In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—including Richard Blanco, Imani Perry, Robin DiAngelo, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, and Bettina Love—are appearing in the media, their ideas going viral on social media, their voices being heard on so many platforms, we thought it might be good to take a break to focus on some of the staff who work hard to find, shape, edit, produce, and promote those works. Our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books” introduces to you a member of our staff and gives you a behind-the-scenes look, department by department, at what goes on at our office.
For the month of June, we introduce you to our editorial assistant, Molly Velázquez-Brown!
What drew you to publishing, Molly? How did you find your way to Beacon?
I want to say my passion for book publishing is because I have always loved to read, but that is just not true. When I was growing up, my family pretty much exclusively spoke Spanish, so when I started first grade and was asked to learn to read in English—a language that already felt out of place on my tongue—it was a BIG no from me. I hated it. It took me longer than the other kids to read a Magic Tree House book, and I was embarrassed, which put me off reading for pleasure for years. It wasn’t until sixth grade when I had an amazing English teacher—Shout-out to Emily! I went to a hippy-dippy middle school where we called our teachers by their first name—that I finally enjoyed reading. From then on, I was hooked. I loved falling into the worlds authors created and trying to create my own. I majored in Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication in college and was lucky enough to have a fantastic publishing internship during that time with New City Community Press, which is where I discovered my love for editorial work. Being allowed to uplift, develop, and help refine stories by incredible authors truly makes my heart sing.
My newfound love for editorial work was solidified when I received a job offer from Beacon Press a few weeks before graduating college. The luxury and extreme relief of having a job lined up before finishing undergrad is not lost on me: the stars really aligned for this opportunity to come to me at that time. I found my way to Beacon thanks to my good friend of almost ten years and assistant editor, Maya Fernandez, who recommended I apply for the position as soon as it was posted. Flash forward to today (two years into my time at Beacon) and I am still doing what I love: working editorially on books that energize, reveal truth, uplift marginalized voices, and encourage change.
What current/upcoming projects are you excited about?
Two books that recently came out that I love are We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina L. Love and Women Warriors: An Unexpected History by Pamela D. Toler.
We Want to Do More Than Survive is an incredible book that draws on personal stories, research, and historical events. Dr. Bettina Love offers a vision of educational justice inspired by the rebellious spirit and methods of abolitionists. Working on this title and with Bettina was an absolute joy. Not only is Bettina a complete powerhouse of an educator and activist, but she is also one of the kindest and most charismatic people I have had the pleasure of meeting. If you ever have a chance to hear Bettina speak live, get in there! You won’t be disappointed.
Women Warriors recounts the stories of numerous fierce women who fought for what they believed. From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women who fought because they wanted to, because they had to, or because they could. Dr. Toler breathes incredible life into these historic women. This book was exciting and revelatory to work on and is a constant reminder that women are always, and have always been, total badasses.
One last book that is coming out September 17, 2019 that I’m obsessed with is The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy. This book is all about the sins society and the patriarchy have convinced women and girls they need to avoid. Mona lets out a rallying cry to all women to embrace their power and all their sins; anger, attention, profanity, ambition, power, violence, and lust. I cannot wait for it to come out! This book is a big middle finger—check the cover if you don’t believe me—to the patriarchy and something every woman should read!
What helps you focus when you’re at work?
Music and snacks mostly. I have a few playlists I rotate between depending on what I’m doing at work. For reading and editing, I mostly listen to my “workin with no words” playlist, which consists of instrumentals of pop songs and a lot of Lindsey Sterling and Maya Beiser. While researching, writing letters, or organizing, I listen to my “feelin good” playlist, which has more than 400 songs in it, so I’ll spare you all the details. But some of my favorite artists in that playlist are: Dounia, Childish Gambino, J Balvin, Kehlani, Jessie Reyez, and Bad Bunny. Snack wise, I always keep a box of Annie’s cheddar bunnies in my desk and a selection of dark chocolate. Do not bother asking me where they are hidden. It is a secret.
I also find that switching up work locations helps keep me focused. During the Spring and Summer, I try to do as much work as I can outside. Fresh air and sunlight can really improve my productivity after being inside for a while. During the colder months (most months in Boston), I usually find a quiet space in the office away from my desk to work. Even just a little change of scenery can work wonders to stay focused.
What are you reading right now?
I started Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney yesterday! It came recommended to me by so many friends, I can’t wait to dig in more. Only five chapters in, but I am loving Rooney’s writing style and the characters I have been introduced to thus far. I finished up Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval a few days ago, which I completely adored. Hval writes in the most beautiful and engaging language, which comes as no surprise, as she first came on the scene with her music and visual art. I honestly couldn’t put her book down—dark vibes and a little magical realism with beautiful writing is my book genre of choice, and Paradise Rot was just that.
What’s the next queued song on your music player?
The next few songs I have queued are for my commute home. I try to keep the energy up on my T ride home after work so I do things instead of just napping—though generally, I would always prefer to be napping.
- “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo
- “Caro” by Bad Bunny
- “Icon – Reggaeton Remix” by Jaden, Will Smith, and Nicky Jam
- “Toxic” by Dounia
- “Con Altura” by ROSALÍA, J Balvin, and El Guincho
- “Don’t Hurt Yourself – Homecoming Live” by Beyoncé. (Maya asked me to add Beyoncé to my list, and if you don’t understand why, go check out her Beacon Behind the Books profile.)
Best vacation destination?
Best vacation destination I have been to is Copenhagen, Denmark. I went a few years ago to visit some friends that were living there at the time and everything was just gorgeous. The weather was perfect, the food was delectable as everything was fresh, there were so many museums to explore, they have trampolines in some of the sidewalks (how fun, right?), and we got to have a picnic on a boat down the main canal that runs through the city into the ocean. Copenhagen is known as the “happiest city on earth,” and honestly, after visiting, I understand why.
Vacation destination I imagine to be the best but have yet to go to is Greece. I’ve always wanted to visit some of the islands, because I adore anywhere with water I can swim in and sunshine. Plus, I am a huge fan of Greek food and culture. Thanks to some close friends of mine who are very in touch with their Greek heritage, I learned a lot about it over the last few years. Fingers crossed someday I make it to Santorini.
About Molly Velázquez-Brown
Molly Velázquez-Brown joined Beacon in 2017 as an assistant to Editorial Director, Gayatri Patnaik and Executive Editor, Amy Caldwell. Originally from Cambridge, MA, she earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Writing, Rhetoric, and Communications as well as Psychology from Syracuse University.