Beau Johnson is our acquisitions team assistant. Having joined us as an intern while finishing up her studies at San Francisco State University, Beau stayed on with the team after graduating this past winter. If you’re an author who has reached out to us over the past several months, chances are you have had the pleasure of conversing with Beau about your book and publishing needs. So, who is the person behind those initial conversations with our authors? Let’s find out!

  1. You graduated last winter from college with a degree in writing. Did you know you wanted to work in publishing?

I knew I wanted to work in publishing soon after I started college, and at the same time, really, I chose to pursue my degree in creative writing. There’s something special about being a part of a team that brings books to life. Watching ideas turn into drafts and drafts into paper and ink is incredibly satisfying, and it’s a genuine honor to participate in this process. Staying involved in book publishing is one my main career goals right now, and working here has been a wonderful beginning.

  1. Beyond this side of the publishing world, do you have future plans to use your writing background for your own personal projects?

While I do enjoy working in publishing, reading and writing are my first loves. To be a published author is a lifelong dream of mine, and I hope someday it’ll be an opportunity afforded to me. Writing short fiction is another pleasure I currently partake in, and it would be pretty neat to publish shorter works in various literary magazines too. But both of these are works-in-progress.

  1. Tell us about your time as a fiction editor for your university’s literary magazine. What was the best part of the job?

For context, the way it worked is that my team of editors and I would receive and evaluate every submission, a.k.a. the “slush.” We’d piece together which of the submissions we found most compelling and brought that pared-down list to a larger review team.

The discussions about the work in those rooms were some of my favorites I ever had while in my undergrad years. Reading and writing are often very lonely, individualistic activities, and getting to talk out loud about the virtues and vices of all different kinds of writing was a really cool communal experience.

  1. What would you say is the best part of your role working with Ballast and Blue Balloon Books?

I’m a sucker for reading submissions. From drafts to outlines to full manuscripts, I love looking at a piece that isn’t quite finished and deducing what, if anything, can be done in order to bring it to its fullest potential. I’ve seen some pretty fantastic work pass through Ballast and Blue Balloon Books, and it’s awesome to see the variety of talents our authors have.

  1. You see practically every submission we receive. Which ones excite you the most?

I deeply appreciate when authors bring us stories inspired by their loved ones, whether that’s children, parents, friends, neighbors, or even pets! Something about caring for someone so much that they’ve inspired you to create art is such a human and heartfelt notion, and I love seeing the fruits of that inspiration.

  1. Do you have any words of wisdom for authors hoping to send us an eye-catching query?

If you have a good idea of what your story will be about and are comfortable sharing a synopsis right off the bat, please tell us as much as you are willing to. On one hand, it makes it that much easier for me to pair you with one of our editors if we get a decent idea of your story. On the other, it’s a lot of fun to read through elaborate book ideas that are still in development. It makes the end result that much more rewarding, having gotten to see exactly where the book began.

  1. You recently made a pretty big move! Tell us about your new city. What’s your favorite part of your new home?

Yes! I moved all the way up the West Coast from San Francisco to Seattle. The two are actually strikingly similar to me, the hills especially. While some in my family could never handle living here because of the weather, I’m falling more and more in love with it every time it rains in June. I’m excited to only have summer for as long as it lasts on the calendar. The true mildness here makes my weekly walks up and down the waterfront piers that much more enjoyable. Plus, all the different kinds of food are pretty spectacular.

  1. When you’re not reading through a million submissions for work, what do you enjoy reading for fun?

Speculative fiction, science fiction specifically, has a very special place in my heart. Ursula K. Le Guin and Jeff Vandermeer are two authors whose work I’m making my way through right now, and I don’t think their stories will ever leave me. Others like Ling Ma’s Severanc, How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu*, and *Harrow the Ninth* by Tamsyn Muir are some more recent favorites.

  1. And outside of reading books, what might we find you doing on a weekend?

I really enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons with my closest friends. It’s a pretty neat exercise in collaborative storytelling, and it often feels like the hours it takes to play any given session go by in a heartbeat. I would happily fork over the majority of a day or two for a nice, long adventure with friends.

  1. Considering that you communicate with practically every author before anyone else on our team, is there anything else you’d like them to know about you?

You can probably guess this given the answer to where I moved, but I currently work PST hours! So if you see any emails from me coming to you later than you might expect based on your location, that’s probably why. Also, if you have any questions—and there is no such thing as stupid question—please ask them. If I can address them, I’m happy to do so and am willing to pass on as much information as you need in order to feel comfortable moving forward.

Good luck to the authors reading out there, new and seasoned, published and yet to be published. I wish you nothing but the best if you decide to pursue publishing outside of Ballast and Blue Balloon Books, but I do hope you at least send me a quick note and consider publishing with us!

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