To celebrate the second anniversary of the podcast, I've decided to interview some of my guests from the first season and see how their career has developed in the last couple of years. Today I interview Christine Modafferi, now Editor for Illustrated Books at Scholastic.
I interviewed Christine Modafferi for the podcast in May 2018, when she was Editorial Assistant for Children's Non-Fiction at Bloomsbury. If you haven't listened to that episode yet, you can listen to it directly on this page.
And now onto this blog post interview to discover how Christine's career has evolved in the past couple of years.
Hi Christine, thank you very much for agreeing to do this follow-up interview! You’re now Editor for Illustrated Books at Scholastic. What does a typical day in your current role look like?
Yay! Thanks so much Flavia. It feels really great to be part of this community and I love love LOVE what you’re doing.
Every day varies and is just as exciting as the day before it.
Some days you’ll see me cooking up some new ideas of my own for novelty and picture books, other days I am developing some manuscripts with agents and authors, and other days I am presenting and representing my books in meetings, so as to galvanise other departments to believe in my projects as much as I do.
It’s a really fun job and I still have to pinch myself it’s real.
Which new tasks and responsibilities do you have, compared to your previous jobs as Editorial Assistant and Assistant Editor for Children’s non-fiction at Bloomsbury?
Bloomsbury has definitely equipped me with the skills to fully realise a project from beginning to end, and in my new role at Scholastic I am able to take more ownership of my projects.
In my new role, I’m much more in touch with agents and have the space and time to dedicate myself fully to the creative aspects of my job, whereas at Bloomsbury, on top of looking after my own titles, I also was supporting the entire team with admin.
Have you noticed any interesting trends in children’s publishing this year?
I definitely think we are, as a whole, thinking much more about how we represent the society in its entirety with what we publish. Of course diversity has been a huge topic of conversation for years and YEARS, and representing a multitude of different backgrounds and culture is something I really feel strongly about as an editor.
The world is currently undergoing so much change this year and I am hopeful that the publishing industry will always stand at the forefront of the right cause.
What advice would you give to those trying to step up in their career as you did, from assistant editor to editor?
I think the first thing is: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.
You probably are ready to make a change in your career and you are ready to take the next step. If you want to become an editor, it’s probably because you learned enough in your current role to move on. So do it!
Make a formal request for a promotion and, if that is not possible or your request has been rejected, look elsewhere. And stay determined and positive. You’ve totally got this.
On the flip side, if you want to become an editor but don’t think you have the skills, start developing them. Speak to other editors, ask them to share their agent correspondence with you, ask them to show you their edits and become your mentors. Observe. See what editor job adverts look like, what skills you need. And make it happen.
In your opinion, what are the skills more in high demand now, to work in editorial roles? And specifically as an editor of children’s literature?
I think number one is commercial awareness. Knowledge of the books that have really worked and the ones that have tanked.
For children’s books specifically I would say know your market and showcase that knowledge in interviews. It’s also good to have an eye for design, and understand that the text needs to work with the artwork. They are equally important. Finally, communication skills are key. As an editor, you’re the person who is communicating across departments and with authors/illustrators/agents to make this book happen.
Do you have any advice for those applying for their first job in publishing right now?
In your cover letter, mention some recent books that the publishing house has published/acquired!
You have no idea how many internship applications I didn’t take to the interview stage because they just did not mention any books from the list. It’s really easy to find information and this special touch caters the cover letter to the publishing house you’re applying for.
What do you think could be the best way to use the potential downtime in the current lockdown, for those trying to start and/or advance their career in publishing?
I think it’s useful to browse websites and see what people are buying. Though you can’t go to bookshops quite yet, you definitely can see bestsellers on Amazon, Waterstones and what is trending on Instagram and Twitter.
I would also say, don’t be afraid to send unsolicited applications. It’s likely they won’t get you anywhere yet, but people might keep your application on record and get in touch when they need someone.
You might also want to take advantage of this time to browse Linkedin and speak to people that are in the role you’d like to have, don’t be afraid of getting in touch. Or you could take some online courses, browse if there’s anything free out there.
What are you currently reading and what’s your favourite book of the year so far?
In light of the current events, I am educating myself more on race and racism. So I am reading Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which I also think is my favourite book of the year so far. She is absolutely brilliant.
Thank you very much, Christine!
Thank you for reading this post!
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