Countdown to Muse 2014: Micro-Interview 11 (Ayanna Coleman)

The Muse and the Marketplace kicks off on May 2nd at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. In anticipation of the conference, we collected micro-interviews written by authors, agents and editors who will be attending the event. This is the tenth in the series.

Micro-interview with Ayanna Coleman

What do you think is the future of digital vs. printed media for the publishing industry?

Why does it have to be digital vs. print? I think digital is another medium in which to enjoy content. It’s all about the content and the best way for an individual to ingest that content. For some, it’s audio, for some it’s digitally on a screen, for others, it’s with a front and back cover and hundreds of individual pages—where they can feel each one—between their hands. There will always be people who prefer print over digital, and there will always be those that prefer digital over print…but both options will be alive and well 10-20 years down the road because there will be a demand for both.

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare?

Well, I just finished a pretty fantastic meal of sautéed spinach with garlic, Italian baked salmon, and loaded baked potatoes. I’m a Midwestern girl. If you come over to my house to eat, you’re going to be fed a protein, a veggie, and a starch that fills at least 80% your plate. There would be flavor, there would be wine, and there would be full and satisfied stomachs at the end of the meal.

Does the digital marketplace help or hurt writers?

The digital marketplace complicates things for writers. There are so many more options than there were 10 years ago and that can be very overwhelming to any writer, never mind experience in the field. Understanding your strengths and your time constraints are very important for all writers, but so much more so for those entering the digital marketplace because more oft than not, they are taking much of the publishing process into their own hands. If time and skills are not allocated well, the digital marketplace can hurt a writer. If they are managed exceptionally, the digital marketplace can bolster a writer’s career.

Activism in literature: should a work of literature serve as a platform for changing the world, or is it better to not mix politics and literature?
This is tough because I’m in the children’s literature world and I believe that every book has the power to change a child’s outlook on life, no matter how silly or serious. Today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders, so changing their outlook will change the world.

That being said, my whole mission with Quill Shift Literary Agency is to activate the market, i.e. readers, to speak up and speak out about what they want to read so more of what they want can find its way onto bookshelves. Literature, especially literature that shapes the nation’s youth, should represent the many different cultures and people living in the world today and, currently, it is just not. The Quill Shift mission is not inherently political, just as wanting to see more characters representing our diverse society is not political, but it is participatory and it does seek to create change.

Every book I’ve ever read has had an impact on me, whether positive or negative, slight or magnificent. If we’re looking at the word politics as not so much governmental, but thought-provoking, then yes, literature should serve as a platform for changing the world.

Ayanna founded Quill Shift Literary Agency in 2013 to represent writers who create unique, thoughtful, and representative books for middle grade and young adult readers. She has worked in the publishing industry in a number of capacities: in the digital department of a publishing house, within a literary agency, as a book reviewer, and most recently as a children’s librarian. Ayanna holds a BA in Business Administration with a major in Marketing and a minor in English and an MS in Library Science with a concentration in Youth Services from the University of Illinois.

When she was a child, and in adulthood as a librarian, Ayanna noticed that the books that could capture a child’s imagination and create a lifelong reader were not getting into children’s hands. Children (and their parents, teachers, and librarians) weren’t discovering the right books… or they hadn’t been created yet. Ayanna wants to make sure books that change kids' lives and perspectives are not only getting out into the market, but are being discovered.

As an agent, Ayanna is looking for middle grade and YA fiction containing plucky, so-real-you-can-feel-them-standing-next-to-you characters, especially those representing our multicultural society. Ideally, characters in the books she represents are dealing with the complex and simple everyday problems of “normal” adolescent life–-normal being loosely defined by whatever world or dimension the characters find themselves in. Self-discovery and shifting world views are welcome, as are all manner of genre fiction (romance, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy.)

About the Author

GrubWrites is a space for the writing and reading community to share ideas and seek advice, a place where writers at the very beginning of their careers publish alongside established authors. Book lovers, we bring you reviews, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to keep you up to speed on all things lit. Writers, this is your one stop shop for expert craft talk, opinions on how we learn and teach writing, and essential advice about the publishing industry.

Plus, we want to hear from you! Our ongoing call for submissions is open to literary community members of all types and persuasions. We want to hear from students, teachers, authors, readers, editors, agents, publicists, and any devotee of the written word. If you have something to say about writing, reading, the publishing industry, or anything related to the literary world, this is the place to voice it. We’re particularly committed to advocating for a diverse range of voices in the literary marketplace and raising the visibility of writers from under-represented communities.

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