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Mentor Corner: Jennifer Healey

Executive Managing Editor, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

What was your first job in publishing?

I did three internships in college—at a newspaper, a magazine, and a book publisher. All three required essentially the same editing skills, so I decided to pursue the medium with the longest shelf life! I was hired after graduation by the book publisher Time-Life Books in Alexandria, Virginia, as a project coordinator—part editorial assistant, part production editor, part designer. A great introduction to the publishing field!

What was your career path like getting to your current role?

I was laid off from my first job after nearly three years. (Time-Life’s business model, mailing books to your house once a month, was obsolete by 2001!) So, I took my severance, sold my car, and moved to NYC. At Warner Books, my job maintaining the database of book specs (which was printed out and circulated monthly, can you believe it?!) was pretty easy, and I was soon proofreading for fun for my copy chief friend at Little, Brown BYR. My heart belonged to children’s books, and when a ManEd position opened at Bloomsbury’s new US office, I jumped at the opportunity. In hindsight, I was probably underqualified for that role, but I learned fast from many mistakes, and I had fantastic colleagues in it with me, so by Year 3 I was slinging manuscripts left and right!

What advice would you give to those who are either just starting out or are in their first few years in publishing?

If you love it, great! If it doesn’t feel quite right, pivot and try something else. It can feel scary to turn away from a sure thing, but routine can be deceptively comforting. Seize windows of opportunity early on. It’s harder to start over in a new field—and with a lower starting salary—after you’ve spent ten years specializing in skills you don’t want to use anymore.

What are some recent projects that you’re proud of?

I especially love nonfiction for all ages. It’s laborious but rewarding, and I learn so much. Steve Sheinkin, Deborah Heiligman, Martha Brockenbrough, and Stacy McAnulty are pros. Right now, we’re working on White Lies: How the South Lost the Civil War, Then Rewrote the History by Ann Bausum, which is such an education! For younger readers, check out We the People and the President, full of smart and funny infographics. And if you miss your grandma, pick up See You Someday Soon written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Suzy Lee. Fiction is so clever!

What are your current favorite reads?

I don’t read as much as I should because, by the end of each day, my eyeballs feel like they’re on fire from staring at screens. But I recently saw this documentary on Kurt Vonnegut (Unstuck in Time), which led me to reread Slaughterhouse-Five. You appreciate things you read at fifteen so much differently when you’re a grown-up. I also recently finished Dee Dee Ramone’s autobiography, Lobotomy. Books written by or about the Ramones (and Ramones-adjacent) are my favorite unsung book genre. They should have their own BISAC code: Music / Punk / United States / Gabba Gabba Hey!

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