Interview with Susan Katz, the David Pecker Distinguished Visiting Professor

Interview with Susan Katz, David Pecker Distinguished Visiting Professor
for the 2015-2016 Academic Year

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It is an honor to have Susan Katz serving as the David Pecker Distinguished Professor for the 2015-2016 academic year. Ms. Katz joined Harper & Row in 1987 as President and Publisher of the College Division and as a member of the Executive Committee. In 1996, Katz made the transition from educational to trade publishing and became President of the HarperCollins Children’s Division, which is the position she held for 19 years until her retirement this past September.

During her tenure, Katz tripled the revenues of the division and had published more NEW YORK TIMES children’s bestsellers than any other publisher. She had the honor of working with such authors and illustrators such as Eric Carle, Kiera Cass, Neil Gaiman, Robin Preiss Glasser, Daniel Handler, Kevin Henkes, Kadir Nelson, Jane O’Connor, Lauren Oliver, Veronica Roth, Maurice Sendak, Sara Shepard, and Shel Silverstein.

Katz was a member of the Advisory Board of First Book and a member of the Children’s Book Council. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Boston University and a master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Jane O’Connor and one of her books Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth

Her first lecture will take place on Thursday, October 29th, 2015 at Pace University, 163 Williams St, 18th floor, from 6-8pm, where she will be discussing her experiences in Children’s Books Publishing as well as what goes into the making of a bestselling book with two of her colleagues, Jane OConnor, the author of the Fancy Nancy picture book series, as well as her editor, Margaret Anastas, Professor Jane Denning had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Katz as she assumes her new role at Pace. The pair discussed what she hopes to accomplish as the David Pecker Distinguished Professor as well as some advice she has to offer to current Pace M.S. in Publishing students.

Prof. Denning: Hi Susan and thank you for agreeing to do this interview! Congratulations on being named the Visiting David Pecker Distinguished Professor for the 2015-2016 academic year. Can you tell us a bit about what you hope to accomplish this year at Pace?

Susan Katz: Thank you. I am very excited to have the opportunity to share some of my experiences with students here at Pace. I have always enjoyed hearing an “insider’s view’ of any profession that interests me because it becomes less mysterious and yet more interesting the more I learn. I hope students will find the information as well as my stories and anecdotes useful and entertaining in equal measure. 

Prof. Denning: As the Visiting Professor, you will be giving two lectures throughout the course of the year. What do you want students to take away from these lectures? Any pearls of wisdom you can impart for us now?

Susan Katz: I have asked colleagues to join me during both lectures. I am sharing case studies which I think will be exciting to hear because in both cases the books turned into major bestsellers. I want students to get a feel for “what it takes” to make a book into a major success. I’ve asked two of my colleagues to join me because they were key contributors to creating the successes.

Prof. Denning: Many of our students here at Pace have varied interests within the world of publishing. When you were first starting out in the industry, did you know that you wanted to end up working with Childrens books?

Susan Katz: Many folks call publishing the “accidental profession.” I didn’t start out with an interest in publishing, which I will be happy to explain at the first lecture. I did start out with a passion for reading, and a love of children’s books. I never thought I would be lucky enough to have the opportunity to work in the world of children’s books, which came midway through my career.

Prof. Denning: If a student is interested in the childrens book industry (or any other aspect of publishing) what is the best way for them to break in?

Susan Katz: Start with an internship or an entry level position. Make sure you use all of the resources at Pace to make your first connections. Attend Industry events. Talk to bookstore staff. Build relationships. More advice to come.

Prof. Denning: As our students gear up to enter the workforce, what sort of skills should they develop while in the MS in Publishing program so they can embark upon a successful career in publishing, whether in editorial, marketing, sales, or production or any other aspect of the business?

Susan Katz: It’s important to learn as much about the field as possible. So much information is available on line! Read the relevant business publications and research the publishers by visiting their websites. Bone up on the industry by reading newspaper articles in the area of publishing that interests you. Be sure to study the challenges the industry is facing so that you are prepared to focus on the thriving areas.

Prof. Denning: Can you tell us a bit about our lecture that will take place on Thursday, Oct. 29th ?

Susan Katz: As I metioned earlier, Jane O’Connor, the author of the Fancy Nancy picture book series, as well as her editor, Margaret Anastas, will be joining me. I thought it would be interesting to break the session into two parts. First, I’d like each of us to talk a bit about our careers, our experiences and how we got to the place we are today, and then I thought we would explain the picture book market and each describe our specific experiences in creating this fantastic picture book franchise that has sold over 30 million copies and is still selling today.

Prof. Denning: Thank you Susan!  We are really looking forward to your lecture.

“30 under 30” – Folio: salutes young magazine professionals

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ABaron-Pic-207x300“30 under 30” – Folio: salutes young magazine professionals
By Andrea Baron

As part of the Folio: 2015 trade show for magazine professionals, thirty young people in the industry were honored for their outstanding contributions to their companies and the industry.  The show, held Oct. 19-21 in New York City, is the largest annual trade event for the magazine publishing industry. For three days publishers from all over the U.S. meet and discuss issues affecting the magazine industry in the areas of content, revenue, marketing, digital editions, social media, etc.  Attendees represent a wide variety of publishers: consumer, business, custom, association, and regional magazines, in print and digital formats. (Pace publishing students were given the opportunity to volunteer some time and attend the show sessions.)

The “30 under 30” honorees were feted at a luncheon on Oct. 21st.  Their accomplishments ranged from launching new titles, directing and increasing digital and social media presence, growing online audiences, managing digital and cross-platform transitions, to outstanding editing, design and reporting on breaking news.

The audience enthusiastically responded to the young professionals as they were introduced and their accomplishments were noted.  Several of the group, including Polly Mosendz, a reporter for Newsweek who did important investigative reporting on several national and international stories, and is one of the most trafficked reporters at the magazine, commented that she “didn’t know if I could do the job”, but praised the confidence of those who hired them and gave them the opportunity to show what they could accomplish.

I agree with one of the young women in the group who thanked the Folio: organization and audience for taking the important step of recognizing the unique and important contributions that young professionals are making to the industry. For the full list of their accomplishments, see the Folio: article http://www.foliomag.com/events/folio-30-30-awards-luncheon/

Guest Post: New York Comic Con Experience by Annie Rosa

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Two weekends ago, The Javitz convention hall was full to bursting with wonderfully nerdy booths touting their wares during the annual New York Comic Convention. And I was lucky enough to be volunteering at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s (CBLDF) booth. The non-profit’s dedication to protecting First Amendment rights in the art form of comics was absolutely amazing to be a part of. It was wonderful talking to different people about the comics we had on display for donation and their childhood experiences with them. Just standing at the booth I was able to see fantastically designed customs of characters from shows like The Walking Dead and Doctor Who to characters from video games like Assassin’s Creed and Bioshock.

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Photo credit NY Waterway

Other than the actual volunteering, which was so much fun, my favorite part of Comic Con was that not only were adults cosplaying as various characters, children were also costumed in their favorite characters. They were so incredibly happy about it too. There was one little boy who, when I knew who he was cosplaying, got so into his character that I could not stop smiling. It made my day. I could not be more thankful that not only was I introduced to the CBLDF, but that I also got to meet and talk to some many amazing people.

Interested in learning more about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund? Check out their website here: http://cbldf.org/

SPD Pub(lications) Crawl Update

The Society of Publication Designers

The Society of Publication Designers held their annual “Pub(lication) Crawl,” a tour of magazine design departments, where students get a chance to meet the designers, see how the departments operate, and learn about the goals of the magazines on October 2nd. The organization promotes editorial design and does a lot of student outreach. Past tours have included magazines such as The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek, Esquire, Martha Stewart Living, More, Sports Illustrated, Travel + Leisure, and HGTV magazine.

The tour this year included 8×8 magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, design firm Segal Savad, Time, W mag and Woman’s Day. Split into four groups,the students met with designers and had a behind the scene look at the publications. Three of our Pace students, Leigh Eron, Rebecca Mbanugo, and Brittany Fuller, had the opportunity to visit Entertainment Weekly and Woman’s Day (tour A).

Pub Crawl 2015 Spotlight: TOUR A - Entertainment Weekly & Woman's Day

The students had a morning tour of Entertainment Weekly and an afternoon tour of Woman’s Day. On the tour they met both Design Directors, Tim Leong (EW) and Peter Hemmel (Woman’s Day), as well as other staff and team members ranging from photo editors to design/art assistants.

Student sentiments included:
Coming from an interest in book publishing, it was really fascinating to see behind the scenes of the magazine side. I was especially amazed by EW’s weekly turn around and I still can’t get over the test kitchen at Women’s Day!” said Leigh Eron.
Brittany Fuller said:

This tour really reinforced my love  for magazines and dream to work for one in the near future. It also showed me the other side of a magazine besides editorial content and how harmonious they have to be to create a solid product for readers.”

Rebecca Mbanugo shared:
While I lean more towards the book side of publishing, ever since taking Professor Baron’s Magazine Production and Design class I’ve become interested in how magazines are created. I admire Entertainment Weekly’s style and rely on their website for television recaps and interviews, so visiting the offices of Entertainment Weekly and gaining insight into the creative process behind each issue was a truly surreal experience for me. Getting to see the various departments at Woman’s Day was also a blast–everyone there was extremely positive and the level of detail that goes into each decision was amazing to witness.
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All three students had a wonderful experience touring the Hearst building and the Entertainment Weekly design department and learning more about the aspects of magazine design. For more information about SPD you can visit their website,

How Not to Be a Networking Leech: Tips for Seeking Professional Advice

Networking is a critical skill in advancing your career. Professor Andrea Baron has worked in publishing for over 20 years, starting her career in book design, and adding experience in consumer marketing and print and digital production. She worked with some of the largest consumer magazine publishers, including Condé Nast, Time Inc., American Express Publishing , The New York Times Magazines, and Ziff-Davis. She has organized and developed digital workflows and production processes for titles such as Vogue, The New Yorker, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Family Circle, Fitness, and PC Magazine.

 

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In her 10+ years of teaching in the Publishing program, she has  been asked  lots of advice on networking and job- and internship-hunting.She has been teaching magazine publishing in the program , with the goal of giving students a thorough grounding in the field and bringing them deeper into the industry. She teaches courses in production and design, consumer marketing, and an introduction to magazine publishing.

Professor Baron has shared this article, “How Not to Be a Networking Leech: Tips for Seeking Professional Advice”, from the New York Times , which gives a terrific summary of the most effective way to go about networking .  She hopes you’ll read it and share it.

 

Here is a snippet of the article :

“So here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a networking parasite.

Make the meeting convenient. Ask for time frames that would work well, and meet at a place that is convenient for them, even if you have to drive across town. If they leave it up to you, give them three options and let them pick the one that works best.”

To read more click the link below.

How Not to Be a Networking Leech: Tips for Seeking Professional Advice

 

 

Introducing the New M.S. in Publishing Graduate Assistants and Student Aides!

The M.S in Publishing blog would like to officially welcome and introduce you to the Graduate Assistants and Student Aides for the 2015-2016 academic year. Learn more about your classmates and their positions within the department.

Brittany Fuller

Student Aide, Publishing Office

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Brittany Fuller is a first year student in the M.S. Publishing Program, who also graduated from Pace University, Pleasantville in May of 2015, with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts and Journalism, and a double minor in Marketing and Gender & Women Studies.Born and raised in New York City, Brittany has always had a passion for writing and reading, which  led and inspired her dream of working in the magazine industry as an editor. Brittany has interned  for Westchester Magazine,where she worked with the editorial team  and assisted the design department with their annual Wedding Shoot. With the knowledge she will gain from the program,  she hopes to integrate her experience and  knowledge of journalism,advertising, marketing and public relations to better serve the publishing industry. In her spare time she reads, watches television and spends time with her friends and family.

Mary Katherine (MK) Cornfield

Graduate Assistant , Pace Press

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Mary Katherine (MK) Cornfield, graduate student for the Pace University Press, is a first year student in the M.S. Publishing Program at Pace. She graduated from SUNY Oswego with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing in December 2014. MK has interned at various places taking on editorial positions in order to learn more about publishing. She has always enjoyed editorial work, which led her to pursue a career in the publishing field. MK plans to learn every aspect of publishing throughout her Master’s studies in order to know where she will fit best in the industry. In her spare time, MK enjoys writing flash fiction, playing Scrabble, and participating in fantasy football.

Jordan Hill- Forney

Graduate Assistant , Publishing Lab

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Jordan Hill-Forney is the Lab Graduate Assistant at Pace University. She is from St.Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and graduated from Seton Hill University (SHU) with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Communications. While an undergraduate student she first gained work experience while interning for the SHU Marketing department and the National Catholic Center of Holocaust Education. In the summer of 2014 she attended the New York University Summer Publishing Institute where she received a certificate in Magazine and Book Publishing. Last fall she interned at Development Counsellors International, a travel marketing agency, where she learned how to market travel destinations including her home, the USVI. At Pace she hopes to learn about digital marketing in the publishing industry.

Weijia Wei

Lab Assistant, Publishing Lab

 Weijia Wei is a student from Nanjing, China. In June 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in  Digital Media from Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology.  Weijia has had great internship experiences working for the  International Labour Organization in United Nations and creates news content in text as well as multimedia formats, for dissemination through website and social media platforms. He has a lot of interest in book marketing and digital publishing.20150522_205031099_iOS

 

 

 

 

Angela Taldone

Graduate Assistant , Pace Press

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Angela Taldone graduated from Bridgewater College in May 2015 with a B.A. in English. Born in Manhattan, raised in the Poconos, and college-educated in Virginia, Angela is excited to be back in NYC to complete her M.S. in Publishing at Pace University. Having a love for books as well as grammar and editing, she knew that publishing was the field she wanted to be in. In preparation for her career and time at Pace both as a student and graduate assistant, Angela completed internships and jobs in areas ranging from marketing to media relations to copy editing. Her career interests include editorial and marketing in book publishing, but Angela hopes to find interest in other areas as she makes her way through the publishing program. In her spare time, Angela enjoys trying new restaurants as well as revisiting old favorites on a regular basis. Currently, she is attempting to try every item on the menu at Champs Diner, which is an all-vegan diner and bakery in Bushwick.

 

2015 BEA Experiences

BEAThanks to the generous support of Dean Nira Herrmann and a number of Pace Publishing Professors, the Pace MS in Publishing students were able to attend the 2015 Book Expo America that took place at the Javitz Center in New York in May.  This was a great opportunity for networking, meeting authors, viewing publishers’ booths and seeing what books are slated to be published in the upcoming seasons. It is always a spectacular site to see so many publishers gathered and to attend some of the cutting edge panels and events.

This year we thought we would share a few of our thoughts about the experience, and if you would like to share some of your own experiences, feel free to email us at puboffice@pace.edu

Professor Sherman Raskin
Director, Pace MS in Publishing
Director, Pace University Press

“It is always nice to attend BEA in May. I was able to connect with old friends and spent two busy days consulting with our colleagues from China Publishing Group and Phoenix Publishing Media Group at the shermanraskincropped(1)show. PPMG ran a big screen ad in Times Square from May 26th through June 4th celebrating their company and the BEA Expo. Just before the show, executives from China Publishing Group participated in two weeks of training at Pace. They graced the Midtown site from May 11th through May 22nd before participating in the Book Expo. They only had good things to say about the training and the show. Most important, they loved NYC. The sessions at Pace stressed digital publishing and copyright law.

The last day of the show, Professor Lian and I had the opportunity to speak at a seminar held by Longzhiji Book Publishing located in Beijing.  Because of the influence of a Pace training seminar five years ago, they moved from being a traditional company to a digital company. The time spent at Pace changed their entire way of thinking about publishing. Mr. Su, the President of the company realized that he had to restructure if he were to succeed in the industry today. His training with the Pace professionals made all the difference and ensured his success as a major publisher in China. Pace and Logzhiji are very proud of this success story.

The BEA is always an exciting experience, but the Expo was even more meaningful with China as the focus of BEA this year.

Corinne Tousey, second year Publishing student:

My first time going to BEA was great.  It’s a great opportunity to meet new authors and find your favorite publishers and learn what new projects are being released.  I walked away with tons of free books, I even won a Kindle Fire and ten books from author, Julie Gilbert.”

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Ana Ban, May 2015 Publishing graduate:

“I have been working as a translator in my country, Brazil, since 2001, and so far I have done more than 150 titles. It is so rare that I get in contact with the authors I translate, much less have the opportunity to meet them. But Ana Ban (1)thanks to Pace, last year I met two of them at BEA: Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), and Carolyn Mackler (The Future of Us), who was taking part in a panel sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association and mediated by Professor Manuela Soares about digital marketing for children’s authors.

This year I had the immense pleasure of meeting Wendy Mass, who wrote one of my favorite books that I have worked with, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. I picked my slot on Wednesday because I wanted to meet her, and I got in line for the autographing of Space Taxi – Archie Takes Flight, a cute chapter book about a boy who helps his father drive an interstellar cab.

When my turn came and I told her that I had translated Jeremy Fink in Brazil, she jumped from behind the table to talk to me and asked her husband Michael Brawer (co-author of the book they Ana Ban (2)were signing) to take pictures of us. She wrote on my copy: “It was SO wonderful to meet you – it’s like we wrote Jeremy Fink together!” And she said: “I wish I had more books to give you.”

It was one of the best experiences I have had in my career as a translator, to have my work recognized and appreciated by the author. I really appreciate the fact that Pace makes an effort so the students can attend BEA, it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Luverta Reames, second year Publishing student:

My first time at BEA I was excited.  I was disappointed when I realized I chose a time slot where nothing was going on. I was only able to view the exhibition for less than 20 minutes before I Otraded my badge and headed back to work. I knew that Charisma Media from Florida would be present, and they are the publisher that handles my pastor’s and aunt’s books. I HAD to meet the editor. I met Jevon on Friday night and we grabbed dinner and a live jazz show. Before the night ended she had already figured out how I could gain an internship and a freelance position with the company.

 Charisma was searching for a marketing intern for the summer. I will have a chance to work with Christian ministries and do custom book projects for them. What’s more exciting about moving to Florida for the summer—everything is falling into place. I have my living situation squared away. I’m using someone’s buddy pass for my travels and it’s a paid internship.  Although, I was sad I chose the wrong time. There was definitely a reason I needed to be at BEA and things are working out wonderfully for me.

I was so grateful for the opportunity to attend. I am looking forward to BEA in my hometown of Chicago next year.”

Sarah Poppe, May 2015 Publishing graduate:

“I just graduated from the Pace Publishing Program in May and started what I imagined would be a long and arduous application process for a full-time, entry-level editorial position. In all honesty, this wasn’t my first foray into the full-time job search; I had been sending applications “into the void” for about a year by this point. I say “into the void” because sending resumes and cover letters through online portals always felt like sending them off into the depths of outer space, desperately hoping to make contact with another life form. I competed with Sarah Poppehundreds of other applicants for one open position after another, and I never got the call for an interview. When a close friend of mine put me directly in contact with a hiring manager at Penguin and wrote a lengthy letter of recommendation on my behalf…and I still didn’t get the interview…I had all but given up hope on finding a job in book publishing and was about to turn my attention towards online content writing (something in which I had a bit of experience but didn’t really want to turn into a career).

 I decided that BEA would be my Hail Mary; I would network with as many people as possible, and if I still couldn’t find a job, I would set my sights elsewhere. I went to BEA on Friday, the last day of the Expo, by myself with nothing but a big swag bag and a stack of custom-made business cards. I nervously meandered around the exhibition hall, trying to strike up a conversation with everyone I encountered. I started with the Big 5 booths, but they were swarmed with attendees congregating around the author signings and free ARCs. Eventually, I succeeded in engaging with workers at some of the smaller booths, like Open Road—only to discover that I had been talking to interns who were after the same full-time jobs. At this point, my feet ached and my bag was almost too heavy to drag around.

 By chance, I stumbled across the Crooked Lane booth and was ushered into an author signing line by the words “free” and “New York Times bestselling author.” While in line, the person manning the booth greeted me and made a puzzling look at my badge, which listed my school name instead of my job title. “So what is it that you do?” he asked. This led to a conversation about the PPP and my quest for employment. He asked about my career interests, offered his business card, and told me to email him my resume when I got home. I sent him my resume with a short cover letter, and he set me up with an interview for the following Tuesday. I couldn’t believe it had worked that immediately.

Crooked Lane Books

After two rounds of interviews (and a wonderful recommendation from a Pace professor, to whom I am tremendously grateful), I just got the call that I got the job as an editorial assistant at Crooked Lane, a relatively new crime and mystery fiction imprint. Since they have an incredibly small staff (just four people!), I will get to experience not only the editorial side of publishing, but also production, marketing, and sales. One of the big conversation points in my interview was how the PPP gave me a more rounded understanding of the industry outside of editorial—a fact that I never knew would be so invaluable in giving me an edge over the other applicants.

 My biggest takeaway from BEA is this: networking really is everything! Any opportunity you get to shake someone’s hand, ask for advice, or offer your services is time well spent. I’m an introvert, I tend to have terrible social anxiety, and nothing terrifies me more than walking up to someone I don’t know with a confident smile and a business card. I circled that show floor three times before I worked up enough nerve, and even then, my most successful conversation only happened by chance. The best advice I have is to put yourself in professional situations where you have the opportunity to network (like BEA), be prepared when opportunity presents itself (with either a resume or business card), and know your pitch (Why are you there, and what is it that you are looking for?). It only took one conversation—the right conversation—to land the interview, something I never got from the hundreds of online applications I must have sent in the past year. As Pace Publishing students, we are given free access into the exclusive professional arena of BEA, something that most graduates from other schools competing for the same jobs won’t have access to (with the exception of BookCon, which I still find chaotic and somewhat limited). Take that opportunity and run with it!”

 Professor Jane Kinney-Denning, Executive Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach

jane kinney denningThe BEA is always an exciting, interesting, and exhausting experience!  This year I saw so many friends, former students, and former colleagues and professional acquaintances that I hardly had time to stop and get an ARC or two (but of course I did!).  I love the BEA and the energy that comes with so many book people gathered to showcase their work and upcoming titles.  Seeing so many publishers from the US and around the world gathered in one place is awe inspiring and a reminder why we all love our chosen professions.

Gloria SteinhamI must say that one of my highlights this year was getting to meet Gloria Steinem and have her sign her soon-to-be-published memoir, My Life on the Road. I have always admired her for her activism, commitment to women’s rights and human rights and of course for starting MS Magazine. Although the publicists were expertly moving the very long line of people along quickly, I did get a chance to thank her for her remarkable work.  

Thinking back on this and many previous BEA Conferences, the one thing that always stands out for me is the people; all of the good, passionate book people who make this industry so great. It is wonderful to be a part of it.

Link of the Week: The Writer’s Almanac

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An almanac is traditionally classified as an annual publication or “an annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information such as astronomical data and tide tables.” They provide a place to consolidate information so that it can be easily accessible to those who want it.

The Writer’s Almanac features daily updates that follow “on this day in history” highlights, like those that you might find in a newspaper. In the case of the WA, subscribers or site visitors can read (or listen to) a few poems and historical highlights pertaining to literature and the authors of it. The host of the WA also features famous authors on their birthdays, and details their work and lives.

You can subscribe to the email list, follow them on Twitter or Facebook, or download their podcasts from iTunes, the Swell app, or iHeartRadio for iPhone and Android.

Also on the WA website, you can find a series of interviews with poets. Take some time to read about these authors and their work!

 

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A Review: Balancing Commitment and Craft in Political Fiction

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WNBA-NYC Chapter Event: Balancing Commitment and Craft in Political Fiction
The political fiction panel speakers, left to right: Céline Keating, Elizabeth Nunez, Tiphanie Yanique, Ellen Meeropol, Marnie Mueller.

 

 

Introduction by Andrea Baron, VP Programming, WNBA-NYC
Over 100 people attended our November 5th panel discussion on Political Fiction at Pace University in New York City. The Dyson College departments of Pace Publishing, Women’s and Gender Studies, and English departments co-sponsored the event, and the many students in the audience set the tone for a lively discussion of the traditions and inspirations for political fiction, as well as the challenges facing women writers.

Our authors discussed the challenges of writing political fiction — framing language, developing character, and structuring plot to dramatize conflicts of class, race, gender, and politics while avoiding the pitfalls of authorial intrusion and didacticism.

The panel included six accomplished novelists: Ellen Meeropol, author of House Arrest ;Marnie Mueller, author of My Mother’s Island;   Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning: A NovelElizabeth Nunez author of Boundaries; and Céline Keating, author of Layla. The panel was moderated by writer and teacher Susan Breen, author of The Fiction Class.

 

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Alex Grover, a current Pace MS in Publishing graduate student who attended the event, shares his insights about the panel and what the authors had to say: 

Duty against the Norm: How Five Authors Write Political Fiction in Order to Change Their World

By Alex Grover

Why aren’t more books tackling tough and ambiguous subjects?

That was my question after having the privilege to attend a powerful panel hosted by the WNBA-NYC called, Balancing Commitment and Craft in Political Fiction. The five novelists—Céline Keating, Elizabeth Nunez, Tiphanie Yanique, Ellen Meeropol, and Marnie Mueller—in a discussion moderated by Susan Breen talked about their united cause in not only giving voice to important, impactful movements but also giving themselves voices as women. As Yanique stated early in the conversation, “to be a woman writer, even today, is a political act.”

The novelists first discussed their books as examples of the niche political fiction genre, including a story of growing up as a white non-prisoner in a Japanese internment camp, a mindful revision of The Tempest, and a discovery of self-identity during the feminist movement of the late 60s and early 70s. Why did they write these books? For Mueller, it was wanting “to know my background, what my parents did during World War II.” For Nunez, it was a way to articulate how those who appropriated her culture in the past had generalized and transformed her people into something they weren’t. In writing Prospero’s Daughter, Nunez “talks back to Shakespeare.”

Breen, an author herself and an instructor at Gotham Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan, then asked the panel, “What is political fiction?” At its core, it’s “tersely political material,” said Mueller, “strung together with a plot.” From Meeropol’s experience, “Real political fiction should be partisan, but should ask the reader to take a stand.” As Yanique put it, writing political fiction meant “consciously writing against a particular kind of patriarchy.” No matter the interpretation of the question, the panel met at an agreement that all novels, no matter their structure, are political to some degree. “If you have a book that exclusively features white people in a white suburb,” she said, “that’s still political. That’s still making a statement. It’s just that that statement doesn’t go against the status quo.”

On writing and craft, the authors gave advice for those who wanted to pen their own novels. While a novel may be a vital tool in influencing our society, it must also be entertaining. “We are wrapping you up and pulling you in,” Nunez said, comparing the process to a sequence from Charlotte’s Web where a fly allows itself to be captured by the titular spider. “You don’t know you’re being eaten.” From implanting “zingers” in a work to using mystery as a vehicle for political subversion, as Céline described in her own observation of the genre, authors must still keep the audience’s attention.

As powerful as their statements were, the panelists recognized that there are barriers that must be overcome in the publishing industry. Considering minority writers, Nunez talked about how a publishing house will say they publish black writers, yet those writers are still gathered in marginal imprints, or ghettoes as Nunez referred to them, and not exposed to mainstream audiences. As Nunez asked when considering the problem, “Are we not human?”

The evening with these authors was an exploration of the underpinnings of contemporary thought, a writing workshop, and a challenging view of current publishing paradigms. Some standards of writing we consider to be normal are not. As Yanique asked, “There’s not one gay person in Maine?” She was referring to an unnamed and popular author that actively influences our perception of the times. Considering the many social issues of the present still unresolved, the panelists recognized their moral obligation—and accepted.

 

Alex Grover (@AlexPGrover) is a graduate assistant at Pace University Press. He has written articles for Quirk Books and Apiary Magazine and has work published in Strange Horizons (forthcoming) and Acappella Zoo. He is currently participating in NaNoWriMo.

Media Magic

 

20140906_222835Rebecca Nicolasa Mbanugo is a student in Pace University’s MS in Publishing program, and is currently enrolled in Magazine Production and Design, taught by Andrea Baron. 

 

A short walk away from Rockefeller Center and Time Inc. lies a facility of the second largest magazine printer in the world, Quad Graphics Media Solutions Center. Professor Andrea Baron’s Magazine Production and Design class visited Quad at its Manhattan location on October 14th, 2014.

After receiving our visitor name tags at the reception desk, we were ushered into an impressive and well-lit conference room where a pleasing array of refreshments and complimentary pens and pencils bearing Quad’s name awaited us. Between bites of cookies and sips of soda and water, we pored over the pages of Quad’s portfolio and examined finished copies of some of the popular publications Quad works with, including Vogue, Seventeen, and Entertainment Weekly. Over the course of our nearly three-hour visit, our two presenters, Imaging Operations Manager Steve Stoma and Media Solutions Sales Representative Eric Johnson, took us on a visual and walking tour of the varied forms of media magic that Quad specializes in.

Quad is a national network of facilities that offer its clients a range of print, digital, and video-based media solutions, including dynamic imaging and augmented reality (AR). Emphasizing high quality and fast turn-around times, it operates according to three tenets: create, optimize, and connect. After the publisher creates artwork such as magazine layouts and covers, Quad takes that product and optimizes its content, enhancing color to achieve the best possible reproduction quality. Quad also connects content to the physical and digital channels of tablets and the Web. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Quad processes over 200,000 images and 90,000 pages of content annually.

The majority of the properties handled at the Manhattan location are magazines, many belonging to such publishers as Condé Nast and Hearst Magazines. We saw firsthand that the work of transforming each title into the alluring, polished products we encounter at the newsstands is quite a fascinating and meticulous process. Specific calibrations for color are checked on a daily basis and color-controlled monitors and booths equipped with proper lighting are used to view images. It is not uncommon for the teams in the customer service and retouching departments to work well into the night, checking hard and soft proofs for color, and digital blue lines for content layout. Continuous rounds of correction occur until each client is fully satisfied. Indeed, like the mythical elves at Santa’s workshop, the staff at Quad works diligently, seeming to fashion magic out of thin air.

Having had an enjoyable glimpse behind the scenes, we left Quad armed with new knowledge and a few souvenirs.