This week, I have the pleasure of introducing you to our new Women’s National Book Association National President, Valerie Tomaselli! Valerie Tomaselli is the president of the WNBA after serving as the NYC chapter president. She owns MTM Publishing, an award–winning book producing company specializing in reference, children’s, and illustrated books. Valerie also serves as treasurer of the American Book Producers Association and is building a house in upstate New York with her longtime companion, Brian Carey, who’s helped her to learn how to swing a hammer and run electrical wire!
Hannah: Congratulations on your appointment as the new National President of the Women’s National Book Association! What are you most excited about in taking on this new role?
Valerie: The most exhilarating thing for me is taking over at such an exciting time in the WNBA’s history. We are five years from the 100th anniversary of the WNBA—to take place in 2017—and we will start to plan for it this year. The coming centennial goes hand-in-hand with a burgeoning new awareness of the organization across the country, due to our first ever WNBA Writing Contest happening this year and the strong and growing National Reading Group Month/Great Group Reads program. Evidence of this new awareness: there are two new chapters in the last 3-4 years—most recently New Orleans and before that Charlotte—and interest from four cities in starting new chapters. Very exciting indeed!
Hannah: As the Immediate Past President of the WNBA-NYC Chapter, what were some of the highlights of spearheading the New York group?
Valerie: Most important, I think, is the impressive development of NYC’s board of directors. Interesting new people taking on leadership roles in the chapter was very gratifying. It was a goal of mine—and we were quite successful in this regard. Also, as your blog represents, I feel like we’ve put WNBA-NYC on the social media map. And finally, the personal relationships I’ve developed with so many NYC members has been deeply satisfying, both personally and professionally.
Hannah: How did you come to be involved with the WNBA? How has this involvement affected you personally and professionally?
Valerie: I was at an important juncture in developing my own business around 2002-2003 and I was looking for publishing-related groups that I felt would help take me and my company to a new level. The WNBA’s historic pedigree—as part of the women’s movement in a critical period in women’s history in the U.S.—really impressed me. And when I joined, I was very heartily welcomed. I will not forget the interest that Jill Tardiff, then WNBA-NYC’s president, took in me and what I had to offer. Getting involved on the board, fairly soon after I joined, delivered on its promise: it really helped me to expand my network of professional connections.
Hannah: As the President and Founder of MTM Publishing, you’ve had a unique perspective on the publishing world. Can you describe your company and how it fits in to the larger world of books?
Valerie: MTM is a book-producing company. As a book packager (another term for book producer), MTM creates books—from conception to design and layout—for publishers. Publishers use book producers for projects that are too big or complex for them to handle with their existing staff; and producers also pitch their own ideas to publishers. In a way, we function as publishers do, but without a sales force—which is to say we get to do all the fun stuff!
After MTM’s establishment in 1992, we quickly developed a specialty in encyclopedic reference works, creating multi-contributor works for Facts On File, Routledge, Oxford University Press, CQ Press, ME Sharpe, and Sage, among others. And then in 2008, we started a children’s division. Just last year, we placed our first middle grade–YA series with Charlesbridge, a fabulous independent publisher outside of Boston. I love what I do: Despite the occasional stress associated with being a small independent company in such challenging times, I am lucky to be where I am and to be doing what I’m doing.
Hannah: Where did your passion for books come from? How do you feel about the value of books in today’s society?
Valerie: Well, like many in the WNBA, I was addicted to reading as a kid. I especially remember losing myself in reading as a teenager. It opened up worlds to me that I wanted to know existed. And I guess that’s where I think the value of books lives in today’s society. You can certainly feed your own myopia in the books you consume, but if you have a proclivity to learn and explore the world, books are the best means of doing that.
Hannah: What are some of your goals for your upcoming term as National President?
Valerie: I hope to help chapters get engaged with the organization at the national level—to make the entire nationwide group feel more like a community throughout the year, not just at the annual national meeting. And I also hope to expand the WNBA’s reach. Its strengths—community and collegiality, a storehouse of professional expertise and knowledge, and dedication to the value of books—should be understood and recognized by more. The lead-up to the 2017 centennial is a perfect setting for that.
Hannah: What are you currently reading?
Valerie: I’m reading Hilary Mantel’s historical novel, Bring Up the Bodies. After ripping through her first book, Wolf Hall, on Thomas Cromwell and his complex and central role in the monarchy of Henry VIII, I couldn’t believe I finished it. I wanted more. And when I discovered that she was writing a sequel, I couldn’t have been happier. She paints a complex and compelling portrait of Cromwell who, let’s face it, was a ruthless Machiavellian: she’s created such a detailed and nuanced character that you can’t help but fall for him. Bring Up the Bodies is just as good as the first, I think. And I understand there’s a third!
Hannah: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! Best of luck in the coming year!