Five years ago, on the recommendation of a fabulous author-mentor, I set off on a journey to the world of dirty streets, strange smells, and literary intrigue – New York City. I knew I wanted to be an editor, but what kind, and how, was uncertain. I also knew I loved books; especially the fantastical adventures written for young readers. (Ella Enchanted was my first book love.) But, most well-meaning people told me that publishing was dying, especially if I was interested in “kid stuff.” And, I didn’t really have the background for it – I didn’t major in English, and had no internship experience in the field. So, I tried a few different things: online media, freelancing, general communications. I shored up skills that I thought would be useful as I tried to find the job that was “just right” for me.
Flash-forward to a year and a half ago. My fiancée is working on their young adult novel and asks me to help them edit. Together, we embark on days and nights of storyboarding, character development, and conversations on queer and POC representation. Inspired, I look up the editor of my favorite recent YA novel, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – a college graduation gift from a friend. Kindly and candidly, the editor talks to me about the highs and lows of book editing, and leaves me with this advice: Do it. But you need to network.
I began to plot my next steps – wondering about how to take an internship while working a full-time job; could I afford to take time off for a summer publishing course? Could I afford to pay for a publishing course? Could I afford to pay for a publishing course while not getting paid because I’m taking time off?! Excitement soon gave way to dismay as the logistics mounted, and the improbability of success seemed high.
And then, my friends, a post-Christmas miracle: January 2017, I scroll through Twitter, perusing @WritersofColor, as I often do. And what do I see but an advertisement for something called “Representation Matters Mentorship Program” – for aspiring editors of color! In application, I detailed my love of kids’ books and my desire – five years in pursuit – to become a kids’ book editor.
I crossed my fingers and then – the e-mail came. I was accepted as a mentee, and introduced to my mentors.
Eight months later, I am a trade editorial project manager for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Over the course of those eight months, RMMP connected me to a senior editor at Random House, who happened to be the editor of one of my favorite books – Ash by Malinda Lo. And I was connected to a junior editor, first at Scholastic, now at Disney, who, by coincidence, went to my alma mater. The two of them met with me separately and together to discuss the industry, answer questions, and figure out what I needed to do, and how. I was connected to an internship I would never have heard about that allowed me to work nights and weekends while maintaining my full-time job. I learned about sensitivity reading, which allowed me to delve deeper into questions of representation, authenticity, and use the skills I’d built up from my background in activism and nonprofit work. And when I was ready to take the plunge into the real, full-time world of publishing, they went to bat for me. I scoured the web for opportunities, and they told me about the ones I missed. The ones I found, they vetted. And when I interviewed, they told me what to expect, and how to put my best foot forward.
Through RMMP, I was connected to literal literary fairy godmothers. And now I’m living a dream come true.
So, after all that, why should you apply for a mentorship with RMMP? Because you are passionate, curious, and determined. Because you see opportunity, when others might see a closed door. Because you love books, and you value their power to change the world. Because you think, maybe, in your own way, that you could help change the world too.
And the folks at RMMP? They think so, too.
No payment or fancy degree required.