We love our blue manatee press readers so much, and we want you to keep getting to know us better! Meet the press with our Q&A with Editorial and Marketing Assistant Michael!
Meet the Press: Get to Know Michael Woodson!
What do you do at blue manatee press?
Depends on the day! I’m the Editorial and Marketing Assistant, but being such a small company, we all end up doing a little bit of everything. I have a hand in our blog content, help with social media and updating our platforms, run social media ad campaigns and contests, and help keep the website updated. I help schedule author events and coordinate with stores and libraries, and help with warehouse runs for inventory needs and nonprofit orders.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied English Literature at the University of Cincinnati, with a focus in Creative Writing. After graduating I had a few different writing jobs: I worked as a social media strategist for a digital agency, and then went on to work as an editor for a few art magazines for four years. I worked part-time at Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Bookstore while I worked as a freelance writer and editor, as well as volunteering in the press before working here full time!
Growing up, what was your favorite children’s book? What books had an impact on you?
A children’s book that had a big impact on me was Leo the Late Bloomer written by Robert Kraus and illustrated by Jose Aruego. It’s about this lion cub named Leo who can’t read, write, draw, or roar yet. He’s shy and nervous, which worries his dad, but not his mom, telling the father lion, “Patience. A watched bloomer doesn’t bloom.” And sure enough, in his own time, he excels. I was a really shy, quiet kid with very little confidence, and this book encouraged me to be more kind to myself and to feel less alone. So when I was taught that books could help me find my voice, that’s when I really became a voracious reader.
“I was a really shy, quiet kid with very little confidence […] So when I was taught that books could help me find my voice, that’s when I really became a voracious reader. “
A chapter book that resonated with me growing up was Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, as well as Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, a book I still read once a year.
What are some of your favorite blue manatee press titles?
It’s so hard to choose! With the board books, I love Alphabet Family Band by Sarah Jones.
I grew up playing music, so I love that Sarah Jones is not only teaching the alphabet but introducing a lot of different instruments in the process, too.
Sleepy Solar System written by Dr. John Hutton and illustrated by Doug Cenko was an early favorite of mine too, it’s such a clever bedtime book. And I just absolutely love Erin Barker’s Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party, our newest picture book. It’s the first book I was on staff for during its entire editorial process, from beginning sketches to final book, so it holds a really special place in my life for me.
What aspect of blue manatee press’s mission do you most value?
I really love our emphasis on children and adults reading together. The idea of designated screen-free quality time means so much to me. I have a niece now, and I can’t wait to read with her as she gets older. I’m going to be that uncle who only gets her books for every birthday and holiday!
What has been the most surprising aspect of the job?
In my previous publishing jobs, I had a very specific set of duties. I was an editor for an art magazine for a while, and my job was to edit and write certain columns every month, plus one feature article a month. That was my routine. But with BMP, it’s not so much that this surprised me, but what I find really satisfying is that I’m encouraged to tackle many different duties and to think big and creatively. If I have an idea that is a little bit outside of my job description, I’m allowed to pursue it, as long as I follow through. I love that. I feel like I’m learning so much and getting to be so creative.
What advice do you have for anyone looking for a career in publishing?
I was recently asked by a group of college students who’re currently studying English literature what one piece of advice I could give them that I wish I’d had when I was in school. I told them to broaden the definition of what their degree can do for them, and to be patient.
If you want to be a writer, that will happen! It might just not look exactly how you want it to right away. I wrote content for various local and national companies’ social media platforms before writing for the art magazines—which then lead me to working for a children’s publisher, which has been a dream of mine for years. It didn’t happen right away, but the steps I took were important and insightful, and made getting here all the more rewarding.
I also told them not to put all of their worth into one thing that they love. I love to write, but I also love to read, and I love running, and I love going to the movies. I love to cook, and I love my family. Nurturing each of the things in my life that bring me joy only makes me a better writer, and a harder worker. Don’t overvalue one thing. Spread your love across all your interests!