An Interview with Andrea Nelson
Ben Schroeder caught up with Andrea Nelson, Trouble Child’s web developer and nonfiction editor, to talk about French food, Paper Darts, and life after college.
Ben Schroeder: How is work? Remind me where you work and what your job title is?
Andrea Nelson: My title is assistant editor of packaged product and special projects at Lerner, an educational children's publishing company in Minneapolis. I spend a lot of time working with packagers and foreign publishing companies. With packagers, I provide editorial oversight for product that they develop to our specifications. I work with foreign (typically UK) publishers on coeditions, which basically means that we are working together to publish a product that will work for both American and UK markets. In these cases I'm usually providing editorial feedback on a product that has been developed by the foreign house and then Americanizing the text for our edition. As my title suggests, I also work on "special projects" as they arise. These could be internal titles, titles we are translating, or foreign acquisitions in need of Americanization. It's a mixed bag, and I love how the work is constantly challenging me to broaden my skill set.
I'm also a (volunteer) story editor at Paper Darts, which I love. We are starting to ramp things up in preparation for AWP and our next print issue, so things are hectic and crazy but the octoladies I work with are so lovely and thoughtful and fierce, and the pieces we publish are so wonderfully bizarre, that it makes the chaos absolutely worth it.
BS: I think I remember you mentioning you worked on an origami book? How did that turn out? Have you retained any magic abilities from all that paper folding?
AN: Ugh, yes. One of the first projects I worked on was a four-book series on origami. I had to fold paper for four to six hours a day, but I think the end result will be worth it. The projects are really cute, and I kept a few of the ones I made to decorate my office. There are a couple other menageries scattered around the office—it's hard to just toss them when you've worked on them for so long, but I also didn't want thirty origami models taking up my precious desk space. I haven't attempted any paper folding since they went to the printer, but I bet I could still whip up a dog or a dinosaur if I really tried.
BS: What's the best part about working for Paper Darts? The hardest?
AN: There are a lot of best parts, but I'll just name two. The first is the people. Everyone on staff is smart and empathetic and challenges the others to use new perspectives. I'm very thankful to be able to have this band of women around me. The second is the writing. The submissions we get are a mix of the bizarre, the macabre, the beautiful, and the ugly truth laid bare. It's stories like these that remind me why I am passionate about literature. And I love that we are able to put that writing out into the world and share it with people who also find joy in the weird and lovely.
The hardest part is finding time. We're all very busy people with a ton of commitments, so it can be challenging to get everyone together in a video chat to talk about submissions, the state of the world, and what we want to do next.
BS: What are you reading right now?
AN: I'm reading The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones. Medieval history was my "fun" major in college, so I was immediately drawn to this expansive history at the bookstore. Jones does an incredible job weaving a narrative that is informative and clearly well researched while still immersing the reader in the high stakes politics of a Europe whose borders were still largely fluid and could change dramatically within one generation. He also has short chapters (especially for a nonfiction title), so I can read on the bus to work or while I'm waiting at an appointment and feel like I actually accomplished something, which is always a plus. I still have a long way to go (I'm currently reading about Edward I), but I'm sure the rest will be just as amazing.
BS: Have you written anything lately?
AN: I haven't written much since graduating in 2017. A freelance article or two. I've kind of been focusing on my career/volunteer work and trying to learn what it means to be an editor in those spaces. I'm a person who does a lot of pondering and planning before putting words on a page, and I feel like I still need to do a ton of reading, analysis, and research before I'll be ready to get back into the actual writing part of writing.
BS: What brought you to Trouble Child?
AN: I spent a lot of time with Aubrey in the bowels of Lind Hall just trying to figure out big picture things about Ivory Tower and talking about what we'd want to do if we could take the magazine in any direction. When she got in touch about Trouble Child I was all in. I know she has good vision and a strong work ethic, which are both important qualities necessary to drive a project like this. I'm so excited to help her build this mag.
BS: What is your editing style?
AN: I like to read a piece all the way through a few times and then break the writing down bit by bit. I start with paragraphs and move to smaller and smaller increments until I'm just looking at the words in one sentence. And with each portion of the piece I'm looking to see if what's there is a) everything that needs to be said and b) necessary to the story. The balance between said and not said is crucial to creating a piece. It needs to be intriguing but can't leave the reader without enough to stand on.
BS: We talked about The Haunting of Hill House earlier and the possible haunting of your house. Have you heard any more mysterious noises?
AN: Nothing I can't explain away. Am I the Steven of my household? I hope not.
BS: I also hope you're not the Steven of your house! Which Crain do you identify with most?
AN: Yeah, Steven was The Worst™ and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I see myself most in Shirley. I wouldn't say I'm an angry person, but I am Type A and need to have a handle on everything around me or else my emotions can get the best of me (not the best trait to have in a creative field, I know). I get upset when people make the same mistakes, as Shirley gets frustrated with Luke's relapses. I can hold onto guilt for a long time, too, to the detriment of my own wellbeing. I can see a little bit of Theo as well since I tend to internalize my emotions and try not to feel the world too much.
BS: What are you watching now that you finished Hill House?
AN: We took a break from Mad Men to watch Hill House, but we haven't actually watched anything since finishing the show. My partner's been playing Red Dead Redemption 2 since its release, so the television's commandeered for the time being. I've been using the extra time to read or practice my knitting. I'm still very new at it so it requires a lot of attention.
BS: What's the last trip you and your partner took, and what's the next one you're planning (or would like to take)?
AN: The last place we went was Paris in May, which was gorgeous and enchanting. I would go back in a heartbeat. We'll be going to Lake Tahoe with my parents in February for a few days, but we haven't made any plans yet for a "big" trip. We've discussed a few places. Cuba, Italy, and Alaska are all up there on my list.
BS: What was your favorite part of Paris?
AN: Paris was gorgeous and has more art and history than I could ever tire of, but the food culture there is what I dream about. The baguettes! The French onion soup! The crème brûlée! The macarons! The cheese! The jambon! The pâté! The duck confit! Literally everything I put in my mouth melted. And the wines . . . unbelieveable. I adored the cafes with outdoor tables where you could just eat and people watch, or have a glass of wine and enjoy the sunshine. Now that we're getting into Minnesota's deep winter cold I find myself missing it even more.