Nikole Kritikos is a publicist with Scholastic Canada. With year of experience and always ready with a great recommendation.
1. You have an obvious love and passion for books, how was that fostered or nurtured when you were younger?
I have to thank the Toronto Public Library for that, specifically the Dawes Road Branch. I come from a large family, which meant my house was always loud and crowded, so spending hours at the library after school was heaven-I could just read and read without anyone telling me to get out of their room, or that they were "sitting there first"!
2. How did you go about pursuing a career in the publishing industry?
I dabbled in a few things which lead me here: completed some editing courses at Ryerson, landed an internship, supervised a not-for-profit children's literacy program, tried my hand at some playwriting, worked as a bookseller, and voilà-now I'm a children's book publicist.
3. What is your favorite part about working in publishing?
Well, first off, it's kind of a dream come true-get PAID to talk enthusiastically about books that I love? I was already doing that for years for free! So much wasted time… But on top of that I love working in an industry with an ever-changing product. It really can't get boring when there is always a whole new crop of titles to get excited about. I have such genuine respect and admiration for the authors and illustrators, and am in awe of their talent and creativity. I love the quirky personalities who are a part of this industry in all of its areas.
4. What is your least favorite part about working in publishing?
I think I get disheartened when I realize how much work goes into getting books into the right hands, only to step outside of this industry and realize how little time the average person is actually able to set aside to read.
5. What is the most obscure thing you have had to do while working in the publishing industry?
Hmm. I'm not totally sure about obscure, but I do remember when I was bookselling I had to work at an event put on in the author's home. She walked around the whole time with a water bottle in her hand, which I found out later was full of vodka. As I was setting up books and chatting with her guests, she brought me cleaning products and asked me to give the bathroom a "once-over". I was so embarrassed for her that I actually did. Don't ask me her name because I have completely repressed it. Although I have been plotting revenge for years now.
6. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?
A tie between: Where the Red Fern Grows/Bridge to Terabithia (to learn about love, friendship and loss) The Pigman by Paul Zindel (to learn about consequences to our actions and how NOT to treat the elderly) Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler (I actually think everything we need to learn about life is in this book) Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (to realize that no matter what you think you know about human behaviour and relationships, Alice Munro just knows more.) Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (don't do drugs) Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler (to laugh and laugh. And cry and cry.) War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges (amazing-a beautiful, philosophical deconstruction of the theatre of war, and what drives us as humans to keep at it.) Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen by Kate Taylor (just trust me-it's transformative) Endurance (about the Shackleton expedition-whenever I complain about a bad commute to work, I try to think of this book. In fact whenever I complain about anything, I try to think of this book.) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (probably the most important book you can give a young adult)
7. What would you recommend as your top ten all time children's fiction recommendations?
Okay, I'll leave aside the very obvious: anything by Roald Dahl, Harry Potter series and anything by Judy Blume. Here are my less mainstream picks: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Age 13 ¾) by Sue Townsend Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements About David by Susan Beth Pfeffer When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (I forget the author) Mom, the Wolfman and Me by Norma Klein Elijah of Buxton by Chris Paul Curtis
8. You now work in publicity and marketing at Scholastic Canada. What does your average day look like in that role?
Like anyone else in this industry, I am always thinking of about 3 seasons of books, and in general I'm trying to secure some media attention, and build more relationships with the wonderful book reviewers and parenting communities out there, along with the blessed, energetic bloggers that I work with. Along with a small but dynamic marketing team, I brainstorm new ideas for promotion-trying to tailor things to the themes of the books and the efforts of the authors, and things that suit the publications themselves.
I'm also involved in event planning-e.g. we are so excited to bring Maggie Stiefvater, who's a YA superstar, up to Ontario for some signings this summer, so I'm working on getting the word out to teens and her existing fans, to make sure they don't miss the opportunity. And on top of that I do quite a bit of writing: press releases, copy for our own catalogues, book descriptions, that sort of thing.
12. Do you read eBooks? If so do you use a specific reader? What percentage of books that you read are in electronic format?
This might sound terrible, but I haven't converted at all yet. I have used a Sony E-Reader to read manuscripts for work, but for pleasure I just have too many unread books at home to ignore. I'm sure that will change eventually, but so far, I'm still old school.
13. What were some of your favorite books and authors as a child?
Gordon Korman! And I'm not just saying that because I'm now part of his publicity team in Canada, I swear! His books were such a huge part of my childhood and I truly think his characters and brilliant sense of humour helped shape my own. I Want to Go Home is still one of the funniest books I've ever read. I loved it so much that I actually swiped it from the library (bad bad bad!). When I first met him a few years ago I got him to sign that tainted copy and he apologized for turning me into a petty thief as a child.
The second person I have to mention is Norma Klein, who wrote amazing books for adolescents in the '70s and '80s. Her characters were always these cerebral New York intellectuals, and she fearlessly touched on topics that are still taboo today in novels for young people. Basically everything your parents didn't want to talk to you about, she did. And I thank her for it. It's so sad to me that her books are mostly out of print now, because they were brilliant.
14. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?
When I was a teen the YA genre didn't exist quite as robustly as it does today. But I did have 2 REALLY cool English teachers in high school who handed out lists of their top 50 favourite reads, so I had a lot of fun going through those. I got introduced to great books like: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next by Ken Kesey, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard Farina, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Shoeless Joe by Kinsella. I also, of course, read a lot of Stephen King (who didn't appear on their lists).
15. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?
Kazuo Ishiguro moves me like no other writer. But I also love David Mitchell (although I haven't read his newest-bad form!). I'm SO excited for the new Jeffrey Eugenides in the fall, and I just picked up Gary Schteynhart's Super Sad True Love Story-I can't wait to get started on that!
16. If you were not working in publishing what do you think you would be doing?
Something that allows me to eat and talk about eating. Does that exist? Maybe I could co-host Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network. If that didn't work out, I think I'd try my hand at journalism.
17. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?
TV: Top Chef Canada; How I Met Your Mother; and I kind of got hooked on Fringe this year. (Lame, I know.) Movies: I've been on movies from the '70s kick recently (All the President's Men, Five Easy Pieces, An Unmarried Woman, The Goodbye Girl) but I also just saw Bridesmaids and I almost swallowed my tongue from laughing. I'll find a redeeming quality in anything as long as there's snacks.
18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
The Bible Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes A Collection of Neil Simon's Comedies The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (because you can bet I'd be playing every part on a desert island) The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy A Dorothy Parker Reader The Insanity Defense by Woody Allen A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust (along with a French/English dictionary) The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing (not the chicklit novel-an actual GUIDE)
19. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to work in the publishing industry?
I firmly believe that a love of books and a desire to promote literacy will lead you somewhere, so keep your mind open. And even when you aren't working, lead by example-borrow books from the library, buy them when you can, load up your e-reader, read picture books to the kids in your life, attend literacy festivals and bring your friends, meet your local authors at events, get some cheap wine and host your own literary salon, join a book club, start a book club, do some volunteer reading at a senior's home, give books as gifts, subscribe to a magazine, take a writing class. These seem like small acts, but without them-there won't be an industry to work in.
20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?
Be good at it-because, let's be honest, the competition is FIERCE.
Nikole: Thanks for taking part in my interview series, will have to check out some more of those suggested reads.