September of this year I officially started grad school while in the midst of a pandemic, with a sinus infection, and of course in the midst of moving to a new apartment. A few weeks in, I’m feeling much better and I’ve fully settled into grad school life.
Here’s a quick run down of how I ended up studying publishing. Like so many people working in publishing, I loved reading and writing as a child. I always had a book in hand and I ran my own newspaper from home which was distributed to my family weekly. It was always my dream to work in publishing, but I knew a love of reading and writing didn’t make a career, so I moved on but kept that dream in the back of my mind. Undergrad I studied Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and it was truly amazing. I interned at the Virginia Festival of the Book, wrote for an online magazine, and worked various other jobs. I graduated with absolutely no plans and no ideas for what I wanted my future to look like. After almost a year working a miserable customer service job and browsing the web for a graduate program that stuck out to me, I saw it- Masters in Publishing. For the first time I was absolutely sure about my future, and my dream job seemed like it could finally be a reality. I applied, got in, and here we are!
This post is a great resource for anyone who wants to study publishing in school, work in publishing one day, write a book, or is simply fascinated with how books are made.
The Publishing Business by Kelvin Smith & Melanie Ramdarshan Bold
A great overview of all stages of the publishing process, enhanced with interviews, case studies, images, and resources.
If you’re not ready to commit to reading an entire book on publishing, or if you’re looking for short but informative articles, The Scholarly Kitchen is an excellent resource with knowledgeable and innovative writers. A great way to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in publishing. Image credit.
In early June of 2020, JK Rowling published her now infamous tweets on transgender individuals, which are riddled with inaccurate information that gender and sexuality scholars could easily disprove and are incredibly harmful to the transgender population. I’m not here to disprove everything harmful JKR said- that’s already been done. I recommend you check out Violence Against Queer People and Normal Life in order to hear from scholars and academics who have researched violence against transgender people and can disprove JKR’s statements about bathrooms and transitioning. For the sake of this article, my big question is: can you separate the author from the work?
When JKR came out as transphobic, I was primed and ready to distance myself from her and her work. At the beginning of 2020 I decided to reread the Harry Potter series for the first time in years. I had just finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and I was feeling underwhelmed, to say the least. For context, I was the biggest Harry Potter fan as a child. I reread the books so much and so often that my hardback editions were falling apart- literally, pages fell out and binding just fell apart. I loved the movies, all I wanted was Harry Potter march, and I read HP fan fiction on Quibblo. I loved the books and I couldn’t find one thing wrong with them.
But as a 23 year old woman, I found the books had lost their luster. The writing was not the incredible writing I remember it to be, and at times it was so distracting I wanted to stop entirely. The story wasn’t as fast-paced and exciting as I remembered, and I couldn’t really find myself relating to the characters. The excessive use of “er” in the fourth book made me almost quit altogether. I didn’t like Harry, which surprised me. The house elf plot, and Ron’s and Harry’s feelings towards them, was off putting. So when I read everything JKR had to say, I was ready to be done.
I stopped my reread and decided to not support JKR anymore. Something I’ve noticed that she feels very proud of is that she already has everyone’s money- and yes, she does. I’ve already purchased books, movies, merchandise, and more. If you are looking to not support JKR anymore, don’t let this discourage you. What matters is what you do going forward. Donate to support charities and organizations that provide resources and support for transgender peoples.
So, can you separate author from work? In my opinion, no. But because of the massive cultural impact the Harry Potter series had, I think people are reluctant to fully distance themselves from Harry Potter, even if they know they should. Harry Potter is nostalgic and influenced people during their formative years. Harry Potter is an identity now, and influencers can make livings off of being a fan and collector of Harry Potter items. Take The Bakeey, a YouTube channel with over 200K subscribers, whose most popular videos are all Harry Potter themed and vary from taste tests to challenges/games. Sophie, the creator behind The Bakeey, has a bedroom that is entirely Harry Potter themed, and many videos on her channel are dedicated to redecorating her room and acquiring new Harry Potter merchandise. The Potter Collector, run by Peter Kenneth, has over 300K subscribers, and posts videos showing off a massive Harry Potter book collection and unboxing Harry Potter merchandise. While these are extreme examples of Harry Potter fans who have used their love of a series to gather their own fans, it is clear that Harry Potter has become an identity. For people like Sophie and Peter, and so many others, I’m sure it would feel impossible and painful to have to distance yourself from something that has become a part of your personality.
That’s why some people make the argument that yes, you can separate author from work. Despite being owned and created by JKR, Harry Potter has morphed into something that is completely out of JKR’s control. Characters are claimed and reimagined by fans. Hermione is frequently drawn as a Black woman, and fan fiction is written that reimagines characters as LGBT+. There are LGBT+ fans of the work who say Harry Potter helped them through hard times and is incredibly meaningful to them. On the other end of the spectrum, there are LGBT+ people who say seeing Harry Potter related things is triggering- like seeing a Harry Potter house listed in someone’s Instagram bio.
Some people say no, you absolutely cannot separate the work from the author. Books are incredibly powerful. We carry stories, characters, and lessons with us long after we finish reading. We derive new messages and create our own meaning from books, even if it’s not what the author wanted or intended. Books are a part of us, and because of this I think the no separation argument scares people. For people that feel like they absolutely want nothing to do with Harry Potter or JKR ever again, I applaud you. If you feel like you can appreciate one and not the other, or support one and not the other, then okay. There’s no right answer, and the situation isn’t black and white. This is a time for reflection, and figuring out what feels right and how our actions reflect our beliefs.
Here’s where I stand. I know I’ll never buy another book from JKR. I know I don’t want to buy any more official merchandise or see any movies that she’s involved in. I know I’ll probably never read Harry Potter again, but I’ll still watch the movies because I already own them. I probably won’t post anything related to Harry Potter on my Instagram page anymore. I also know that it’s always been my dream to visit Harry Potter world, and despite everything I have a hard time letting go of that dream, but I’m okay if I never go now. One way I’ve thought about justifying going is making a donation to an organization like The Trevor Project of equal or greater value to the amount of money I would spend at HP World. I know some people are only purchasing Harry Potter merchandise that is unlicensed and unofficial from places like Etsy, and therefore no profit is given to JKR. Personally, I can no longer read Harry Potter without also thinking of the incredibly harmful statements made by the series’ author.
It’s yet to be seen if JKR will suffer any real consequences. Bloomsbury is still pushing her new picture book, and the third film in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise is still set to premier. JK Rowling wrote the screenplay, and following the pattern of the first two films, will likely also be a producer. No matter what happens to JKR, and based on her immense wealth it will probably be nothing, we have to continue to educate ourselves and to support transgender individuals in their quest to live their lives the way they are meant to. Read books from transgender authors. Read scholarly work from academics who spent years studying gender and sexuality and have peer-reviewed research. If you have the resources, donate to organizations that support transgender individuals. Regardless, we must hold JKR accountable for her incredibly harmful statements. Plus, there are so many other incredible, amazing works that are far better than Harry Potter, and are written by incredible people, out there.
I can’t believe that 2020 is halfway over- its been a wild year to say the least. At the beginning of the year I expected to barely get any reading done because of work, and then work stopped and all of the sudden I was ahead of my reading goal. So far this year I’ve read 21 books, 10,115 pages, and my average rating is a 3.9. I’ve spent the majority of this year rereading books, and I’ve only read seven authors. There are definitely some reading changes I’d like to make.
Goals for the second half of the year
Focus on reading books from authors who are new to me and books I haven’t read- less rereading
Read more nonfiction/scholarly works
Diversify my shelves and reading habits- take stock of the books I own and read
Only support authors whose views I support- i.e. no transphobic, sexist, racist authors
What is the best book that you’ve read so far in 2020?
I have to give this to Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas. This book got me out of a major reading slump and far exceeded my expectations.
What’s your favorite sequel of the first half of the year?
I enjoyed War by Laura Thalassa just as much as I enjoyed the first book in the series.
Is there a new release that you haven’t read yet but you’re really excited for?
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown sounds amazing, and as soon as it’s back in stock at my local bookstore or on Bookshop.org I will be buying it.
What is your most anticipated release for the second half of the year?
Famine by Laura Thalassa is the third book in the Four Horsemen series. The release date is up in the air, but it will be coming out sometime during the second half of this year. As soon as this comes out I’m buying it. This is self-published by the author, so preorder it on Amazon to support her and this amazing series.
What is your biggest disappointment so far?
Harry Potter. Even before the whole JKR b******t, I just really wasn’t enjoying my reread of this series. I’ve stopped rereading this series and I won’t be reading them or supporting JKR in the future. I urge everyone to do research on the problems and faults in the “facts” that JKR pointed to in her statement. There is a plethora of scholarly work out there that disproves everything she said and shows how incredibly harmful and reductive that point of view is. On top of all that, the house-elf plot in the fourth book was so infuriating, and the characters’ attitudes toward it is very off-putting. I also didn’t enjoy Harry as a character.
What is your biggest surprise so far?
I’m usually hesitant to read very hyped books, so I was surprised that I enjoyed Serpent & Dove as much as I did. I ended up giving it four stars, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel later this year.
Who is your favourite new to you, or debut, author?
I’ve actually only read one author this year who is new to me- Shelby Mahurin, the author of Serpent & Dove. But I have to give an honorable mention to Laura Thalassa, who quickly became one of my favorite authors. Prior to 2020 I had only read one of Thalassa’s books. This year I’ve read six more of her books and I plan on reading everything else she’s published.
Who is your favourite fictional crush from this year?
Basically every character that Laura Thalassa writes.
Who is your new favourite character?
Bryce Quinlan and Danika Fendyr have one of the greatest literary friendships that I’ve read.
A book that made you cry?
Crescent City made me ball my eyes out- and books never make me cry.
A book that made you happy?
I reread City of Heavenly Fire– and the last book makes me happy because finally everything is resolved and I can relax after a stressful reading experience.
Your favourite book to movie/ TV show that you’ve seen so far?
I finally watched The Witcher and I LOVED IT. I’ve rewatched it already, and I’m so excited for season two. I’m currently reading The Last Wish, but I don’t know if I’ll be finishing the series yet.
What is your favourite post that you’ve written so far this year?
Beth over at Booksnest just created this original book tag, and I was immediately inspired by the questions and decided to answer. Check out Beth’s post here.
Pre-drinks | A prequel/novella you’ve read
This is much harder than I thought- I don’t read many novellas or many prequels! The first one that comes to my mind is A Court of Frost and Starlight. ACOFAS is a fun short story that takes place between the original trilogy and the future books.
The taxi to town | A book about travel
A book that involves physical travel as well as time travel is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I read this a couple years ago, and it’s definitely no easy undertaking. At almost 900 pages, it’s one of the longest books I’ve ever read, which is why I’ve yet to undertake reading Dragonfly in Amber.
Trying to find a table | A book you didn’t like to start with, but then ended up loving
This might be surprising because Sarah J. Maas is an auto-buy author for me, but Crescent City didn’t grab my attention until about 200 pages in. The beginning is very slow and the world-building is confusing, but by the end I was so invested and had completely forgiven the beginning for being so slow.
First round of drinks | A first book in a series
Mirage by Somaiya Daud definitely needs more hype! It’s beautifully written and has such complex characters. The sequel, A Court of Lions, is coming out very soon.
The dance floor | A book that makes you want to jump up and down with excitment
I was SO excited when War by Laura Thalassa came out. War is an adult fantasy/romance novel, which isn’t a genre I usually read but I’ve fallen in love with Thalassa’s writing, female characters, and stories. The third book in the series comes out later this year and I will be jumping for joy when that comes out as well!
The toilets | A book you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole
Due to the current state of book-twitter and everyone’s true colors coming out, I now have a ton of answers to this question. J.K. Rowling is done for me. I won’t be rereading Harry Potter again, or purchasing any of her new works. I urge everyone to do research on the “facts” she posted in her statement, as there is a plethora of scholarly work disproving everything she said and explaining how harmful that perspective is. It has also come to light that many white male science-fiction/fantasy (SFF) authors are terrible people, like Mark Lawrence and Sam Sykes. These situations are still unfolding, but I have no desire to read their words or support them. Support better authors!
The first to bail | The last book you DNF’d
Dark Harmony by Laura Thalassa is the last book I DNF’d. Earlier this year I went through a hardcore Laura Thalassa reading binge, and read a ton of her books. I didn’t dislike Dark Harmony by any means- I just felt like the third book wasn’t really necessary, and I was happy to say goodbye to the characters after the second book. The first two books are fun and I definitely recommend them if you’re looking for some light reading.
The journey home | A book you can’t really remember the plot of anymore
I read The Raven Cycle series four years ago, and I’ve completely forgotten basically everything about it. I also don’t see myself rereading this in the future.
The morning after | A comfort read
I have so many comfort reads, but one of the newest is Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I know that this book with always pull me in and immerse me in the world. Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout is another book that I love. The main character is one of my favorite leading ladies ever and her perspective is so fun.
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If you’re anything like me, you love a good series. The longer the better! I love getting invested in characters, and watching their growth and development over multiple books. I like stories with cliff-hangers and plot twists. For all these reasons, it’s so much easier for me to get into series than standalone novels. I’ve had issue with pacing in many standalone novels. The plot sometimes moves too quickly, and characters develop relationships that feel totally forced and lacking real connection. This all makes it really hard for me to be invested in the story. But not all standalone novels don’t work for me. Below are six fantasy and contemporary standalone novels that totally did it for me! Comment and let me know what standalone novels you love.
I’m always looking for a good mermaid book, and To Kill a Kingdom does not disappoint. Technically, the mermaids are sirens, and they are lethal killers. The characters are flushed out and complex, and they manage to go on an epic adventure all in one book.
It’s pretty rare that I find a contemporary novel I like, and it’s even rarer I find one I love. Eliza and Wallace are such wonderfully written characters, with refreshingly honest struggles. This book is so dear to my heart, and I hope some of you will also love it. Read my full review here.
Roseblood is a Phantom of the Opera retelling set in modern times. The main character Rune is an opera singer at a boarding school, where she befriends Thorn, a mysterious masked violinist. The romance in this novel moved at just the right pace, and the plot kept me hooked the whole time. Read my full review here.
This is the first contemporary book I read that I really loved. The description really doesn’t do this book justice. In less than 400 pages Jeff Zentner totally makes me fall in love with his characters, then breaks my heart. Read my full review here.
Soundless takes place in a village where there is no sound, and where the people must mine metals in exchange for food that is delivered to them. The main character Fei decides to save her village when her people start losing their sight and when food runs low. It’s super refreshing to read a book where people communicate with sign language, and I think this book does it really well.
Hunted is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Beauty and the Beast retellings are pretty overdone, but this one is refreshingly original. The main character, Yeva, doesn’t suffer from special-snowflake-syndrome, like so many MCs do. The magic system is very unique and fits naturally into the world. I highly recommend if you want a read that will leave you satisfied, but also craving more! Read my full review here.
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Usually, I am not a huge fan of celebrity autobiographies. It can be hard to relate to someone whose life is so different from your own. That being said, I found Lily Collins autobiography to be very moving. Her writing was sophisticated and relatable.
The Right to Choose by Gisèle Halimi
If you are looking for a short but powerful read, The Right to Choose is for you. Halimi writes about her childhood, as well as her lawyer work fighting to legalize abortion and make it more accessible to women of all economic backgrounds. This book is out of print, so it’s very hard to come by, but if you happen to see it listed online somewhere, or in a used bookstore, snatch it up!
Kingston’s writing is confronting, gritty, and magical. The Woman Warrior details Kingston’s upbringing as a Chinese American in California. This is a great mixture of memoir, myth, and folklore, and Kingston does a great job of intertwining all three together to explore identity, family, and womanhood.
This is one of my personal favorite autobiographies. Mernissi’s writing is beautiful, and she weaves her own memories into the narratives of the women surrounding her. Mernissi gets readers to reimagine words and places that have long been defined by white colonizers.
This is another of my favorite autobiographies. Mary Crow Dog grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Lakota Woman chronicles her experiences as a Native American woman, including her childhood, strict missionary schooling, and her joining the tribal pride movement. Own-voices Native American literature is scarce, but this is a great place to start.
This is one of those books that is great to read with a highlighter or pen in hand. I loved highlighting my favorite passages and making notes for myself to come back to later. Walker covers many topics in this work, from feminism to identity, but there is something in here for everyone.
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