A hello and goodbye (of sorts) from the Book Country roster.
If I’ve learned anything since graduating college and starting my career it’s that you never know what life is going to throw at you. The publishing industry, in particular, is full of people who bounce from house to house and from department to department, trying to figure out their niche and specialty. Sometimes new opportunities appear before you that you never even considered, and then you find yourself wearing a hat you didn’t know you could ever pull off.
I found myself in this situation a number of times since starting in the book business. From sales to editorial, and from editorial to launching a digital initiative here at Book County. And it’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I share with you that I’m in that place once more, donning a newchapeau as I prepare to move on from Book Country to a new role on the Penguin technology team.
While I will no longer be Book Country’s trusty editorial coordinator as of Monday, April 9th, I will still be a part of the community. With more time and energy to work on my own writing and freelance work, you will start to see me in a new capacity here on the site, while still participating and sharing my editorial expertise when I can. (I’ll also be working with BC when new features are added in my new role!) And I’ll remain a Book Country moderator, so don’t think I don’t still have my eye on you, friends. 😉
There will also be another set of careful and determined eyes on you very soon with the newest addition to the Book Country team as our intern Nevena Georgieva joins the team full-time! Nevena has already been participating on the site–having great discussions on the forums (like this one about Steampunk versus Victorian) and writing thorough and helpful reviews (check out her review of ELVEN SOUL for example.)
Nevena will be starting as Book Country’s assistant on Monday, April 23rd. She is bright, passionate, and just plain awesome, so let’s give her a warm welcome and get to know a little about her! You can also follow her on Twitter: @nevgeorgieva.
DP: Congratulations on joining Book Country, Nevena! Tell us, what made you want to be a part of this project? What’s your favorite thing about the community?
NG: Thank you, Danielle! I’m really excited to be staying on permanently. When I applied to the internship in January, all I knew was that Book Country had something to do with social media, and that the website constituted a community for genre writers. It wasn’t until I talked to you and Colleen at the interview that I grasped the full scope of the project and was blown away. I wanted to be part of the new digital frontier of publishing, surely, but what really inspired me was the idea that Book Country was a safe haven for writers, a digital space for them to exchange ideas, give feedback, and polish their own writing prior to publication.
As you know, English is not my first language, so I am firm believer in the idea that every writer is on a continuum of writing skill: there is always room for improvement, but there is also the very realistic prospect that with hard work, a writer can reach new, previously unthinkable, horizons.
I used to be extremely self-conscious about my English, what with the signature Eastern European accent =), but with the help of many people – professors and friends – and through my own efforts, I became the writer and reader I am today. Of course, there is always more to learn, but now I know how to block the critical voices in my head and feel confident in my writerly voice.
So that is what pulls me the most: I read a work on Book Country and get really excited because I see the potential that through revisions can be molded into a truly beautiful work.
I am also really impressed and humbled by the level of discourse that goes on the discussion boards daily. I try to absorb that knowledge and use it to be useful to writers whose books I’m reviewing. It’s the true meaning of collaboration.
DP: You mention in your profile that you are originally from Bulgaria. How long have you been in the US? What made you decide to move here?
NG: I have been in the US for 6 six years now. Back in Bulgaria, I haphazardly took private lessons in the language, but what counted the most was reading books in their original English. I was a voracious reader in high school, even though books in English were really hard to find. There was this foreign language library in my hometown the size of a NYC studio where I spent quite a bit of time. I went to a Math & Science high school, so moving to the US to study English literature was not a traditional career path to say the least. Most of my friends went on to become computer engineers.
It was my dream to move to the US, and New York in particular, so when I got a scholarship to St. John’s University, I grabbed at the opportunity. I haven’t regretted it – what New York offers and what a small, beautiful country in the Balkans doesn’t is the promise of the myriad niche communities that one can discover and belong to. Book Country originated in New York but its online presence spans the globe. I hope it can be another community where I can belong and feel at home, even as home is thousands of miles away.
DP: You’ve spent a great deal of your time in grad school working with writers in an educational and more literary capacity. Have you always been interested in genre fiction too? How did genre woo you from that kind of work/literature to Book Country?
NG: Yes, I have been a writing consultant at the St. John’s for almost four years now and I am about to get my master’s degree in English. I think that many of the principles that we have espoused at the Writing Center – focus on the big picture; being friendly; treating the students with respect; not being overbearing but talking to people as to a peer – are as true for the Book Country community. There is a lot I learned at the Writing Center that I will bring to this job.
I’ve always read genre while not necessarily being aware of the label. If you have a good story and tell it well, you have my attention. Because of my background in Utopian and Post-Apocalyptic fiction, I have a particular predilection for George Orwell, Nalo Hopkinson, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Isaac Asimov, and yes, Suzanne Collins. I am now really delving into all kinds of genre fiction and having tons of fun.
But my way from academia into genre is a little circuitous. At the beginning of my studies, I was an Economics major. I initially took English classes as therapy, thinking that if I lost the accent I could inhabit the classrooms incognito, hiding my foreign identity. That’s how I encountered postcolonial and vernacular literature for the first time, and they helped me think through a lot of personal questions that I had about straddling a hyphenated identity. I still have a slight accent, but through my foray into English, I have confronted my uprooted condition, understanding it as a part of larger framework of historical and cultural discourses. I know, that was a mouthful…
My focus as a grad student has been the British novel, so a lot of dead authors from the Regency, Victorian, and Late Victorian periods! While this might seem irrelevant to genre fiction, I beg to disagree. The very standards of novel writing that we follow today originated in the Victorian era. The Victorians had a lot of interesting stories to tell, and I am not surprised that Steampunk, a subculture that that has excavated many Victorian themes, takes cue from people like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Jane Austen, while seemingly now removed from the sexually inflected romance genre, was far more interested in love and sex than we tend to think. In fact, one of my favorite professors writes about the botanical vernacular Austen espouses as code to screen the romantic content of her novels at a time when sex was taboo.
Genre fiction wooed or hijacked me: for a long time I considered an academic track, but I think it’s the isolation of research is what turned me off eventually. I get excited about books, and I want to be able to share that excitement with other people now.
DP: Do you do any writing yourself? Genre or otherwise?
NG: I am definitely more of a reader. I wrote a couple of short stories for classes: for example, I once wrote an alternative history piece of Thomas More’s Utopia. For years, the academic voice has been what I’m most comfortable with but the idea of writing genre is definitely tempting now. I haven’t mustered the courage to do it yet, but I will probably do so in the future. I think I also owe it to the people whose work I have reviewed/will review. It takes a lot to subject yourself to the critiques of others, so I commend all the people on Book Country who do.
DP: What are you most excited about as you move into this new role at Book Country?
NG: I’m incredibly excited to start at such an intellectually stimulating company. I look forward to just absorbing as much as I can about publishing, genre fiction, and the people in the community.Book Country is relatively young, so there is something extremely invigorating about being part of a small team that will see it thriving and branching into different directions over the years. Few people get to have such a gratifying job.
Well, friends, I don’t know about you, but personally, I am thrilled that Nevena will be such a big part of the BC community. She’ll be an excellent addition to the site and I hope that you will trust in her as you have trusted in me over the past year. I truly appreciate all of you–your advice, your acceptance of my advice, your passion and motivation, and your friendship–and have a strong feeling that Nevena will too. 😉 I’ll miss being with you all every day as your editorial coordinator, but I can’t wait to interact with you all as a writer now as well!
Featured image: iStock Photo, © Mikael Damkier
Photo of Nevena Georgieva courtesty of Nevena Georgieva.