We had the good fortune of connecting with Elysse Villalobos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elysse, what’s the end goal, career-wise?
By the end of my career in publishing, I want to be able to say that I’ve given a platform for underrepresented voices. Publishing is a career path I didn’t know existed when I graduated college, and I’ve done a lot of research and hard work to be able to make it past the threshold. At the end of my career, I want to offer resources, in training and scholarships, to young Latinx professionals who are interested in a career in publishing. The diversity gap in this field is astounding, and it’s essential I be an instrument in supporting younger generations.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am currently a freelance copyeditor/editor and have done a lot of work for Aethon Books, a small sci-fi/fantasy publisher. In the last year, I’ve been fortunate to work on six novels. I have really loved working with manuscripts, but I’m branching out to explore new avenues of publishing. I’m excited to transition into book publicity and marketing because my passion and skillset really intersect with championing diverse authors and stories. I left teaching after three years to pursue publishing, and it was uncomfortable at first. In my third year, I realized I’d been sending students off into the world to chase their dreams, but I hadn’t been chasing my own. I’ve always been insanely practical, but a switch flipped one day when I was talking with my older coworkers at lunch. I decided that the bigger risk, for me, would be to never have a career I was truly passionate about. It took months of reflecting and shadowing a lot of friends at work, but I realized that I wanted to be a part of how people find books. Or, maybe it is more accurate to say that books find people. Publishing and education are entirely different worlds in terms of networking and job applications. I didn’t feel qualified to work with books and authors. I didn’t know how to pitch myself. I pressed on despite my uncertainty and stepped into growth. When I started copyediting, I found that my experience teaching literature and grammar was applicable in technical ways but also helped nurture the necessary soft skills needed for this new career. When I feel unsure about something, I think to myself, OK, so you don’t know enough, yet. What knowledge gaps do you need to fill to feel confident in your work? Then I start finding people who do know more, and I ask questions. Imposter syndrome can take a lot of people out of the game before they start. I had to do a mental reset. In the winter of 2020, I applied to the Denver Publishing Institute. When I got my acceptance letter, that’s when I knew I could really make publishing my career. I felt so much peace about moving forward. Class was on Zoom seven hours a day, sometimes more, for four weeks. Our original lecturers, publishing professionals across the country, stayed committed to our education when it moved online. I didn’t miss a class, and it was the most engaged and excited I’ve ever been for school. I knew I could acquire the skills, but I needed someone to show me how. DPI was the catalyst for my confidence. I’m most proud of the fact that I took a risk, and it’s paid off. I discovered hidden ambition and have so much vision for my short and long-term career goals. I believe that hard work and divine timing all play a part in success. I’ve done a lot of networking this year, something that was extremely foreign to me before 2020. I always ask people what their journey into publishing has looked like. For some people, it took a long time to get hired. For others, the process happened in a whirlwind couple of weeks. But the common denominator is always that they worked hard to get to their dream role, and they didn’t give up.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
FORT WORTH Day 1 Brewed for breakfast, alt for dinner during winter because they have firepits outside! Craftwork Coffee MELT for ice cream Del Frisco’s Grille for lunch Taco Diner for Mambo Taxi’s Studio 80 for the best dancing and atmosphere. I love dancing in both rooms with the older population and bridal parties. Everyone’s there for a good time. Day 2 Avoca Coffee kayaking on the Trinity in summer/spring Press Café for lunch Leaves Book and Tea Shop or Bearded Lady for brews Uncle Julio’s for dinner Circle Theatre to see a show Thompson’s for a nightcap. I love this place, the décor, the low lighting. I almost always run into someone here. Day 3 Montgomery Antique Mall for shopping M&O Station Grill (and mini museum of Fort Worth) This small museum tells the history of Leonard’s Department Store in Fort Worth, the go-to shopping stop for my great-grandmother and grandparents who grew up downtown. The owner’s are lovely. Doc’s Records and Vintage shopping. I could stay here looking at records for hours. The Grand Berry Theatre for an afternoon movie- They’re usually playing something interesting/indie Rodeo Goat on West 7th for dinner. The Chaca Oaxaca is great! Blackland Distillery for a nightcap. I love a good gin. ARLINGTON? The Original Chop House Burgers for the burger with grilled cheese sandwiches for buns DALLAS Day 5 Deep Ellum Brewing Company for a great hot chicken sandwich, beer Shopping in Deep Ellum: 1890 Marketplace, Deep Vellum Books, Jade & Clover Stirr for afternoon cocktails on the rooftop Cane Rosso for the Honey Bastard Club Dada, Trees etc. to see a live band if there’s a good one Day 6 Jonathan’s Oak Cliff for chicken and waffles DMA Klyde Warren Park for food truck eats ‘til Midnight at the Nasher (summer) for music and a movie Day 7 Bread Winner’s Café & Bakery for brunch. I just love everything on the menu here. Dallas Arboretum Merchant House for dinner and drinks. The atmosphere in this place is great. I love the upstairs portion. Encore Family Karaoke. There’s nothing like a room full of friends in a Korean karaoke battle.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have an extremely supportive family. My parents and grandparents are always available for emotional and spiritual support and general life guidance. My aunt has helped me with every HR question; thanks tía! When I decided to change careers and kept taking risks, my family believed in me. I’m very fortunate that they’re so loving and ready to celebrate all my small victories. I attended the Denver Publishing Institute this past summer, and it has helped fuel my passion for the industry. It provided me with a network of veteran publishing professionals who are eager to answer questions and encourage and also gave me a group of very dear friends. We call ourselves the Happy Hour Club, and we Zoom every couple weeks to check in on our career goals. My 72 Fam has prayed with me about every big decision I’ve made the last two years. I couldn’t be more grateful to have such a large group of caring friends. They’re truly a safe space for vulnerability and growth.