Interview With RJ Young, Author of “Let It Bang: A Young Black Man’s Reluctant Odyssey into Guns”!

rj young 3RJ Young was not fond of guns, but that changed when he was determined to build a bond with his then white wife’s father, a gun enthusiast. Young became fixated with guns, and eventually became an NRA-certified pistol instructor. The unique and riveting journey to understanding and experiencing gun culture in America as a black man is tackled in Young’s debut, Let It Bang: A Young Black Man’s Reluctant Odyssey into Guns (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). “There are people who say ‘hey, I’ve never thought about it this way. I still believe what I believe, but I appreciate you giving me your perspective,’” the YouTuber said to So Booking Cool when asked about the response to his memoir.

let it bang“There are other folks who have seen the cover of the book and decided that they know what it’s about. And then there are folks who are pushed to consider it, and it makes them very uncomfortable, and it makes them examine the way in which they walk through the world…mostly what I’m asking folks to do is examine the way the walk through the world and what influence they have that they may not have even considered until recently.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Young, including his upcoming radio show, Fight Me with RJ Young, which was spawned from his hit YouTube channel, in which he gives his commentary on the Oklahoma Sooners to tens of thousands on a daily basis. Young also discusses the time Natural Light Beer awarded him with $40,000 for one of his videos; his thoughts on higher learning; whether he would write another book; his advice for YouTubers and more. Fore more information, visit his channel.

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Review: Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story by Candace Toft

off-the-ropes-coverOFF THE ROPES: THE RON LYLE STORY, Candace Toft. Hamilcar Publications, $27.95 (214p) ISBN-13: 978-1949590012
Publication date: Oct. 31, 2018

What you learn from a book is what really dictates its value. What the book reveals. What the book confronts. What the book asserts. Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story, is the definitive biography about one of boxing’s “the most known and unknown” (homage to Three Six Mafia) heavyweight, Ron Lyle. At a time when the heavyweight division was inarguably at its height—the 1970s—Ron Lyle was unquestionably the most feared and avoided heavyweight. He has had more fights cancelled due to excuses by his opponents than any top-tier fighter in history.

Muhammad Ali only agreed to fight Ron Lyle after he (Lyle) lost to an unheralded heavyweight named Jimmy Young. Joe Frazier and Ken Norton wanted no part of Lyle. George Foreman agreed to fight him only AFTER losing his title to Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” which was fought in Kinshasa, Zaire. Jerry Quarry was only willing to fight Lyle a second time when offered a king’s ransom. Of course, as he got older, there were more suitors, (i.e., Jerry Cooney et al), however, Lyle was still a threat to any heavyweight because of his extreme punching power. Earnie Shavers, who is considered by most boxing experts to be the hardest punching fighter in history, declared that no one hit him harder than Lyle.

But, Lyle’s story is so much more than his boxing exploits. He was one of 19 children. His father was a cleric and his mother was devoutly religious. Even though Lyle’s upbringing was strict, his GPS was set to mischief, and then morphed into petty crime. Lyle was convicted of murder, learned to box in prison, served 7 ½ years, became a professional boxer, met a woman—married her—had a child, and pursued becoming heavyweight champion with a level of zeal that would be considered extreme—even for Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.

Like many boxers, Lyle had more “downs” than “ups” and managed to find trouble. However, his devotion to children was second only to his devotion to boxing. We learn that Lyle was charitable, deeply private, overwhelmingly mistrustful, and overburdened with demons. The writer, the late Candace Toft, uses plain language to tell a very complex story. Her writing style allows the reader to gain traction rather than be distracted by language that overreaches. Hall-of-Fame boxing journalist, Al Bernstein, wrote a compelling foreword. Off the Ropes is as good as any boxer-bio/memoir ever written and would be an even better feature film.

Rating: Booking Cool

Rating Scale:
Cool: Decent
So Cool: Good
Booking Cool: Excellent
So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Ben Philippe, Author of “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager”!

ben 2If you are passionate about writing and want to pursue it professionally, you might want to keep certain skills off your resume. Ben Phillippe, author of the forthcoming debut novel, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager (Balzer + Bray, January 9, 2019) is one of many who had jobs that he disliked, but when he removed Microsoft Excel from his resume, he yielded opportunities that were a lot more appealing. “For a while my resume was just a bunch of stuff I knew how to do, but that didn’t make me happy because the only thing that makes me happy is writing,” he explained to So Booking Cool.

“I would get these temp jobs that required a lot of Excel and Microsoft Access because that’s what I was advertising to the world, and then I just started to remove them. They were small jobs–I was living month to month, but I was just doing stuff that was close enough to writing so that I could keep the passion alive.” Phillippe would go on to write for a host of publications including Vanity Fair, Observer, The Guardian, Thrillist, and Playboy, just to name a few. He also has a background in ghostwriting and teaches writing at Barnard College.

FGTNAT - CoverAs for Field Guide, Philippe hopes people will find the book funny. He also feels his character Norris is an underrepresented one in mainstream storytelling.  “Representation is kind of a big thing these days, especially in YA literature, which is great. We see a lot of characters that we wouldn’t normally see, like ten years ago we wouldn’t see characters of color in bestselling books, but I think there’s still the expectation that when you’re reading a story about a black male character, ‘oh no, it’s gonna be sad at the end; oh no, it’s gonna get Precious.”

While Philippe notes that Norris does have stakes and an emotional journey in the book, the story is more about comedy and a young guy’s high school experience. Listen to the interview to learn more about Philippe, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager, creating characters, his insight on ghostwriting, why he loves teaching and how it fuels his writing, who he envisions portraying Norris, his thoughts on the reboot of Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and more! For more information visit his official website.

Interview With Executive Editor of Riverhead Books, Courtney Young!

courtney youngCourtney Young carefully considers our question: whether it is enough for people to write a manuscript if the thought of doing so crosses their mind. Understandably so, the executive editor at Riverhead Books believes it is different for everyone; in other words (no pun intended), like many things in life, it depends.

“I will say writing a book is a lot of work, and you have to be, especially on the nonfiction side, prepared to go really deep on your subject and on working on the book,” she told So Booking Cool. “Be prepared for it to take years to get to the outcome. It’s not easy and the hardest thing is to commit to a book that your heart isn’t in.”

Young can relate to doing something that her heart wasn’t in. Prior to embarking on her 12-year career in book publishing, she pursued engineering. She was expected to follow in the footsteps of her father and brother. However, Young realized her true passion was in English, prompting her to take it on as her new major. She worried about disappointing her family (and to an extent she did), however, leave it up to a book to become the solution. Her father would later gift her The First Time I Got Paid for It: Writers’ Tales from The Hollywood Trenches by Peter Lefcourt (Editor), Laura J. Shapiro (Editor).

“ ’Well, I guess people can make a living if they’re not engineers, and I assume you’ll be okay,’ “she recalled her father saying. The Detroit native also had a stint working at NASA in California as a technical writer, where she edited proposals and journal articles. She was grateful for the opportunity, but, again, this wasn’t her ideal career. Her vision clear, she relocated to New York City and officially began her publishing career at Penguin Random House’s Portfolio Books, a business imprint. She has not looked back since.

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Some of Young’s favorite titles she’s edited include the New York Times bestsellers What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe; Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North; Spineless by Juli Berwald, just to name a few. Young also discussed some of the forthcoming projects that she is excited about, such as Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (May 2019), who wrote the bestseller, The Sports Gene (she also worked with him previously).

the sports generange bookThe Sports Gene is a really fascinating, wide-ranging book that a lot of people came to, and he found the thing that most people were interested in is this idea of early specialization,” Young said. “The idea that if you want to truly be great at something, especially sports, you have to start early and focus; be kind of like Tiger Woods, and just sort of get ahead of everybody else. And David was turning over all this research that said the opposite, that the people who are actually most successful aside from those few stories like Tiger, are generalists.” In his new book, Epstein presents information on why thinking broadly and having diverse experience and various interest will enable an individual to thrive.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Young, her insight on what makes a strong editorial team, some of the proudest moments of her career, her insight on book reviews, and the other upcoming projects she looks forward to sharing with the world. Don’t be a stranger, visit Young on her official Twitter.

Interview With Literary Publicist, Lathea Williams!

LATHEALathea Williams might not have initially chosen book publishing as a career, but the driving force for why she chooses to remain in the industry is due to history. “There was a point in time where as a black person, we weren’t even given the opportunity to read. We were chastised for it. So I’m very much aware of my history and that’s one of the main things that keeps me in this industry,” the publishing professional said to So Booking Cool.

So far, Williams has worked as a literary publicist for over ten years. She attended City College where she earned a degree in public relations and advertising. Her internships included public relations in the fields of investment and music (one of her stints saw her intern at Columbia Records). But it was the publicity internship at Little, Brown that ended up being her favorite.

ATLAS OBSCURABook publicity was another territory and Williams was delighted that her responsibilities consisted of reading, writing (press releases, which she says are like writing book reports), and building media contacts. “Years ago, proud moments for me was when I would get a media hit in a magazine, like Oprah Magazine or a Today Show or Good Morning America hit, but now, I’m proud and happy when I can give back and I can see someone excel and succeed and have as much passion and joy for what they do a little much as I do,” said Williams. “And bestsellers are great!” she added laughingly.

Williams has gotten several bestsellers, including Dylan Thuras’ and Rosemary Mosco’s Atlas Obscura’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, illustrated by Joy Ang. What was one of the most integral parts of the children’s book’s publicity campaign? The plentiful school visits that Thuras made.

A WOMAN GUIDES TOI WILL TEACH YOU TO BE RICH

Now, Williams has been gearing up for the upcoming releases of A Woman’s Guide to Cannabis: Using Marijuana to Feel Better, Look Better, Sleep Better–and Get High Like a Lady by Nikki Furrer (Workman Publishing, January 2019) and the 10th anniversary of I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. No B.S. Just a 6-Week Program That Works by Ramit Sethi (Workman Publishing, May 2019). Check out the interview to learn more about Williams, publicity, her personal story, her advice for aspiring publicists, what she’s currently reading, and more! For more information, visit Williams on LinkedIn.

Interview With Writer, “Wild N’ Out” Star, & Author of “Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y,” Julia Young!

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Comedian, Producer, Actress, Improviser and Wild N’ Out star Julia Young has expanded her skills of television writing and rapping into co-writing her newly-released book, Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y: A Rhyming Presidential Guide. The adult picture book, published by Animal House Media Group, was co-written with comedian and entrepreneur Matt Harkins, and illustrated by Laura Collins. The impetus for the book came after this past presidential election, in which Young felt upset, but inspired.

When asked what she hopes readers will takeaway from her debut, Young replied, “I hope that they get a laugh first of all. I think people who are buying this book don’t like Trump, it’s a very divisive book. But I hope people realize things need to change, and obviously it’s never okay to grab women by their genitalia, and maybe just come away with a little bit of a laugh in these very, very difficult times,” she told So Booking Cool.

Young, who has produced for Desus and Mero, has written for many hit shows including Brain Games, Girl Code, Hack My Life,  Impractical Jokers, TRL, Safe Word, and Celebrity Death Match, among many others. Before joining Wild N’ Out as a cast member, she was a consultant for the show. She has also taught creative workshops for improvisation. Her road to success has not been a linear one, as she describes, which can actually help people get closer to their dreams.

“I think you just have to say yes to every opportunity. I got on Wild N’ Out because I was consulting for them. I was there and people thought I was funny and after one season, they were like, ‘hey, do you want to be on camera?’ I also think I’ve succeeded in comedy and in this world because that was never not an option…I can’t do anything else, therefore this will happen.”

Listen to the interview to learn more about Young, including her approach to comedy, her book publishing experience, how she overcame bullying, her favorite authors, and more! For more information, visit Young’s official website.

Interview With Publishers Weekly Children’s & YA Assistant Editor, Matia Burnett!

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This past Wednesday, the Assistant Editor in the Children’s and Young Adult Department at Publishers Weekly (PW) Matia Burnett, chatted with us about her career, including its successes and challenges. Burnett is a Columbia University alumni and former educator (she also worked at Columbia as a researcher) before working at PW, a Trade publication in print and web that is basically to book publishing what Vogue is to fashion.

When she’s not busy being an editor, reporter, and reviewer in her department, Burnett writes adult and children’s fiction. She hopes to be published as an author in the future, as well as continuing to help make efforts to diversify publishing. Check out the full interview below!

https://soundcloud.com/jewel-be/interview-with-assistant-editor-in-childrens-ya-at-publishers-weekly-matia-burnett

Highlights of An Evening With Editor Chris Jackson!

Publishing professionals of various ages gathered at New York City’s Solas Bar Thursday night for an evening with longstanding book editor, Chris Jackson. Latinx in Publishing and POC & Natives in Publishing teamed up and hosted the forum, kicking off each group’s first event of the New Year.

Jackson is known for successfully producing both non-fiction and fiction and working with everyone from Bryan Stevenson and Russell Simmons to Jay Z and more recently, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah. Noah’s debut memoir, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, released this past late November, topped the New York Times Bestsellers list. This is nothing new for Jackson, who has more than 10 bestsellers to his name.

As for what’s next,  the Random House executive editor has been developing his own imprint for the publishing house, called One World, due this fall. Prominent Washington lawyer Eric Holder and rapper and civil activist Killer Mike are among the list of authors on the upcoming imprint.

When listening to Mr. Jackson, it becomes very clear that he is about letting marginalized voices be represented and has a wealth of wisdom on the book world. Here are eight of the highlights of the discussion Jackson had with Antonio Gonzalez (Senior Marketing Manager, Scholastic) and Steering Committee Member of Latinx in Publishing.

On the importance of diverse voices: “There are publishers all over town, who, after the election, were like ‘what have we done wrong by allowing this to happen, allowing all these other voices to suddenly assert themselves? We somehow have to retrench.’ They didn’t put it in this language, but that’s definitely some of the spirit that I think was going around.”

On the time he was ashamed of working in an imprint: “Ann Coulter was added to the list of titles for a conservative forum of the imprint, and when I would introduce myself to people, I’d say I was ashamed of the imprint I worked in. It got back to her that I was saying this and she called the president of the company and said, “Does he know how his salary gets paid?”

On another thing he is ashamed of: “One of my greatest shames is that I once published almost no women, at a previous imprint I worked at. It haunts me all the time.

On the mistakes he sees young publishing professionals make: “There is an impulse towards conformity. So many editors that I’ve came up with fell into that crumb-snatching competition because they’re all thinking the same way or trying to think the same way. The real power you have is not thinking like everyone else, even though it can be difficult at times, maybe alienating at times, and lonely at times.”

On writers: “Writers are complete narcissists. They want someone who cares about their work like they care about it.”

On advice he has for young book professionals: “It sounds cheesy, but it’s important to know how to give an elevator pitch.” He adds, “I am trying to encourage other editors who are working with me to not spend all of our weekends and evenings editing. When I got into book publishing, I was told ‘you’re gonna have to edit on the weekends.’ That works for a while, but then, let’s say you have a child, and you have a life. You should have a life if you’re going to be a good person or editor. You have to have other things that interest you.”

On the industry:  “The industry, who cares? It’s the writers you really want to spend time with because it’s the art and stories that matter.”

More on the industry and advice: “Be patient and resilient. It is a slow-moving industry, in some ways by necessity. This is a really important lesson about publishing: most books don’t work. But in your mind, as an editor, if a book doesn’t work, you can let it haunt you and start to weaken you. So many books are not going to work and that’s the game, but I’m not going to let it shake my confidence.”

For more information about Latinx in Publishing, check out their website http://www.latinosinpublishing.tumblr.com/ and contact Patrice Caldwell about POC & Natives in Publishing on Twitter at @whimsicallyours. To see a full list of Jackson’s titles, you can visit his tumbr http://www.cjaxone.tumblr.com/