Shelly Romero ’17 (she/her) is an assistant editor at Scholastic. She graduated from Stephens College with a bachelor’s degree in English and attended the 2017 NYU Summer Publishing Institute. A proud first-gen Honduran-American, she is a member of Latinx in Publishing, People of Color in Publishing, and a junior mentor for Representation Matters Mentorship Program. Shelly is also a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree. You can find her on Twitter: @_smromero or on her website at shellymromero.com
Kristine Somerville, Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing: What year and issue of Harbinger did you edit?
Shelly Romero: I co-edited the 2017 issue, “Face the Strange.”
What did you learn from your experience as a Harbinger editor?
Above all, thanks to my time on Harbinger, I was able to solidify my decision to pursue a career in publishing. I’m very extroverted, which is to no one's surprise, so getting to work with others to create each year’s issue of the lit mag is something that I wanted out of a career. I wanted that teamwork and collaboration. I wanted the tangible end result. Reviewing submissions for the Harbinger issues was another invaluable experience. It allowed me to start building an editorial eye and was perfect prep for me reviewing my bosses’ submissions. Working on Harbinger fueled my love for editing. I absolutely loved working on Harbinger and it’s a love that I’ve thankfully translated over into my work now.
What is your current job? What do you love about it? What about it challenges you?
I’m an assistant editor at Scholastic, acquiring middle grade and young adult novels while assisting my two bosses, an executive editor and a senior editor, with their lists.
What I really love about my job is the authors I get to work with. When an author trusts you as their editor to help shape their book, it’s something so special. I’ve gotten to work with so many incredible people thanks to this job and I really can’t wait to work with so many more. I also love my colleagues and friends. When things aren’t as great or they’re stressful, my friends are my anchors. Part of the industry is networking, but it’s also finding your community. This industry isn’t easy, especially if you are BIPOC. For me, having a network of other people of color to talk to and find advice or support in, is essential.
The challenges are simply that sometimes there isn’t enough time in the day. You really learn time management and what to prioritize on the job. The workload, and whether it’s super busy or flowing nicely, always comes in waves. With this, another challenge is work/life balance especially in a pandemic. I’m working from home for the first time and it’s very hard. I miss the office and getting to see people, but it’s also hard because I’ve had to shift how I work.
I would also say that another challenge in this industry overall is its lack of BIPOC employees. I volunteer for so many organizations that are focused on improving the diversity of publishing because I truly do want to see change happen. It’s very exhausting. I’ve had to learn what my personal boundaries are and to say no to things in order to preserve my energy and mental health. The hope is that I’m helping make the industry a better place than when I started.
What advice would you give to English and Creative Writing majors?
The piece of advice I always give aspiring publishing professionals is to read books that have been recently published. Definitely talk about your childhood favorites, those novels that really sparked your love of reading, but also know books that have been published in the last couple of years. If you want to be an editor, part of your job is to know comparative titles, know what the market is excited about, what books are being acquired and so on.
My other advice is to not be afraid to reach out to people if you find them online to ask for an informational. Before I got my job, I went on various informationals with professionals in different departments and areas of book publishing and media. Hearing those individuals talk about their experiences and their work was so beneficial to me figuring out what career path I wanted to take. It’s always tempting to just throw spaghetti at the wall and just apply for any job that opens up, but you might end up incredibly miserable and stuck in a job that isn’t the one you wanted. It’s totally understandable to want to get your foot in the door, but editorial is very much an apprenticeship-like department. Informationals are key in learning what folks actually do. A lot of publishing professionals are on LinkedIn, but many prefer other apps and sites such as Twitter — which has a large and active book publishing community — or their own websites with contact information. Just remember to be polite and patient, because folks are busy and this is already an unprecedented and very stressful time. The worst scenario is always that they might say no.
Lastly when applying to jobs, be sure that you’ve read or at least be aware of the kinds of books that imprint publishes. If you’re not interested in romance fiction, don’t apply to a romance fiction imprint.
What is your favorite book, movie, and song?
My favorite book is always changing, so I’ll list three recent favorites: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, Mexican Gothic by Silvia-Moreno Garcia, and Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. My favorite film at the moment is Knives Out. And my favorite song right now is “Parasite Eve” by Bring Me the Horizon.
Please share an inspirational quote from one of your most admired people.
“No one succeeds alone. Never walk alone in your future paths.” – Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States