Swoon Spotlight: Zoey P.
Editorial Assistant and Assistant to the Publisher at Roaring Brook Press
How long have you been in your current position?
Briefly describe your job.
I’m the assistant to Roaring Brook’s publisher, so half of my job is taking care of administrative duties for him. The other half is reading manuscript submissions and writing reader reports for him and for our Senior Editors.
What is your favorite part about your job?
It’s a thrilling feeling when I’m reading a manuscript submission and start devising ways to fix its problems and plotting how I’d alter it. Working with brilliant, experienced editors is sometimes intimidating, but when this happens, I think, “I can do this, too.”
What’s your least favorite part of your job?
Waking up early. My body needs 9-12 hours of sleep but I never get it until the weekends.
What do you think is the most common misconception about book publishing?
This is about a very specific part of book publishing, but most people outside the industry seem to think that writing a good picture book is very easy when, in fact, it isn’t at all.
What made you want to be involved with Swoon Reads?
I rarely read romance, but joined Swoon Reads to expand my horizons, which is necessary in order to become a better reader and editor.
What did you study in school?
I majored in English and minored in Women’s Studies. My focus was critical theory and cultural studies—basically, using critical theory and various theoretical lenses to think about how cultural artifacts (such as books!) reflect or subvert society, normative ideas, and the like. Most of my essays frequently used the word “patriarchal.”
Do you feel like you use your degree in your current job?
Yes, because thinking critically is crucial for people working in media, especially when trying to evaluate and create a more diverse and inclusive children’s book market.
What’s the funniest way you’ve heard a friend or family describe your job?
I often give people books from our free book pile as presents, so they probably think of me as the Book Fairy.
If you could have any other job in book publishing for one day, what would it be? Why?
I’m very happy working in editorial, but it’s be fun to do a stint working for a publication like School Library Journal or the Horn Book since I love writing reviews. When I was little and my family bought our first computer, I used to write clumsy, juvenile book reviews on Barnes and Noble’s website. Being an editor is great because you can help fix a book’s weaknesses, while you can only point them out in a review.
What do you like most about working with books for young adults?
Knowing that even seemingly small tasks I complete at the office, like paperwork, will help create a product that makes someone else happy or enriches their day in some way.
What does your desk and/or office look like on any given day?
Colorful, because my cubicle walls are covered with photos from my trips to London, Prague, and Paris, postcards from illustrators, and posters of two of my my favorite movies.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
This past summer, for a few months before I got this job, I worked at a movie theater, which was awful. I had to wear a baseball cap most of the time, and I’ve never even thought of wearing a baseball cap in my life. Plus, standing for hours and cleaning toilets. It’s not a “weird” job since many people have similar ones, but it made me so grateful to be where I am today.
What’s a book you wished you worked on?
Though she’s in adult publishing, I’d loved to have worked on Sarah Waters’ novels. Maybe I’ll get her to write a YA one day!
What was the first romance you ever read?
As a kid I read a lot of series that tracked characters as they grew up, such as the Little House series and the Betsy-Tacy series, so I loved reading about Laura Ingalls and Betsy Ray falling in love with Alonzo Wilder and Joe Willard, respectively. Both of whom were dreamy, to boot.
How did you get into book publishing?
When I realized that there were people who made books, I knew I wanted to be one of them. I’ve also always loved editing others’ work and would do it for friends and family members for fun, so editing professionally seemed like an ideal career path for me. Children’s book publishing appealed most strongly to me because it encompasses an especially broad range of genres and writing styles. In college, I interned at Abrams Books for Young Readers, then after graduating at Sanford Greenburger (a literary agency), then had a part-time job at the Children’s Book Council, and am now at Roaring Brook.
I usually prefer books where romance is a plot point but not the entire plot. But I do like romances that explore characters’ psychological states, or are about tortured/doomed love—like the film noir genre—,or about the thin line between love and madness, a great example of that being the movie “The Story of Adele H.” which plays with and subverts many tropes of conventional romances. My favorite book with a romance is Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, because it captures the feeling of longing perfectly, but is more about the narrator’s journey than romance.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self.
Eat your vegetables!