Two SVSU alumni working in the publishing industry returned to campus on Jan. 27.
They came to visit classes and be featured in the annual Alumni Author event hosted by Forever Red.
Organized in collaboration with the SVSU Alumni Relations Office, the event featured a Q & A panel with 2010 graduate Sara Kitchen and 2013 graduate Justin Brouckaert to discuss their careers.
Leading the panel was literature and communications senior Lizzy Simon who worked as the committee head for the event.
Simon said the decision to feature alumni who work in the publishing industry was based on interest from fellow students.
“There are many students on campus who have a passion for publishing their own books or poems one day, and while featuring authors is certainly interesting, Forever Red thought that it would be beneficial to feature alumni who work in publishing,” she said. “They understand the process of what it takes to get a work published.”
As a senior production editor at Simon & Schuster, Kitchen said her path to publishing started with her love of books.
“I’ve always had a love of reading and from a young age just really loved books and I think that’s the common denominator with people who work in publishing,” Kitchen said. “Whether you’re working in editorials, sales, art and design, foreign rights, anything, everybody loves books and is coming here to work on them in some fashion.”
Brouckaert is a literary agent with Aevitas Creative Management and agreed that a love of books is necessary in his field along with an abundance of people skills.
“I think doing what I do you have to love books and you also have to be able to talk to people and have communications with them and be normal and curious and engage in the creative process with them,” he said. “Certainly, when I was young, I had the books part down. It took me like 20 years to get the people part down a little better.”
Kitchen said her experience working in the SVSU Writing Center helped influence her decision to pursue a career in publishing.
“That was where I learned how to talk about writing with people who were writers in that vulnerable position presenting a piece of their writing and learning how to support them and help them make it better and offer meaningful critiques that [weren’t] just ripping [their writing] apart,” she said. “That whole process and getting better at being a writing center tutor throughout the years that I worked there kind of made me think … this is something that I could see in my future.”
For Brouckaert, the creative writing classes he took at SVSU helped prepare him for the interactions he has with authors as a literary agent.
“Those conversations in those classrooms were often very unstructured,” he said. “It would just start with a piece of writing and turn into a conversation about fiction and life and craft and all those things. I still sometimes feel like I’m in a workshop when I’m sitting down with an author and having those conversations. That certainly gave me a language that I then got better at through grad school and am still getting better at today. All of those creative writing classes were immensely helpful.”
For Simon, she said the event was successful.
She said that not only did it teach attendees about the publishing industry, but also in showcasing red pride.
“Even if students aren’t interested in writing or publishing, it’s still important to celebrate alumni who have achieved great things since graduating from SVSU,” Simon said. “It shows the strength that SVSU gives its Cardinals, and it can be inspiring to hear others’ stories while we’re writing our own.”