Kelly Jensen is a former librarian-turned-editor for Book Riot and Stacked. She’s the author of It Happens: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader. She loves black licorice and debating genre. Follow her on Twitter: @veronikellymars.
1. Favorite books/authors who inspired you?
No specific authors or books inspired Here We Are, though I was certainly inspired by women like Mikki Kendall, Anne Thériault, Courtney Summers, Malinda Lo, and so many more, who are writing and thinking about feminism in public ways. Social media has been such a rad way to connect and talk about feminism and how to be the best feminist possible -- that was really the inspiration. It was my hope to take many of those powerful, life-changing conversations and put them into an accessible format with a longer shelf life than social media .
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay helped me think about how best to structure this conversation. She puts her essay “Bad Feminist: Part 2” toward the end of her collection, but since I found it to be a great way to introduce the bigger concepts of the anthology, I put it in the beginning of mine.
2. How did you decide which contributors you wanted to include?
I made a dream list of people including celebrities, athletes and others who are often in a very public spotlight; authors whose works I admire; and writers who do much of their work online and to whom I owe a lot for my ability to think about feminism in fresh ways.
Along the way, I was given suggestions for additional contributors, and I took risks reaching out to people I didn’t think would ever contribute. Lucky for me, they were more than eager to do so.
Now my dream list of contributors is my list of contributors.
3. Did you know how you wanted to organize the essays before you gathered them?
I knew what topics I was hoping would come through in the essays. After I had a sense of what contributors wanted to write—aside from the essays I hand selected to reprint, all contributors got to pick their own topics!—the organization shook itself out of all that. I ended up ditching a couple ideas I had and creating a couple of new ones.
4. What was the editing process like for you?
I worked with each contributor in the way they preferred. Some contributors wanted a lot of feedback, while others were happy to send me a finished draft for feedback. It was neat to learn how everyone works. My day job is in editing, so I work with writers of all types, and it was nice to be able to use that skill set working with writers in this collection.
The basic process for me was the same: I’d read the essays a few times, then I’d go through them a few more times and leave comments or suggestions. I’d put each essay away for a day or two, then come back with fresh eyes and repeat the process. Then it’d be back to the writer, who had ultimate choice in what edits they wanted. We’d repeat the process until we were 100 percent happy with the final piece.
5. Which part of putting the anthology together was the most fun?
Every time a contributor said “yes!” to being included, it was so exciting. Then getting those first drafts of essays in my inbox. Then getting finished drafts in my inbox. I love the whole process from yes to idea to edits to finished, polished product.
6. Which part was the most difficult?
Contracts. That took a lot more time than I anticipated, making sure all of the contracts were correct, signed, countersigned, and then fulfilled as agreed. I learned way more about the legal side of publishing than I ever thought possible.
7. Which author would you most like to spend the day with?
This might be the most unfair question to ask someone who loves books and reading. I’ve had the pleasure of spending days with many of the authors in this collection, as well as many whom I admire wildly. But if I had to pick one, I think I’d pick Laurie Halse Anderson. I’ve seen her deliver some mean sermons about censorship and access to books, and her passion and dedication are inspiring.
8. Cats or dogs?
I’m a cat whisperer.
9. What is your secret superpower?
Did I mention that I’m a cat whisperer?