They were riding in a car, having one of those talks, when Maria Manuela Mendez Da Silveira ’19 told her mother “I really just want a job where I can get paid to read.”
“Well,” said her mother, “there’s this thing called an editor, Maria.”
Since that day in seventh grade, Mendez knew that’s what she should do for a living. She wavered a little when she realized, while working for The DePauw student newspaper and during an internship at CQ Roll Call, how much she loved journalism.
She was accepted in late 2019 into the Simon & Schuster Associates Program, which exposes diverse candidates to facets of publishing. In her first rotation, Mendez worked with legendary editor Alice Mayhew, who edited books by President Jimmy Carter, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and journalist Bob Woodward.
Working with Mayhew – as well as a summer institute and a master’s degree program in publishing – persuaded Mendez that she should pursue editorial work. A month after Mayhew’s February 2020 death, Mendez was plucked early and eagerly from the associates program to assist then-publisher Jonathan Karp at the company’s flagship imprint. After he became CEO, she moved on to assist two prominent Black women – Dana Canedy, senior vice president and publisher at the Simon & Schuster imprint, and LaSharah S. Bunting, vice president and executive editor – as well as the editorial director for fiction.
(In addition to the associates program, Mendez said she has seen progress toward diversity in the publishing industry, not only in employing those women and other people of color, but also in efforts to publish books by diverse authors and to ensure they are paid equitably for their work. “I've definitely seen a lot of people trying and working very hard to make sure that the industry becomes more diverse,” she said.)
As an assistant, Mendez performed administrative duties but also had the opportunity to read manuscripts, providing fresh eyes and suggesting edits. “As you go along, it’s very much an apprenticeship and you’ll start editing with whomever you’re supporting,” she said.
Earlier this year, Mendez was promoted to assistant editor, a job in which she acquires and edits her own list of books. She said she is striving to develop her taste – the hallmark of an editor – and choose between nonfiction, as she planned, and fiction, to which she recently has been attracted.
It is daunting, Mendez said, to know that her taste will determine what people read.
“But what job is better,” she said, “than being able to read other people’s blood, sweat and tears on the page and be able to publish that and work with (the author) to make it better and put it in other people’s hands?”
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