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On a day commemorating love 💕, I think it's fitting to post a photo of this Tuesday's event at @schomburgcenter celebrating one of *my* favorite authors #ZoraNealeHurston! Sharing space with #publishing luminaries @jamiaawilson, Tracy Sherrod, Vanessa De Luca was a great time and I am continually humbled by their passion and emotional generosity to other WOCs in publishing. (Photo from @feministpress.).We felt the love in the room for Zora and I hope you feel the love directed right back at you today and every day. #selflove #BlackWomenRock #fallbackfriday #Gratitude #blackhistorymonth #zorataughtme #HarlemRen100 #ilovemyself
The process of getting writing published involves people from all aspects and roles of the industry and readers may have no idea how much they contribute to getting the work out into the world. Last night at Barnes and Noble, Jennifer Baker, a writer and editor at Penguin Random House, provided insight to students who may be interested in pursuing a career in writing and editing.
“I’ve been working in publishing for 17 years,” Baker said. She is the author of “The Pursuit of Happiness” and editor of the anthology “Everyday People: The Color of Life,” which featured authors of color. “I started off in editorial, I moved onto media, then I moved into production, now I’m working in managing editorial in children’s books.”
Sean Forbes, Director of the Creative Writing Program, had been friends with Baker since they attended the same high school and pursued literary pursuits together. He started off the night with a poetry reading of “La Voz del Mano,” while Baker followed off with a reading of two short stories, one of them by Glendaliz Camacho, from the anthology she served as editor of.
“The aim here is to continue what other writers have cobbled together of not only Black voices but Asian/Pacific Islander, Indigenous, and Latinx ones as well,” Baker said in the introduction of “Everyday People,” which she refers to later in her talk. She attributes the creation of the anthology to the late Brook Stephenson. “The name of this anthology is not meant to solely focus on the racial composition of the writers or characters but to showcase the larger story and relationships depicted as well as the landscape.”
With her various roles in the publishing world, Baker has been working on increasing and improving the representation of people of color in the industry.
“For the past six years I have been doing more advocacy for representation by marginalized people in the industry,” Baker said. “I think it’s no shocker that it’s not very representative of people in the LGBTQ+ community, the BIPOC [Black and Indigenous People of Color] community, and disabled and religious minorities and other identities with marginalized experiences in non-dominant matters.”
Many of her efforts, such as creating and hosting the “Minorities in Publishing” podcast, have been done in tandem with her many collaborators.
“Since 2014, we have been pushing for the conversation [about representation] to never leave, but we need to move beyond conversation,” Baker said. “What does action mean? It means being uncomfortable … but it needs to happen.”
Baker mentioned realizing her place in privilege and the importance of others being aware of how they can use their privilege to help others.
“What I want to discuss even more in my work is privilege and where that comes from and how we use it,” Baker said. “So when we hear a story like this, it may make you uncomfortable, but that’s the reality.”
To pursue a literary career, Baker offered advice on how to put yourself out there.
“The first thing you’re going to want to do is get an internship,” Baker said. “I am not a fan of those certificate programs or masters programs in publishing. I just don’t believe that they’re necessary to get in there. The main thing that happens is networking. The most important thing is if there’s a particular position you’re interested in, finding work that also assists you in being able to sell yourself on that resume with.”
From discussing the long hours of being an editor to the years it may take to write a short essay, Baker has much experience in her various positions over the past years to impart students with open and helpful advice. She offered detailed information about obtaining a literary agent, making queries and resources to look for as a writer or someone aspiring to work in publishing.
“You want to see how long you’re actually going to stick with it,” Baker said in relation to writing. “Because you might start something, and then two months later, you’re like, ‘This was not a great idea.’ And that’s ok. It’s absolutely okay to start something and then realize you don’t love it enough to stick with it for a long period of time.”
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.