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 September, we introduce you to our Assistant to the Director, Maya Fernandez!
What drew you to publishing, Maya? How did you find your way to Beacon?
Oddly enough, I hated reading as a child. In elementary school I was placed in lower level reading groups because I read at a slower pace than other students. Sometime around sixth grade, my teachers realized that it wasn’t that I had trouble reading; it was that I didn’t enjoy the books I was reading. I distinctly remember going to my school’s book fair and being overjoyed at that I was able to choose books to read. Today, I am an official book nerd (why else would I be in publishing?). I now read books quite quickly and love discovering new stories that relate to my personal experiences. My love of reading and of diverse books drew me to publishing, and Beacon happens to be one of the best places to work on such books.
Now I shall set the scene: picture a fresh-out-of-college graduate, working as part-time intern at a digital education company and full-time job application hunter. Like most millennials, I struggled to find the perfect entry-level position after college. By chance, my father ran into a family friend who mentioned that Beacon had an opening for the Assistant to the Director, and I quickly applied. I was fortunate to not only find a publisher to work for that appeals to my love of literature and social justice, but also a position where I am constantly learning the ins and outs of independent publishing.
What’s a typical day in the life of an Assistant to the Director?
As the Assistant to the Director, I have a range of both administrative and editorial duties that let me see two different departmental aspects of independent publishing. I start my day by checking both my email and the Director’s email and marking anything important to go over together. Then, I look over both of our schedules for the day and write out a “To Do” list. The rest of my day consists of either author meetings, editorial projects, or depending on the time of year, planning events, such as our Board of Advisors meeting. If someone happens to find me at my desk, I am often writing flap copy, reading a proposal, or researching potential authors.
What upcoming projects are you excited about?
In the fall of 2018, we are publishing Some of My Friends Are...: The Untapped Benefits of Cross-Racial Friendships by Deborah L. Plummer. Through interviews, analysis, and personal anecdotes, Plummer examines how cross-racial friendships function within American society, while also exploring the benefits of these friendships. I am excited to be working on this project, because I think this book will be very important for understanding race relations within the United States, and how interracial friendships play an important role in bettering these relations. The book is both analytic and personable, and Plummer’s writing grabs the reader with thought-provoking insight. This is a must read!
What helps you focus when you’re at work?
Music! I love to listen to music at my desk. While many people have trouble listening to music with lyrics while they work, I find that it helps me focus on the task at hand. My music choice tends to consist of trap music, hip-hop, rap, R&B, neo-soul, and anything Beyoncé. Because I listen to such exciting music, a few coworkers have had the pleasure of finding me “dance-typing” at my desk.
Mac & Cheese. I used to be allergic to all dairy products, so now I make sure I savor every bit of this cheesy masterpiece.
What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae. It is hilarious and engaging. As I said before, I love reading books that I connect to my personal experiences. This is definitely one of them.
In an alternate universe, what career would you have?
In an alternate universe I would be a superstar celebrity. I know this is a broad statement, but I can see myself as some type of amazing actress, singer, dancer, influencer, etc. Unfortunately, my current talents are limited to binging Netflix series, but I am certain I would thrive in stardom.
Hobbies outside of work?
I have a secret obsession with playing The Sims 3. I try to play at least three to five hours every weekend and squeeze in an hour or two during the week. If I go too long without playing I tend to get a little irritable. Besides living in a virtual world, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, shopping, traveling, cuddling with my dog, and sleeping.
I have two framed photos on my desk. The first is of my very fabulous, slightly overweight Beagle named Maggie. In my opinion, she is one of the most spectacular creatures to walk the earth. The other is of my two nephews, Ryan and Charlie. My nephews live in a different state, so I love to keep their photos nearby.
Above my desk is a bright pink cat, knit by our Contracts Director, Melissa Nasson. There are a few cats spread out amongst the office cubes, and I’m lucky enough to have one watch over me as I work. I call her Beyoncé the Cat. She is great company.
Lastly, I have the statement “WWBD: What Would Beyoncé Do?” taped above my computer monitor. It is a wonderful reminder to ground myself when I am stressed and think, “What would Beyoncé do in this situation?” The answer is usually “Dance.”
About Maya Fernandez
Maya Fernandez joined Beacon Press in 2016 as the Assistant to the Director. Originally from Medford, MA, she earned a Bachelor of Arts from American University in Washington, D.C., where she studied Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology.