I was flattered when Rachel asked me to guest blog for Publishing Crawl. I think that it is pretty amazing how this group of people have come together to provide insight and I hope that what I have to say will resonate, particularly with those who feel maybe a little scattered by the many things on the “to do” list. Things that we want to do and are amazed that we get to do them, but might also feel kind of stressed out by it.
Because, as a wise woman once told me, “There is such a thing as good stress, too.”
I recently began to understand that my various roles in the book industry have given me the opportunity to learn its many facets. While I sometimes feel like I’m one of those proverbial “Jill of all trades” without the mastering, this is an interesting insight.
Without really planning on it, I have been shown the various aspects of what happens from creation process to getting the book sold to an agent or publisher, to how a publisher sells the book to a bookstore or library and then the lucky day when a bookseller, buyer, or librarian take a particular interest in it and will put it in the reader’s hand.
As a reviewer, I get to read books and then hopefully say something that simultaneously speaks to what the writer was trying to do, while also providing some insight for those who are trying to make an informed decision on what to buy for their stores or libraries, or for readers who are looking for their next read.
As a writer, I am interested in craft. I attended the Vermont College of Fine Arts where I had the privilege to learn alongside some of the most talented group of writers, while also being mentored by award-winning children’s and YA authors. At VCFA we are encouraged to focus on just craft, on how to write the best story. Thoughts of publication are banished as we sort out all of those little irksome writing problems that keeps us from the heart of our story.
Having recently graduated with my MFA, I see how VCFA’s alumni community takes over, encouraging us to find the right home for our stories and how to go about doing it. It is a daunting thing to get ones manuscript ready for an agent or editor and it wasn’t until recently that I even felt ready to start and now I’m learning about a whole new facet of the industry that I didn’t know before.
It helps that I have a couple of freelance gigs and my work as the Co-ordinator for Canadian Children’s Book Reviews with the National Reading Campaign has begun, which means that I get to reach out to other reviewers and we will get to read books to review and encourage literacy.
As I continue down this career, I keep meeting people who do what I do: writers who sit on juries and write book reviews; booksellers who blog; librarians who write reviews, edit, and sit on juries; editors who write, writers who are agents, and writers who work for publishers or booksellers.
Perhaps it is the old joke that publishing (or writing) doesn’t pay so we need multiple streams of income, or that we have no other skills so what else would we do? But I don’t think that’s it.
I think that it has to do with passion.
My favourite place in the world is a library or a bookstore. The moment I walk into a place where there are books, I relax. Books are my companions and without realizing it or planning on it, I’ve devoted my life to them. Whether that be writing my novel, reviewing other books, being involved in endeavours that encourage literacy, sitting on juries, or working on marketing initiatives that will tell people about the next great read, I’m completely absorbed in my passion.
So for those of us who are the writing, reviewing, judging, and reading, and might feel a little overwhelmed by it all we truly want to take on, I encourage you to take a moment and ask yourself why you have chosen to take on another project. Is it your love for books, or for story? Do you wonder how it all happened? Consider and let me know.
Having recently graduated with an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults at VCFA, Melanie Fishbane writes contemporary YA and historical fiction, book reviews, articles about book boyfriends, children’s lit, and the works of L.M. Montgomery and Laura Ingalls Wilder. She is also the Online Merchandiser and Editor for Kids and Teen books at Indigo Books and Music, Inc. Recently hired on as the Co-ordinator for Children’s Book Reviews for the National Reading Campaign, you can also find her musing about words at http://melaniefishbane.wordpress.com or on Twitter as @melaniefishbane