I’ve always enjoyed my career in the publishing industry. What could be better than working with books and writers? I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to experience publishing from multiple perspectives: as an editor, literary agent, journalist, author, professor, event manager, and currently as a bookseller. Here are some highlights from my work experience.
In November of 2014, Open Book Bookstore in Elkins Park, PA opened. Together with my husband Evan Schwartz, I am the owner of this community-based small independent bookstore. Our carefully-curated collection of new books wins raves from our customers, and we take pride in bringing their attention to good new books. We have an active and well-attended program of author readings, as well as classes, writing workshops, and some unique programming, such as our Author Cabaret, the annual Writers at Work conference, and Readers Retreats. We run off-site events in numerous venues, including as restaurants and schools, partner with local schools and businesses, and run our monthly subscription book club, Booked Up.
As a member of the American Booksellers Association’s 2018 “Indies Introduce” committee, I helped select our top ten books from among hundreds submitted. Here I interview one of the winners, Dawn Davies.
When I decided to launch a career in publishing, I knew immediately that I wanted to be an editor and, at heart, I will always be first and foremost an editor. I started out as an editorial assistant in college publishing, and then moved to trade (general consumer) publishing and became an editor at Ballantine Books, a division of Random House. In both of these jobs I acquired and edited serious non-fiction books. As I moved through the editorial ranks at other publishing houses, my work also encompassed working on illustrated books and “books plus” as a Senior Editor at Running Press and Editorial Director at Peter Pauper Press.
In 1991, I launched my own literary agency, which I named Leap First, to reflect my belief in taking chances. In my eight years as an agent, I worked with academic authors such as Myra & David Sadker, authors of Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls, associations such as the American Dietetic Association, and other inspiring authors such as Byllye Avery, founder of the National Black Women’s Health Project and winner of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.I enjoyed helping my clients develop and shape new book ideas.
Programming & Event Manager
During my time running Leap First, I also spent a year and a half at Barnes & Noble, serving as the Community Relations Manager for the Park Slope store. I helped to open the store, B&N’s first in Brooklyn, and learned that being a bookseller, carrying and shelving books, is hard physical work. I greatly enjoyed helping customers find books and bringing their attention to new books. As the CRM, I had the chance to organize and run some interesting and popular events for the community. This work eventually resurfaced when I launched the Open Book program in 2003 and begin teaching and running my own events.
A few years into the new century, I had the chance to add another role to my busy roster and to try out something I had always wanted to do: teaching in a university setting. I was asked to teach a course on “How to Write a Book Proposal” for Drexel University’s graduate program in Publication Management. From there, I went on to launch a very successful book discussion course called “A Sneak Peek at Next Year’s Bestsellers” at Temple University’s continuing education program, and also taught writing and publishing at Temple and at the University of Pennsylvania. The Temple U class eventually grew into Open Book (more on that below!).
After a few years of adjunct teaching, I joined Rosemont College as the Director of Graduate Publishing Programs, where I worked for three years and helped to build the program’s visibility and realign the programming, including a new certificate in e-publishing in conjunction with the New York Times Knowledge Network. As far as my own academic career, I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an Honors degree in English, and hold a Masters in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
From 2012 to early 2014, I was the Editorial Director for the Publishing Business Group at North American Publishing Company in Philadelphia. In this role, I oversaw the publication of two trade industry magazines, Book Business and Publishing Executive, as well as a daily e-newsletter, Publishing Business Today, and wrote articles and features about the book and magazine publishing business.. I also helped to develop workshops, webinars, and events, and created programming for the annual Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York. I wrote a weekly industry blog called “Literally Speaking.” I have been the Book Blogger for The Philadelphia Inquirer and written freelance journalist for numerous industry and trade publications.
I enjoyed my stint as Books Blogger for The Philadelphia Inquirer and for City Paper. Such fun interviewing Ian McEwan and Jay McInerney. Also great to talk to my literary hero Ann Patchett as well as Judy Blume, Louise Erdrich, and other author/bookstore owners for a piece in Poets & Writers. For that magazine, I also wrote advice for writers about working with indie bookstores.
I am the author of Elements of the Table: A Simple Guide for Hosts and Guests (Clarkson Potter/Random House). Journalist A.D. Amorosi of Philadelphia’s City Paper calls me “The First Lady of the Fork” and Publishers Weekly magazine calls me “a more forgiving Miss Manners.” Elements of the Table looks at everything on the table—including silver, china, crystal and decorative items—and describes how to properly use it, along with some fun dining history. Did you know, for example, that napkin rings were invented so you could make sure you got the same napkin at each meal, since no one laundered them in between?
Teacher, Writer, Editor, Event Planner, Marketer
I wear many hats. As the director of Open Book and the Open Book Bookstore, all my various roles come together. I create and run a thriving program book discussion classes, workshops, and events. I teach classes for readers and for writers, and I lead frequent workshops at a variety of venues. I help curate our bookstore inventory, and stay on top of new publications. I am a freelance writer and editor and I also write with the Open Book Writers Group. And I always make time to read lots of books!