by Tqwana Brown
Originally from San Francisco, Quressa Robinson devours whole books in a single day. She has taught University Writing and an introductory fiction class at Columbia. Quressa also worked in Columbia’s Writing Center as a Writing Consultant. She received her MFA from Columbia in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction in 2010. She is currently working on a novel, blogging, editing books for an indie publisher, and figuring out digital publishing.
Welcome to the NYC Chapter of the WNBA! How did you become involved with the organization?
I always knew I wanted to be in publishing and knew I needed to be in New York to really make a good effort at finding the right job. After living here for seven years, finishing up my MFA program, and still not having a foot in the door at a publisher, I decided to work on building my network. I found the WNBA listed on bookjobs.com and decided to join.
Tell us more about your job with Hay House, Inc.
I’ve been at Hay House for a year now. It’s a mid-level indie publisher of self-help and inspirational products. I work as an editorial assistant in our company’s New York satellite office. There are only six of us here, and four of us work on the editorial side of things. Because our company is so small, I get more hands-on and advanced level editorial exposure. I’m actually managing my first few projects now. One I’m simply overseeing through the production process and the other I’m working on developmentally editing with the author.
Can you tell us more about your writing? Are you working on anything specific at the moment?
I received my MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction from Columbia a few years ago, so fiction is my thing. I do like writing personal narratives and essays and plan on trying to build my online presence by submitting some ideas to a few online mags that I read frequently.
I’m also at work on a novel. It’s a bit of a coming-of-age story (aren’t all first novels?) about a girl in her mid-twenties. Her mother died in childbirth and her father refuses to tell her anything about her mother. She discovers some love letters to her mother from another man and seeks him out hoping that he’ll have information that he can tell her about what her mother was like and who she was. But, when they meet they develop a damaging symbiotic relationship. I’m just at the beginning state and hoping to have a first draft done by October.
You have the unique perspective of working in the industry. How do you think that will help you as an author?
I’ve learned so much already in my first year in publishing, but I think the most important things I’ve learned about publishing that will help me as an author are all about the sales, PR, and marketing perspective. Seeing writing as a business, not just an art form is an important distinction that many writers, especially fiction writers, struggle with.
It’s also easier to see the emerging trends when you’re working in the industry as opposed to on the outside looking in.
And, I’m working on building my network to include other editors and agents, especially those up-and-coming who are in the same place as I am career-wise. It already makes sense to have those strong bonds as an editor, but as a writer it makes even more sense. It means I won’t be a faceless name when my manuscript crosses their desk, hopefully.
What’s your favorite word?
What are you currently reading?
I’m on the Great Group Reads reading committee so my plate is pretty full, but once we’ve completed the process, on my to-read list are A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (which I just found out is being adapted for the big screen), Quiet by Susan Cain, and The Safety of Objects by A. M. Homes.