Publishing has been my opportunity to participate in a cause which best puts to use the skills I acquired throughout college.
In college, someone told me to think about the things I loved when I was younger, because those things would bring the most joy in my career. Books meant everything to me as a kid. Beacon was a great fit because of my political science degree and nonprofit internships in college. Also, I mostly read nonfiction.
Our New England summer is off to an overcast, monsoony start, but that’s not going to stop us from vibing with our seasonal reads and binges. Here’s what our staff has been enjoying.
When I first began exploring career possibilities in back high school, I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to work in publishing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a children’s author, but even back then, the practical side of me knew I would also need to find a day job I was equally passionate about to support myself. Considering my lifelong obsession with books, publishing was the obvious choice!
When I started to think about career options in my first year of college, I knew I wanted to do something in the world of books and I knew I wanted, within that, to work somewhere that recognized the inherent political power of publishing and that was committed to using that power in a way that was both disruptive and purposeful. I also knew—or thought I knew at the time—that I wanted to be in New York.
A Q&A with Catherine Tung | This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time! Editors all have bucket lists of books they want to publish, and near the top of my list has been a book that introduces the rich world of kink to a general audience without sensationalizing, othering, or distorting the material. When I arrived at Beacon three years ago, my senior colleagues encouraged me to brainstorm ideas for new lists that I could develop. I started with the idea of a kink book, and the idea of a sexuality list flowed naturally from there.
I never planned on a career in publishing. After working in public accounting, I was offered a position at The Thomson Corporation in their publishing division. I thought I would try that for a few years and move onto something else. Shortly afterwards, I moved to their educational publishing group and ended up there for the next thirty years.
I initially wanted to be a writer, and I also wanted to live in New York, where many of my best friends were already living. In my last semester of college, my thesis advisor mentioned publishing as a possible day job—an industry that, of course, is also mainly based in New York. After college, I did some internships and freelance work at various New York publishers, magazines, and agencies, and then did an MFA in fiction writing at Brooklyn College, where I studied with author and editor Nathaniel Rich.
I’ve been a Beacon staff member and a publicity team member for seven and a half years! In that time, I’ve witnessed the rise of podcasts as legit and meaningful coverage for authors; the gradual expansion of book sections at major publications like the Washington Post and The Atlantic; and the ongoing growth of the indie book scene here in Boston. And, of course, my work and my life have changed since the onset of the pandemic nearly a full three years ago.
In undergrad, when I started working on my creative writing minor, I spotted a course on book publishing in the English department’s catalog. I’d always been “interested” in publishing, and I suppose the books and films I consumed growing up that glamorized the industry fascinated me as someone on the outside looking in—same with my other educational pursuits in film, journalism, art history, creative writing, advertising . . . I owe a tremendous debt to that class, as it made learning about the industry more accessible to those who couldn’t afford an elite summer publishing course or graduate program.
By Helene Atwan | Gayl Jones, the highly acclaimed author who was first “discovered" and mentored by Toni Morrison has twice disappeared from our sight. The first time was after a stellar launch as one of America’s most daring and distinctive literary lights, after two brilliant novels (“Corregidora” and “Eva’s Man”) brought out by Morrison at Random House, and one slim but oh-so-astonishing story collection (“White Rat”), when she went into a self-imposed exile in France, from the late 1970s until the late 1990s. She and her husband had rejected the racism that surrounded them, and Gayl had made the decision to leave her job in academia and her very promising career as a writer, as well as her friends and supporters in the literary community, and live in Europe.
I was always interested in being somewhere in the world of books. Before college, I wanted to be a full-time writer, and at some point, in those four years, I realized I needed more social interaction in my day than there would be in a typical freelance day. Publishing seemed like the most adjacent career that was less isolated, and it’s turned out to be the case!
When I was a kid, my favorite store was Barnes & Noble. I’ve always been a reader, and quite frankly, I’ve only ever really felt qualified to work with books. I started out with the starry-eyed vision of publishing everyone has: editing. I learned in graduate school that being an editor probably wasn’t for me and, feeling a little hopeless toward the end of my graduate career, took a marketing and sales class. It changed the game for me.
Don’t mind us. We’re just getting through this heat wave by chilling with our summer reads, TV shows, and podcast binges. A tall glass of lemonade, with or without additive, really pairs well with them. Don’t judge! Need some recommendations? We have plenty!
The threshold is upon us. The end of our time with Helene Atwan as our director is coming up. We’re all wishing her the happiest retirement! It has been an amazing twenty-six years, and Beacon won’t be the same without her. So many amazing authors she brought into the fold! So many amazing books—including her love of poetry—she brought to the catalog! Several of our authors gathered here to congratulate her and to thank her. Along the way, we’ll take a trip down memory lane with photos.
The threshold is upon us. The end of our time with Helene Atwan as our director is coming up. It has been an amazing twenty-six years, and Beacon won’t be the same without her. So many amazing authors she brought into the fold! So many amazing books—including her love of poetry—she brought to the catalog! As much as we’re sad to see her go, we’re so happy about the retirement she is looking forward to.
The timing of this Q&A is a nice bookend, as I joined Beacon last June! I saw this specific job retweeted by either POC in Publishing or Latinx in Publishing. I’ve been in publishing/the world of books in some way ever since I graduated college back in the aughts. After moving around a bit, I really found a sweet spot in working on progressive books, and publicity and marketing really suit my preference of crafting the messaging and helping to put out projects into the world that the author has spent so much time working on.
By Brittany Wallace | I remember when I first heard about “Breaking Bread.” Contrary to what movies would have you think, the publishing process takes at least a year, sometimes two or three. When I started at Beacon in September 2021, we were already abuzz about our summer 2022 list—publishing speak for “forthcoming books.” Our director and the book’s in-house editor, Helene Atwan, brought “Breaking Bread” up in an all-staff meeting. She talked about how two years-long friends, Debra Spark and Deborah Joy Corey, gathered up to seventy essays from renowned and beloved food writers for the collection.
By Avery Cook | After two long years of conference Zoom rooms, we donned our lanyards once again and set up our table-skirted shop at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) in Boston, from March 31 through April 3. With the conference in our backyard this year, we attended with numbers and enthusiasm, enjoying for the first time since 2019 the privilege of being surrounded by our books and chatting in person with some of our authors.
In the wake of Helene Atwan’s retirement announcement, Beacon Press is delighted to share that Gayatri Patnaik, who has been with the press for two decades, has been appointed as the next Director, effective July 30, 2022.