We’ve added a new member to the Book Country team! Meet Brandi Larsen, the new Director of Book Country.
Brandi will be driving the business side of Book Country, as well as helping to shape the vision for the future of the community. (She’s also a cat person and has an affinity for werewolves over zombies, so she gets an immediate thumbs-up from me!) Brandi and I sat down recently and chatted about her goals for Book Country, her background at the Chicago Tribune and her own love of writing.
Colleen: Congratulations on joining the Book Country team. What drew you to this project? What are you most excited about?
Brandi: Thanks, Colleen. I’ve been following Book Country since it started and loved the idea of it. As a writer myself, having an online home that will support me from first drafts to book signings is very appealing. I’m most excited to join the community and help grow it into the best spot for writers on the web.
Colleen: You just moved from Chicago. What made you uproot your family and take the plunge and move to New York City?
Brandi: An insane love of small apartments? (laughs) Seriously, when I saw the description for this role, I knew I had to apply. It’s a dream job. I tell my friends what I’m doing, and they all nod their heads and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s perfect for you.” My favorite writing teacher, author Meg Medina, once asked me to pay it forward—to share what I had learned from her to improve the lives of others. It makes me so happy that it’s now my job to do just that.
Colleen: In your previous role as Content Development Director at the Tribune, you helped newsrooms imagine the future. What does that mean?
Brandi: My role at the Tribune was incredible. I got to work with amazing people to answer questions like: “What should newspapers look like on a tablet? How will people read on a phone? What kind of content do people want from a newspaper?”
Colleen: That sounds very cool! You’ve also worked in television and at an Internet start-up. How do you see Book Country in the context of your experience?
Brandi: My career has been centered around the love of media and technology. Every role I’ve had involves storytelling. Whether I was figuring out how to grow an audience or determining the right content approach, I was solving problems to create the best experience for users. Book Country marries all of that expertise together. I get to build upon the amazing site you, Molly, Nevena and Danielle started. I’m looking forward to taking it to the next level for our current and future members.
Colleen: What changes do you have in store for Book Country?
Brandi: The Publish section re-launched just as I arrived and it’s pretty slick. I look forward to growing that area. We’re also working right now to rebuild the Community section so that the technology really supports the discussions happening on the site. That’s a big one. I know you and Nevena have wanted us to expand the genre map, and it’s a great idea to embrace more writers. I also want to create more content that’s valuable to writers at all stages of the process. I have a couple more ideas up my sleeve, but I want to meet our members first.
Colleen: You mentioned above that you’re also a writer. What’s your process like?
Brandi: Ha, that assumes I have a process. I do, but it’s constantly evolving. I used to be an early bird, getting up before dawn to write. It’s been harder to fit in the time as I take on a new job and a new city. Once I finally get in the chair, I listen back to the moment that has captured my attention the most and try to get as many details down as quickly as possible. Anne Lamott’s advice about only writing what you can see in a one-inch picture frame has always helped me. I try and take the square and then expand it, asking myself: “What happens next? Then, what happens? Then what?” I allow myself the freedom to write anything. I always edit in a separate session. That’s when I start peeling back the text to the essentials of what I’m trying to convey. Also, I read every single word aloud. Seriously, though, getting my butt in the chair is the most challenging. I was inspired by what Book Country author Kerry Schafer said during your recent Twitter chat. She works a full day, goes to school, and still has time to promote Between and write the rest of her trilogy? Man, after hearing that, there’s no excuse.
Colleen: Now we’re curious! What kinds of things do you write?
Brandi: A lot of short pieces. Mostly relationship-based. I’m working on a novel that doesn’t fit on the current genre map. Once we expand it, I’ll upload it.
Colleen: Do you workshop your writing? Or work with a critique partner?
Brandi: Yes and yes. I’m a huge fan of partnering with other writers. I was really fortunate to attend the Dreyfoos School of the Arts throughout middle and high school for writing and that, along with my training at the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago, really prepared me to work with other writers. My husband is also a writer and we left behind an awesome critique group (hello, Recall First!). The value of critique partners isn’t just in getting someone to read my work, though that makes a big difference. I get a lot out of reading to improve someone else’s work—that’s how I really see what can be strengthened in my own. It’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to join Book Country. There are so many new writers to discover, secrets to share, and accomplishments to celebrate.
Colleen: Wow! Good luck with your writing! Okay, last question—is there anything else you want our members to know about you?
Brandi: Hmm. I collect antique typewriters, love to laugh, and can’t imagine a life without books. Please Connect with me on Book Country—I’d love to read your work! Also, if there are any New York City Book Country members, I’m on the lookout for great writing spots…
Colleen: Thanks for your time, Brandi. We’re thrilled to have you on the team!
One last piece of news: I’m moving into a new position myself! I’ll be the new Associate Director of Marketing, Social Media and Reader Experience at Penguin’s NAL/Berkley Group. Brandi will be helping Nevena with the management of the Book Country community as I make the transition into my new role. Additionally, I’ll be remaining as a strategic advisor to Book Country, and an active moderator/giant nerd/ban-hammer-of-doom on the Book Country discussion forums. I love the community that I helped to build, and don’t plan on disappearing any time soon!
In the meantime, please join me in welcoming Brandi to Book Country!