled to take the stage and speak.

But because so much happened over the course of two days, I’m going to split up my first experience with the festival into two parts.

national book fest

Tents and booths at the National Book Festival. Photo credit: Emi London.

PART 1: SATURDAY

This year, the festival took place over two days—September 21st and 22nd. White tents pitched like kingdoms shielded the kings and queens of the represented genres as they stood up and spoke about their recent work, influences, or about the publishing industry in general.

Unsure of where to start, the other publishing students and I split up to meander between tents and buy books before taking our place in line to wait for Veronica Roth’s book signing. I managed to catch Patrick Ness at the end of his signing, and proudly showed off my new copy of More than This.

There were so many people that shortly after we settled in to wait they began to separate and number us into rows. It figures that they cut off the line before getting anywhere near us (after all, Veronica was only supposed to sign books for half an hour), but the extra time allowed us to run and snag decent seats for her talk, which in some ways was even nicer than walking away with a signed copy of Divergent.

The talk turned out to be more of a Q&A, with the host and audience asking questions about Veronica’s thoughts on writing and finishing the Divergent series. Veronica was very animated, especially during her discussion of the difference between writing “strong” female characters (characters who are complimented by being compared physically and emotionally to men) and strong female characters (characters who write their own definition of strength and react to situations like an actual human being might). Soon it had started raining, driving the crowds from the Mall as soon as the talk was over. We were among those huddled under umbrellas waddling our way towards the Metro with one last concern—keep the books dry.

PART 2: SUNDAY

I drove back down and stalked the children’s and teens tent all afternoon to ensure that I had a seat to see the one author I desperately wanted to see: Tamora Pierce.

We all have that one book or series that changed our life, right? For me, it was Wild Magic. I read it when I was 13, just before my parents announced that they were getting a divorce. Now that I’m older I’m glad that they did it because they’re much happier now, but when you’re 13, it’s a big deal—especially when you don’t see it coming. At the time, Pierce’s books provided a form of escape. I was able to relate to Daine and the other characters in Tortall and find joy in their adventures, so much joy that the books got me reading and thinking about fantasy all the time. They completely changed my perspective, taught me about the importance of courage and friendship, about believing in myself and the everyday magic of persistence. Pierce’s books inspired me so much that by my junior year of high school I knew I wanted to go into writing and publishing. Since then, it’s been a dream of mine to meet her and thank her for writing the books that helped me grow up. For the first time this year, I was actually within driving distance to do so.

While waiting, I listened to Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising series, Ghost Hawk), Matthew J. Kirby (The Clockwork Three, Icefall), and D.J. MacHale (the Pendragon series, Sylo). Susan discussed the things in her life that influenced her writing, with particular emphasis on place. She also spoke briefly about her education at Oxford and a class she took that was taught by—surprise, surprise– J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis! “They taught us to believe in dragons,” she stated, subsequently giving everybody in the audience goose bumps. Kirby talked about the use of history in his novels while MacHale read the first chapter of his book to demonstrate how important it is for authors to hook the reader within the first few pages. Needleless to say, he succeeded; I don’t think there was a reader in that tent who wasn’t interested in picking up Sylo when he was finished—myself included.

And then it was time for Tamora Pierce. A hush fell over the tent as seats were traded and readers of all ages took their place to see the award-winning author herself. I’ve listened to interviews before, but being there, seeing the author herself was better experience than anything I could have ever possibly dreamed.

tamora pierce

Tamora Pierce at the National Book Festival. Photo credit: Emi London.

Like Veronica Roth’s talk, the majority of Pierce’s was a Q&A with the audience, except she gave her fans permission to ask about anything. She was hilarious, and the fans asked really interesting questions. They asked about what characters she planned to focus on in the future, her inspiration, which character she thought herself most like, the romantic relationships her characters go through, and even about her tattoos. It was an amazing discussion, concluding with the heartfelt message that it’s important to continue writing about women and minorities because it’s not enough to include them once in your work; as people, they deserve to be treated as more than just a check mark on a writer’s laundry list. I’d be lying if I said my eyes were 100% dry at the end of the discussion.

Learning from our experience with Veronica Roth’s book signing, after Pierce’s Q&A I booked it (pun may or may not be intended) over to the other side of the Mall. Even though I ran, I still ended up waiting an hour and a half to get my tattered copy of Wild Magic signed, but it was worth it. And as I achieved my dream and babbled a thank you for writing the books that changed my life, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Not only for Pierce for sticking around longer than she was scheduled to so she could sign everyone’s book, but for everyone who played a part in orchestrating one of the largest gatherings of book lovers in the country.

So this time next year, if you’re anywhere D.C., take a few days off to attend the festival. Spend more money on books than you probably should. Listen to the writers who write them. Run between tents to get those books signed. Talk to a kid who just read your favorite author’s book for the first time. Because sometimes it’s important to take a break and remember the heroes we work so hard to publish. After all, they’re the reason we’re here, isn’t it?

 

Student Thoughts: An evening with K.M. Walton

by Morgan Hawk

4515355K.M. Walton crackled with energy as she discussed her passions with a classroom of graduate students at Rosemont College on September 16. Already an author of two published books, Cracked and Empty, Walton has many more she is eager to see published, one of which is currently in the works. Although Walton is unable to reveal much about her next story, she is very excited about the novel, an adapted version of a fan’s personal story. Walton was surprised to sell her book quickly based on a one-page summary.

With a lot of ground to cover rapidly, Walton spent her morning before visiting students writing 11 pages for her new book. For Walton, a normal work day starts with checking her social media before beginning to write. But when Walton is on a deadline like she is now, she puts off the social media until she has finished writing for the day. Facebook is a sneaky wormhole for everyone.

Walton began writing while teaching sixth grade. She realized she had always been a writer; it just took some time to realize. “The first day it just flew out of me, and I wrote 12 pages,” she revealed.  After finishing her book, Walton received 148 rejection letters before finding an agent, and two months later had a book deal with Simon & Schuster. She now writes full-time, and it was a terrifying leap for her. “Teaching was my favorite thing besides being a mom. I went in with wings every day,” explained Walton. She loved the challenges of middle schoolers because of the attitudes they were trying out. Now Walton speaks at schools against bullying for her Kindness Matters campaign.

There is evidence for her platform of anti-bullying in both of her books, and the students at Rosemont had a lot to discuss with Walton after reading Cracked. She explained that the idea for alternating perspectives came after attending a SCWBI conference, and started with a simple bulleted list that she still has. The voices of each of the two teenage boys are very distinct, and it was during her second draft, once she had a real sense of her two characters, that she was able to do this. For Walton, her characters become real people. She yells at them, cries for them, wonders about their futures, and wants them to be happy. When asked which of the two boys is her favorite, Walton pleaded for each. “I love those boys equally. Picking a favorite is like picking between my own two sons.”

The group also discussed the acceptance of upsetting endings and rough situations in young adult books. Walton believes young adults are more accepting of the harsher realities because the readers are more open and haven’t learned to be afraid of the world yet. There are definitely some tough situations to bear in Cracked, and Walton confessed that even reading it over 100 times, she still cries.

Walton is never afraid of writing the truth, whether it is bright or dark. However, what she is hoping for with each story is to teach children to look past the labels. To see this at work, take a day to read Cracked or Empty. I promise you it won’t take any longer, because you will not put it down until the last page is turned. Even after, the voices of the characters will still be echoing in your head, as you too become concerned about their lives and future happiness.