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Q&A Guest: Mel Schuit

Mel Schuit, Marketing Manager, The Quarto Group

Mel’s rescilience and love for her work shine through this Q&A session. Oh, and don’t forget her pets!

Share a failure and how you overcame it or moved on despite it.

I came to Boston for graduate school (Simmons College) feeling certain publishing was the career path for me, but I graduated after three years of school with two advanced degrees, several publishing internships under my belt, and no job. That’s not super uncommon for a recent graduate who wasn’t keen to move to New York City (which I’d like to think would have upped my odds considerably!). I spent almost five years looking for a job in publishing after I graduated, and I even applied to the same job three separate times as it became available over the years and was rejected three times. I walked a very competitive and disillusioning road for many years, but doing my best to stay close to publishing (I revamped my blog Let’s Talk Picture Books and began cultivating relationships with publishers) was the only way for me to overcome the constant feeling of failure and continue applying to jobs. And then, one day, I got a job at Charlesbridge as a marketing assistant, and my life essentially changed forever!

Share your favorite part of your job.

Can I say everything? Like I said before, it took me a long time to get to where I wanted, and with children’s publishing there’s so much to love. I guess my absolute favorite part is the chance to work with people who teach me something new literally every day. Children’s books are special for so many reasons, but a major one is the simple fact that they shape the values and belief systems of future generations. People in children’s publishing are passionate about getting the best books possible into kids’ hands, and that means working hard to ensure books are inclusive and authentically represent the subject matter at hand. I’m convinced that the amount of care and thought that goes into publishing children’s books is unparalleled in the industry!

Which is your favorite children’s book/series? Why?

I like to think “favorite” is a tier rather than a single title, but my favorite books tend to be the ones that use the book’s physical design as a part of the story. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to Quarto’s own Step into… series, which features famous stories retold in die-cut, board book format: each page of every book is a special shape, and the art designers tie in one additional element (embossing, debossing, gold foil, etc.) to make each book unique from the others in the series! As a sucker for book design (and Cynthia Alonso because I mean, it’s Cynthia Alonso!), I think they’re some of the most beautiful board books out there! Completely unrelated to format, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert and Guridi. Every time I read it, I marvel at their ability to a) capture the complexities of falling in love for the first time and b) do it all from the point of view of a child. It’s one of the most enchanting and sincere picture books I’ve ever experienced!

What are your top 3 distractions and how do you deal with them?

When I’m working from home, my cats definitely take the top two positions, and the third would probably be my dog barking every time we get a package delivered. We have a packed house! When I’m working in the office, though, I think I’m my own top three distractions if that’s possible? I like to talk to people in-person rather than via email, so I’m often bopping around the office distracting myself (and others!) with questions I could have just emailed. As for how I deal with those distractions – let’s be honest, the cats usually win and get what they want, and I guess I’m still waiting for someone at work to banish me from their desk and suggest I email them. 

Children’s Book Week’s theme is Reading is a Superpower, what is your superpower or the one you wish you had?

It’s weird, but I never forget an illustrator. I’m terrible at remembering authors’ names and their bodies of work, but ask me who illustrated a book, and I can give you their name and resume. But I’m all about art and illustrations, and I organize my personal collection by illustrator last name, so it’s worth being really good at one thing and really bad at another!

Check out more Guest Q&A’s in the following months with staff of our member publishers!

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