In this blog post, WNDB Internship Grant recipient Maya Marlette shares an update about her experience with the WNDB Internship Grants Program. Maya received a grant in summer 2016 to intern at Scholastic and currently works as an assistant editor at Scholastic. To learn more about the Internship Grant Program, visit our website here.
By Maya Marlette
Why should you apply for a WNDB internship grant?
My name is Maya, and I’m glad you asked. Some people are lucky enough to miraculously fall into publishing. They go to college without figuring out what they want to do, graduate, get a job, and somehow find themselves working with books and they discover that they love it. For many of us, that’s not the case. We get to deal with the anxiety of trying to figure out how to break into an incredibly competitive industry. I’ve known I wanted to be a children’s book editor since the fourth grade. Imagine a nine-year-old rocking a lisp and wearing sparkly pipe cleaners on her glasses telling you she wants to edit books for teenagers. Yeah, that was me. So I made my plans: Read constantly. Go to college and study English. Graduate. Get an internship and then a job. Discover “the next Harry Potter” and live happily ever after.
How hard could it be? I knew it would be competitive, but isn’t everything? So I followed my plan. I read constantly. I majored in English at Wellesley College and spent every winter and spring applying for internships at major publishing houses that I’d never hear back from. I was smart, dedicated, and spent my semesters working for free (which I don’t recommend) for online publications so that I could put “intern” on my resume. But when it came to finding summer experiences that would be stepping stones to the rest of my career, I was having no luck whatsoever. And there was a small voice in the back of my head that told me there wasn’t much of a point—after all, even if I overcame the odds, how would I afford to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world for a summer? Even with my savings from my on-campus job, I could barely afford a flight home when the school year was up, much less a security deposit for an apartment.
And yet, a path appeared. In the second semester of my senior year, my advisor helped me make a connection at Scholastic that led to the opportunity I needed to get my foot in the door. I knew that for me, there was one shot: Find a way to afford to take the internship, find full-time work over the summer, or run out of money and move home to Kentucky and make very different plans for what the rest of my life would look like. That’s when I found We Need Diverse Books. Receiving the WNDB internship grant made my dreams possible. I was able to move to the city, find an apartment, and cover expenses. Because I didn’t have to get a second job that summer, I was able to focus on my work—and I was hired full time two months into a three-month internship. That was three years ago and I haven’t left Scholastic since.
The odds were never good. And while I was in it, I didn’t see how things could possibly work out. But WNDB gave me more than just the funds I needed to chase my dream—they gave me the support and community to know that I wasn’t alone in this big, big city. They helped me make friends with people whose dreams looked like mine—who wanted to diversify publishing and uplift stories that would reflect the experiences of all children. And they helped me understand that sometimes, when you need help, there will be people out there, doing the good work, who are already on your team, even if you don’t know them yet.
Now I work on books that light up my heart and give me hope. I definitely haven’t found “the next Harry Potter” (which probably doesn’t exist), and it’s hard to say when happily ever after starts, but I love my life and am endlessly, endlessly grateful just to be here. So hey, go ahead and apply for that grant. You never know what might happen.
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Maya Marlette is currently the Assistant Editor at Scholastic. A Kentucky native and Wellesley College graduate, Maya has been at Scholastic since 2016. She works on both middle grade and YA, though smart, fun, socially conscious YA is really her passion. Anything with a heavy dose of humor is bound to get a careful look. She’s also particularly interested in graphic novels. Her hobbies include being outdoors, tweeting about professional chess, and always packing a snack. You can find her on Twitter @termayanated.