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Q&A Guest: Kaitlin Loss

Kaitlin Loss, Assistant Manager, Subsidiary Rights at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

Kaitlin’s insights into keeping one’s brain sharp, doing one’s best, getting an inside look into other cultures, and surviving the adventurous fairs will give your day a boost!

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

I’m a very routine-heavy person, so having everything completely upended took a minute to get used to! I joined the team at Macmillan right as the pandemic started, so a lot of my the-world-is-ending anxiety was replaced with new-job anxiety. I know a lot of people found that breaks from work were helpful, but for me, jumping into a new job and learning a whole new set of books really helped me ground myself. It was a great way to keep my mind active and productive. 

Outside of work, I tried to do a lot of for-fun reading. I reactivated my Book of the Month membership, which gave me a lot of great recommendations. Since libraries were closed, I started checking out ebooks. I also got really into the New York Times Crossword. And of course, my most frequent activity: ranking my favorite blocks in my Astoria neighborhoods. Anything that kept my mind sharp (pandemic brain is real) and that demanded my full attention was the best way to cope.

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

Growing up, if I got a poor grade or didn’t reach a goal I had set for myself, my mom would always ask me if I did everything I could. Sometimes, of course, the answer was no: I could have studied for that math test instead of reading my library books. But sometimes, the answer was yes. It seems incredibly simplistic to say so, but sometimes the only thing you can do is your best. When I find myself in tough career situations–dealing with a difficult personality, fixing a mistake, starting a new job at the onset of a global pandemic–it’s so helpful for me to remember that certain things are just going to be outside of my control. There are times when situations just don’t allow you to succeed, and it’s not a failing on your part. Another thing my mom used to say: “if you can go to sleep at night and believe you made the best choices, that’s what’s important.”

Share your favorite part of your job.

Working in foreign rights is always interesting because I get to speak with people all over the world. It’s an important part of my job to understand the book markets in other countries, and this has taught me a lot about other cultures. I feel like one of the biggest ways to learn about a society’s values is to look at what sorts of books people are reading. Being able to really see the shift in certain territories becoming more open to books from diverse voices has been really amazing.

Tell us of an adventure you experienced in or because of your career.

So many! I’ve been incredibly lucky to be able to travel to international book fairs, which is one of the best parts of my job. Selling rights at a book fair is exhausting and crazy and so much fun. It starts months before, with creating your schedule; we sit at our booth all day and have 30-minute meetings back to back for three and a half days. Then comes reading every (mostly) book on the list: I’ve absolutely been in a meeting where an editor asks me to describe a book I haven’t read and I’ve had to cobble together a hasty answer from the catalog copy (and no, I did not sell rights to that book). Then the week flies by in a haze of saying the same thing about the same book approximately five hundred times, long dinners with incredible food, and very little sleep. If I’ve done my job well, by the time I’m on the plane back home, I usually don’t have much of a voice left. 

Each fair is an adventure in itself, a crazy week where your brain is too full of book pitches, but you get to see all of your friends for the first time in a year. It’s a little like summer camp, but with way more wine.

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

I can’t really remember a time in my life when I wasn’t reading, but the first series I remember being incredibly passionate about was the Baby-Sitters Club. I loved that there was this whole entire world created within this small suburb. I loved that each girl had an incredibly distinct personality and that we got to follow them through the ups and downs of being a thirteen-year-old girl. My favorite parts of series are the fact that you get to spend so much time with a group of characters, that they become friends to you, that you get to know them in so many different situations. 

I read every book in my school library and then began begging my mom for Scholastic Book Fair money to buy what I hadn’t yet read. I’m pretty sure I’ve read every one of the original series (although now I think I have to go back and make sure…) and I will forever love the edgy spinoff California Diaries.

(And while I wish I was a Claudia, I am definitely a Mary Anne.)

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