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.
Kicking off our series is Perpetua Charles, our publicity assistant.
What drew you to publishing, Perpetua? How did you find your way to Beacon?
I was on the staff of the arts journal in undergrad. I attended Florida Southern College and the arts journal was called Cantilevers. After my first year as managing editor of the journal I realized how much I’d really enjoyed the process of making the print magazine come to life, from collecting submissions to talking with the printer to overseeing designs. Getting to hold the final product in my hand was a really gratifying experience and I wanted to try to explore that newfound passion in a graduate program.
I’ve had a connection to Beacon since college—one of my professors assigned Kindred for class! One of my final courses at Emerson College was a publicity class and I had to interview someone for a paper. I interviewed Beacon author Linda K. Wertheimer, author of Faith Ed and an instructor at GrubStreet, where I was working at the time. Soon after, a position opened up in the publicity department and I quickly applied. Getting to meet one of our authors and to speak with her directly was a really great way for me to learn more about Beacon before interviewing for a position I was really interested in.
What’s a typical day in the life of a publicist?
I’m the assistant to the director of communications and the publicity manager. I support them with their title loads each season and handle some front list titles of my own as assigned. Each day, I juggle the work involved with at least three or four books in a season. That work includes arranging author events for touring authors, writing press materials and email pitches to media, pulling together a media report that goes out to our staff, sales representatives, and distributor, and maintaining marketing files for our authors.
Some days I’m able to just put my head down and work, but other days are busy with various team meetings, calls with authors, and the occasional publicity trip to an author’s local event or broadcast interview. Working in the wharf/seaport district of Boston has its perks for places to eat and taking a break during the day too. I’ve found that walking along the harbor or eating lunch on the Rose Kennedy Greenway is a great way to recharge and get back to the day’s activities.
How much of what you learned in college and/or graduate school have you found vital to your work?
Something many of my professors in my undergraduate and graduate programs emphasized was learning to think creatively and outside the box. This guidance helped me be unique and authentic in my written work and my presentations. In publicity, we recognize that the media landscape is always changing. As such, what worked for a book yesterday might not work today. Being innovative about how I pitch our books to media we work with frequently allows for me to have a good and continuous relationship with contacts and for the job to stay fresh!
What helps you focus when you’re at work?
If for any reason I don’t have my earbuds, I will collapse! Some of the ambient noise that comes with working in an open office can be distracting, so plugging in my buds and listening to my favorite jams helps me zero in on my work.
Three words: PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA
Best vacation destination?
If I could vacation in Paris every year, I absolutely would. I’m a total Francophile.
Hobbies outside of work?
I love to sing. I sing soprano in my church choir—as well as in the shower, when I’m walking down the street, buying groceries…
My favorite band in the whole wide world is Coldplay. I realized my dream of seeing them perform live this past July and it was the most incredible concert/lightshow I’ve ever seen.
Name three non-office items on your desk and their significance to you.
1. I have two little plushies of Rey and Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens that sit comfortably on my desk. Star Wars wasn’t a big deal in my house growing up, so I got into it pretty late—sometime in college. When The Force Awakens released, I’d been more excited about it than I thought I would be. I definitely feel one with the Star Wars fandom now! (I’m also convinced that Rey and Kylo Ren are siblings.)
2. Pics of me and my family are all over my desk space. They are such an important part of my life, and even though we live all across the country, we talk to each other often and love each other dearly. Having their pictures on my desk is my way of keeping them close.
3. Various snack foods crowd the crannies of my desk. This is because I get very hangry very quickly, and you do not want to see me when I’m hangry.
About Perpetua Charles
Perpetua Charles joined Beacon Press in June 2015. She is a graduate of Florida Southern College and earned her MA in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College 2015.