When it comes to publishing, there’s one person at Ballast who is always ready to jump in and make things happen—and that’s Savannah Spidalieri. She immediately began adding value to the organization when she was first hired as an acquisitions editor, growing our company while expertly helping authors achieve their dream of publishing their work. Within a year, she was promoted to senior acquisitions editor, and before long, she became our brilliant director of publishing, an integral piece of what makes Ballast Books the leading publisher we are today.

Most of our authors are familiar with Savannah, and all appreciate her contributions to their experience. So it’s only natural that everyone is eager to learn more about Savannah and how she got to where she is now. Fortunately, Savannah was willing to take a short break from her endless duties as director of publishing to share some information about herself!

Q: To start, tell us about your home! Where do you live, who do you live with, and what do you love most about your beautiful house?

A: I share my home with my husband and daughter, plus two cats and two dogs. Add fifty or so houseplants and many books to the mix, and there’s barely any room left for the parrot on my wish list. We live in central Virginia in a home we purchased just under two years ago, and I have to say that my favorite part of the house is my home office. It’s a sunroom, so it gets a lot of natural light, and I think I need that about as much as my plants do.

Q: It seems that your education perfectly prepared you for working at Ballast Books and its children’s imprint, Blue Balloon Books! How has studying creative writing, publishing and printing arts, and children’s literature helped you excel in your role as an acquisitions editor and then the director of publishing? Additionally, how has the industry changed in recent years, causing you to expand on your existing knowledge to help the company stay ahead of the curve?

A: As someone who had the unfortunate luck of graduating in 2008, the truth is I struggled for many years with the thought that I’d pursued an educational path that I was passionate about but that might not be the most relevant or useful in the job market. And it’s no secret that I’ve worked in many industries (I have a soft spot for startups in particular) since then. But I eventually found my way to the career I always imagined I’d end up in. For years, I’ve run a wonderful and prolific “passion project” press with my mother—Haunted Waters Press—I’m a writer and an editor of everything from memoirs to board books, and for nearly a year now, I’ve been director of publishing for Ballast Books. I’d say I’m using that degree now! As for the industry, it is constantly evolving, probably faster in recent years than ever before. I spend a lot of my time trying to stay on top of changes in the publishing world, and I think that change is a great thing for this industry. There’s often the idea that publishers are the gatekeepers between authors and readers, but the truth is that this entire industry exists for authors and readers. Any changes that benefit those two groups are bound to create a net positive for the book world as a whole.

Q: As the director of publishing, you work closely with our fearless leader—our president and publisher—Andy Symonds to help Ballast Books remain agile, competitive, and prominent within the industry. What are some ideas you have to continue to bolster Ballast’s positive reputation and improve the publishing experience for authors?

A: Every time I talk to an author I first spoke with six months—or sometimes years—ago, I always find myself saying something along the lines of “a lot has changed since we last spoke.” I think that speaks to our dedication to evolving. There’s always a way to learn from a project or an author, to implement new ideas and offerings, or to simply try something totally new and see what works. In the past few years, we’ve made some major changes—in-house distribution and warehousing, a full marketing and PR team, multiple paths for publishing and printing, and entirely new services like our Six- Month Manuscript author coaching program. And there are more changes coming. For me, one thing that excites me most is getting our authors involved in the publishing process. If that sounds like a no-brainer, you might be surprised to hear that isn’t an industry norm. So keep an eye out for upcoming offerings that really focus in on that goal. Okay, that’s all I can say on that.

Q: You have extensive experience with both writing and editing. In fact, you’ve just finished up a major ghostwriting project! What were the most rewarding parts of that process? What takeaways will you apply to future writing projects?

A: Working with authors to help draw their story out and bring it to life on the page is just such an incredible experience and honor. While this wasn’t technically a true “ghostwriting” experience (my name will be credited on the book), this process is entirely different than producing your own work as a writer. In some ways, it’s easier. The authors bring me a ready-made plot to run with. But in other ways, it is a challenge. Writing in someone else’s voice, making sure you do their story justice, getting down to the nitty gritty of the themes by asking deeply personal questions—it’s all a giant stretch for a writer who is used to writing for their own audience. It is a major responsibility, one I would welcome again and again. Though I might move my coffeepot and teakettle straight into my office for the next project.

Q: Some people may not realize just how multitalented you are. In addition to writing and editing, you are an accomplished artist and designer! What kind of art do you like to create, and how do you find time to express your creativity beyond your role at Ballast/Blue Balloon?

A: I’m not sure “accomplished” is the right word for this particular hobby. I guess I have just always been a little manic in my interests. I’ve always envied those who had their one thing. I just kind of want to try out everything. My advice on that: if you feel the sudden urge to apply to culinary school, maybe sign up for an evening cooking class instead. But yes, for the past few years, art and design have managed to hold my attention. I love painting, and I also really enjoy digital art and, coincidentally, book cover design. How do I find time? I just get out the paints or a sketchbook whenever I find myself with “downtime.” I also try to involve my kid as much as possible. Painting together has become one of our favorite ways to find some quality time.

Q: Rumor has it that your TBR pile is getting pretty lengthy. That’s essentially a requirement for any avid reader! What are your favorite genres? What are you currently reading, and what’s next on your list?

A: Oh, I read a very wide variety of books. I can get just as excited about a book on the history of the checklist as I can get about the latest bestselling thriller. I will admit that my reading list heavily leans toward mystery and crime dramas. Lately, I have discovered an interest in fantasy. This is new to me, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it leads. So, I’m currently reading a physical copy of a certain bestselling fantasy series with a very divisive reputation. I’m also listening to the audiobook of Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera, and I have to say, it has been a bit jarring to listen to a murder mystery where the victim shares my name. I’m sure I’ll be updating everyone on how I feel about both of these books during our next team happy hour.

Q: Finally, let’s talk fun facts. You’re full of them! What are a few things that people may not know about you?

A: Hmm…let’s see. I’m insanely jealous of our fellow editor, Kat, who recently got a baby bird. Did I mention I really want a parrot?

What else? I once waited outside a concert venue (as a grown adult—this was not that many years ago) for a chance to meet Jeff Daniels just so I could tell him what a fan of Newsroom I am. You’d have thought I was twelve and hoping to spot Justin outside of an NSYNC concert. And yes, I did get to meet him. My friend and I giggled all the way to the bar to brag after.

If you have an engaging idea for a children’s book, we want to hear from you.

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