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.
By Bev Rivero | In the early evening on the first Thursday in March, an excited crowd of invitees gathered at the Museum of the Moving Image to celebrate the first three titles honored by the new Science + Literature program from the National Book Foundation. In addition to the excitement of chatting in person with book folks, the event was a great start to Women’s History Month, as all three books are authored by women.
By Amy Caldwell | As we entered our second year of the pandemic, early in the spring of 2021, I was reviewing the changes and additions the monastics of the Plum Village Center for Engaged Buddhism had made for our revised and expanded edition of Thich Nhat Hanh’s classic collection of meditations, “The Blooming of a Lotus.” Upon hearing of Thay’s death last Friday, my mind returned to my reading and that time.
It’s a rough way to begin the new year, mourning an author and an intellectual powerhouse. Lani Guinier, legal scholar, champion for voting rights, and the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School, joined the ancestors on January 7. She was seventy-one. Although heartbroken about her passing, we remain honored to have published her work, including “The Tyranny of the Meritocracy,” which she wrote to provide a clear blueprint for creating collaborative education models to strengthen our democracy rather than privilege individual elites. May she rest in power.
My degree is actually in film, but I realized only afterward that it wasn’t what I wanted for myself, so I did what any sensible person would do—I street performed for a little while in Baltimore, playing bucket drums. Wanting something more stable, I luckily got hired on as a manager at a Books-A-Million. The rest is history, I guess. I just fell in love with books, the industry, and the people in it. My first taste of publishing was during an internship at MIT Press where I got to work in a few different departments. That affirmed publishing as the right place for me.
Beacon Press is proud to announce the expansion of its poetry program, adding new voices to those of the press’s renowned poets—including James Baldwin, Mary Oliver, Sonia Sanchez, and Richard Blanco—who have been an essential part of the press’s catalog. The new series is called RAISED VOICES and will serve the overarching goal of representing marginalized voices and perspectives in poetry. The series authors will offer books that affirm progressive values, give voice to many identities, are accessible to a wide readership, and celebrate poetry’s ability to access truth in a way no other form can. Beacon plans to acquire about three new titles for the series each year.
It took me a long while to figure out that there were entire careers behind every page of the books I was reading. It might sound odd, but it wasn’t until reading about Anastasia Steele working in a publishing house from “Fifty Shades of Gray” that I put it together (pretty sure that wasn’t the goal of the book, haha). After that, I spent more and more time looking not only at what I was reading, but also which publisher or imprint was producing it.
By Perpetua Charles | Two years ago, my partner and I took a small getaway to Portland, ME. To feel confident on this trip, I was going to need my best early spring outfits and my trusty travel makeup bag. At the time, my natural curls were cropped close to my head, and to be honest, the stylist had done the cut a little lopsided. Unbeknownst to me, I’d also been struggling with the effects of an undiagnosed GI issue. But it didn’t take long into our first afternoon there to discover that my makeup bag didn’t make the trip with me. Dread and panic set in. My partner, a white, straight, cisgender male, had trouble understanding why I was briefly spiraling over this realization. In the moment, I couldn’t find the words to explain what I innately knew. In a city like Portland, I was going to stick out. Without makeup, I was going to stick out even more.