You’ve read our classics, such as Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son; and many of you know our current list, featuring books by Cornel West, Lani Guinier, Anita Hill, and Christopher Emdin—books that speak to the condition of the world, and add to our understanding of urgent social issues. Whether it’s the environment or race, cultural or class dynamics, we publish all our books with a purpose. Now you can meet the people who work at Beacon Press in our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books.” Each month, we’ll introduce to you a member of our staff and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at our office.
For the month of June, we introduce you to our editor Will Myers!
What’s a typical day in the life of an editor, Will?
I tend to read email on the train ride to the office, so that when I arrive at my desk I’m ready to respond to my colleagues and the authors I’m working with. Sometimes I spend the first hours of the morning drafting a response to a problem an author is dealing with. Or I could be writing to ask someone if they would be interested in writing a blurb for a book. Or maybe I’m sharing title or cover ideas with my colleagues. Most mornings tend to revolve around these kinds of discussions, and then in the afternoons I try to make time to read proposals, get up to speed on environmental news, and edit the manuscripts I’m working on. It varies from day to day, which is one of the aspects of the job that I enjoy.
What are some of the challenges of being an editor? What do you find most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of my work is that I’m constantly learning and being inspired by the dedication of the authors I work with. I think the biggest difficulty of being an editor is something that most of us probably struggle with at work and in our personal lives: making time to break away from the demands on our concentration. Some aspects of being an editor are best served by an open mind and a receptivity to new ideas, but at other times it’s important to clear your head and focus on one particular issue. Toggling between these two ways of thinking can be challenging.
What is one book on our list that you would recommend?
It’s hard to pick one, but I’ll say James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son. The way Baldwin balances fury and restraint is so impressive.
What current/upcoming projects are you excited about?
Great question! There are so many books that I’m excited about right now. This July, we’ll be publishing Marcus Eriksen’s Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution. Eriksens tells the story of how he became galvanized and devoted his life to fighting the epidemic of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, and the lengths he’s willing to go to draw attention to the issue. He built a raft out of plastic debris and sailed from California to Hawaii, which he recounts in the book, along with his many fights with the polluting industries that are fighting back against efforts to solve the plastic pollution crisis. It’s fun and eye-opening.
In September, we’re publishing Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want by Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen, two inspiring activists working to push the boundaries of American democracy. It’s a courageously hopeful book that argues that we need to fight for a democracy that is radically inclusive and personally meaningful—and, as they demonstrate, this movement is already blossoming around the country.
One more: the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber’s Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing will be published next spring. It’s a collection of some of Rev. Barber’s incredible speeches, paired with responses from leading activists discussing how they’re putting his organizing vision into action in work as diverse as union organizing and the fight for environmental justice.
What helps you focus when you’re at work?
Lots of tea throughout the day, and periodic screen-free time.
What are you reading right now?
China Miéville’s October: The Story of the Russian Revolution. I love Soviet history and Miéville’s novels, and I was excited to see how he would approach such a complicated historical moment. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and I’m really enjoying it.
What are you listening to right now?
At work I tend to listen to a lot of ambient and electronic music—really anything without lyrics. Recently, I’ve been listening to Jlin’s Black Origami, GAS’s Narkopop, and a couple of my work go-to’s, Tim Hecker’s Dropped Pianos and Cocteau Twins’ Victorialand. When I’m not at work, Guided By Voices’ newest album, August By Cake, has been on repeat.
Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill has become one of my favorites for politics and current events. Comedy Bang Bang is always hilarious. I also listen to a lot of podcasts about baseball and basketball—Zach Lowe’s The Lowe Post is the best podcast on the NBA. I also listen to this podcast that helps me fall asleep called Sleep With Me, in which this guy tells incredibly boring but oddly endearing stories—TV recaps, readings of Trader Joe’s catalogs, attempts to remember the plot of The Goonies, that sort of thing…it’s weird, but it works. Nine times out of ten I end up falling asleep within the first half hour.
Name three non-office items on your desk and their significance to you.
In an office full of sports agnostics and Boston diehards, I’m the oddball who follows my hometown Cleveland teams. I have a Sports Illustrated cover with LeBron James (the G.O.A.T.) hanging on my wall that I only half-jokingly say is for inspiration. I keep a pretty clutter-free desk, so aside from manuscripts and books I’ve got some eye drops and a bag of pistachios.
About Will Myers
Will Myers is an Editor at Beacon Press. He acquires for the nature and environment list, with a particular interest in books on environmental justice and activism, climate change, and the intersection of race, class, and the environment.