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Q&A Guest: Marinda Valenti

Marinda Valenti, Production Editor, PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE 

Perpetual learning, puzzles, Velcro, horror, sleeping, and the Baby-Sitters Club. Marinda’s honest and emotionally sage advice Q&A will give your day a boost!

Share your favorite part of your job.

My favorite thing about my job is how much reading I get to do, not just as a reader, but as a critical thinker and a perpetual learner. I’m a production editor with copyeditorial responsibilities, which means that part of my job entails reading through a lot of full manuscripts and first passes of books. I feel really lucky to have this role because I’m one of the first people to read a book before it’s published, and not only that, but I get the opportunity to provide thoughtful feedback that can improve other readers’ experiences with the book. 

Copyediting is, of course, extremely detail-oriented work, and I get excited about deconstructing those details of a book like they’re pieces of a puzzle. Ideally, the end product from that puzzle is a story that a) accurately expresses what the author had in their head and b) clearly and effortlessly makes sense to the reader. My job is to make sure nothing (or as little as possible) gets lost in translation between those two parties. And this means examining a lot of different things as I’m reading, from a character’s word choice to possibly overlooked inconsistencies in the narration. I love considering how just a slightly different way of punctuating a sentence can change the meaning, tone, and rhythm of what’s being said. 

Additionally, copyediting involves pretty much constantly looking things up–regional spellings (gray or grey?), proper nouns (“Velcro” is a trademark, but “dumpster” no longer is), geography-specific quirks (Southern California homes probably don’t have a mudroom or a basement), band names (it’s just Talking Heads, not The Talking Heads), what year Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining came out (1980 in the US), what a pet rabbit can and can’t eat (carrots are fine once in a while, but they should stick to a diet of mostly hay). So this means I’m always accumulating bits of trivia and learning about topics I otherwise might not be prompted to research. And I’m a nerd (surprise!), so that’s all really fun to me. 

And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that all the books I read for work help me sail right past my annual Goodreads goals, which is a great feeling, so that’s another perk.

Share one or more ways you found that have helped you deal with the last year (mental health, physical, friends, family, nature, etc.).

This is tricky, because it’s taken me a while to come out of a state of constant overwhelm with everything that’s happened in the past year or so, and I wouldn’t say I’ve found a surefire way to deal yet. In addition to making sure I get myself outside (safely) once in a while to look at the sky and take in something other than a laptop or phone screen, being honest about my mental health, with myself and others, helps a ton. Naming the discomfort I experience can take away its power, whether it’s anxiety, or anger, or fear, or devastation, or all of those things together.

Getting in the habit of recognizing my emotions is the first step in figuring out how to respond to them, so I’ve been putting in the effort recently to learn what they feel like, both in my body and my head. What this looks like in practice includes tracking my daily moods on an app, journaling, sitting in my feelings/delaying the impulse to “fix” negative ones (way harder than it sounds), and going to therapy (I’m lucky to have access to a great counselor). 

Emotions are automatic, and it’s easy not to think about them as they’re happening, but they can be a lot to manage sometimes, and end up making me feel worse if I let them. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that there is a lot I simply can’t control, and that’s disorienting, to say the least. But I can control how I respond to events, both personal and global, and knowing that and exercising such control, or at least trying to when I can, has helped ground me a bit when the world gets too chaotic. Feel your feelings! But also own them so they don’t own you.

What advice has stuck with you for a long time? Who gave you that advice?

In response to my dealing with some self-esteem challenges, someone suggested that in times of self-doubt, think about what I would do if I were feeling confident–picture it in my mind and let it play out as a hypothetical scenario–and then do it! Sounds simple, but it’s helped me out when I’ve needed a little guidance or a push to get started. This advice actually came to me anonymously through the magic of the internet–so thank you, wise stranger, wherever you are!

What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

Likely because so much of my job involves reading, I end up not reading very often in my spare time. Instead, I spend my downtime enjoying movies–especially horror movies and documentaries. I also love to sleep. It’s basically a hobby

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

I’m not sure I can pick an all-time favorite, but lately, I’ve been revisiting many of the classic Baby-Sitters Club books. I like children’s books that really focus on friendship and social dynamics, and this series still hits the spot for me. I love the way BSC explores the power that can lie behind simple gestures between people, and how looking after one another and holding space for a little bit of empathy and patience for what you don’t immediately understand can help strengthen communities big and small.

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

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