Forever Young (To Publishing)

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halloween 2014After five years on the YPG planning committee and two and a half years as your Chair, it’s time to hang my hat up. It’s been a wild ride, and it feels fitting to step down as I begin a new job as Production Manager at Simon & Schuster. But first, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and look back at how I got here because I just turned 30 and I’m feeling nostalgic as heck.

It was fall of 2010 when I first heard about YPG. I was still at my glamorous first job out of college, managing files in a school basement. After a year of paper cuts and heaving heavy file folders, I was getting a tad restless. I decided to follow my heart and start applying for publishing jobs. The search got exhausting quickly, and I felt discouraged.

At the time, my dad was employed at Oxford University Press and had a younger colleague who was involved with the YPG planning committee. Thanks to that connection, I was able to attend a YPG National Book Awards happy hour at Random House as a guest and “network” for the first time (terrifying, but thrilling). It felt like an adult’s version of a college group, but even better given the free books. What a concept! I knew I had to be a part of it.

Fast forward to 2011, when I got my first publishing job as a production assistant at Penguin. Once I saw the YPG flyer in my orientation packet, I signed up immediately. I devoured whatever YPG event I could go to: Brown Bag Lunches, happy hours, Book-to-Film Club, etc. I soaked it all up, and strove to learn about the different areas of the business. I dragged my Penguin buds to events when I could, and sucked it up and went solo too. I just had to take advantage of everything this group had to offer.

At a BBL later that year, Becca Worthington (former project manager at AAP and current librarian rockstar) noticed me furiously scribbling notes. She tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey, want to do a write-up of this BBL for the YPG website?” I almost squealed. It ended up being the first of several write-ups I did for the site, including “Acting the Interview: Tips for Young Publishing Job Seekers,” which remains one of the top visited articles six years later. (Of course, I wish I could go back and tell my 23-year-old self what really works and what doesn’t!)

NBA nightAfter a year of feverish YPG enthusiasm and Becca’s encouragement, I applied for the planning committee in early 2012. Following a thorough application process and an in-person interview, I… got rejected. Oh well. I tried. I still went to YPG events, feeling slightly dejected but figured I’d try again next time.

A few weeks later, I got a call (yes, an actual phone call) from Sara Sargent, then-YPG Chair. She told me that someone on the planning committee had stepped down, so a spot had opened up. “You were the first person we thought of,” she said. I was shocked. “You don’t have to say yes,” I remember her saying.  “I understand if you don’t want to.” Who was I kidding? I checked my ego at the door and said yes. I was all aboard.

Thus began my tenure on the committee. We met once a month at AAP to discuss YPG programming over pizza. I was new and a bit shy (which seems hard to believe now). It was a dynamic, mostly extroverted group which could be overwhelming, but I still managed to get a few words in. I was just happy to be there and contribute; I enjoyed the atmosphere and camaraderie.

NBA 2016Speaking of camaraderie, I was lucky to meet some of my dearest friends through YPG. 2013 was an especially fun time. We were a group of ladies in our twenties from different areas of publishing: editorial, production, literary agencies, etc., and we shared a love of happy hour and musical theatre. During that spring and summer, more than a few YPG happy hours turned into spontaneous karaoke after-parties. We still get together for karaoke every now and then.

As a planning committee member, my pet project, my baby, my labor of love became the Book-to-Film Club. When I took over the club from Becca, I was able to make it my own. I chose the book, secured the viewing space and snacks, promoted the club on social media and led the meeting. Little did I know how it would prepare me for what was about to come.

As years passed, folks came and left the planning committee. It was a natural ebb and flow: people get new roles/jobs and feel too busy to devote time to YPG. It made sense. But I became a mainstay. I always knew I wasn’t quite done yet with the committee. And I consistently found myself speaking up and establishing more presence in the monthly discussions. As a production person (and proud of it), I knew I had a fresh perspective to offer the committee, and I valued hearing from others who also came from underrepresented departments.

As Sara began to consider her departure from YPG, she and Becca approached me to take over as YPG chair. Chair! Who, me? I fully embodied the “Aw, shucks” vibe. I was honored, but how was I going to do this? (And do it right?)

Of course, I would’ve been a fool to say no. I remember being introduced as the next Chair at the 2014 Young to Publishing Conference. The entire Scholastic auditorium cheered. I was blown away!

I immediately experienced head-on the challenges of leadership: organizing and leading planning committee meetings, ensuring programming on all the subcommittees ran smoothly, and overseeing YPG as a whole. There were emails. So. Many. Emails. (Nerdy word of wisdom: an organized inbox really is the key to success.)

There was also a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Managing any committee conflicts that came up. Being a reassuring, helpful presence for committee members planning an event for the first time. I also kept a watchful eye on our social media accounts–I’ve “liked” so many Facebook & Instagram posts that I am probably YPG’s biggest stalker.

There were also perks and privileges I took seriously. I got to sit on AAP’s Diversity, Recruit and Retain Committee, and participate in direct efforts to help diversity our industry. I was a returning speaker at NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute, addressing students on how to begin a career in publishing. Last year at Hachette I also spoke to interns from the various houses on YPG and the power of networking. (Anxiety-inducing? Oh yeah. But worth it.)

hachette 2016

If I could pinpoint my proudest moments while serving as Chair, I would say mapping out and helming YPG Diversity programming for 2016, and my Publishers Weekly Star Watch nomination last fall– what an enormous honor to be recognized for the work I love doing.

It’s impossible to sum up in a few words how much YPG has meant to me and done for my career. I’ve been a part of YPG as long as I’ve been in publishing, so I have a hard time picturing life without it. As your Chair, I gave it my all, and walking away is bittersweet.

I’m not completely out of the picture, though: the Mid-to-Publishing Group (MPG) is picking up steam, and I’m excited to be involved with the group and help it grow.

I’m also thrilled for Josh Redlich, your new Chair. He’s a planning committee veteran who you’ve likely seen at the countless YPG social events he’s organized, from BEA on a Boat to Board Game Nights to the holiday-themed happy hours. YPG is safe in his extremely capable hands. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with this year and beyond. YPG does extraordinary things, and I know the best is yet to come.

I’m so grateful that I got to lead this group– I’ve had the time of my life. And owe it all to you. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the karaoke opportunity).

xmas 2015

BB

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