Global Girlboss Lisa Moraleda Van Wie Wants Our Love Of Reading To Stay Alive
Spark points. The blips on our radars, the spikes on our monitors, the heart flutters that demarcate magical moments from monotony.
If you zoom out on the map of our life’s journey, you’ll see these spark points sitting like little flags, billowing in the wind at junctures, elbows, crossroads. It is a wholehearted belief that what happens in between these stops is mellifluous happenstance that determines not only when, but how it is you arrive at your spark points. Maybe you descend on them swiftly and with optimism. Maybe you get there broken and tired. But you get there.
How far do we travel, through both time and space, to reach spark points in our lives?
There’s the story about Lisa Moraleda Van Wie’s parents, for example, who lived in the same province in Bicol, Philippines. Their families knew each other. And still, both had to pack up and travel nine thousand miles to New York to find each other.
We’re glad they did.
Lisa, with one of Queens’ most famous exports, Russell Simmons.
They made Lisa, who carries the sunshine from the beaches of home in her smile. But don’t be fooled. Lisa was born and raised in Queens, running through its streets with other brown babies who hailed, too, from the Philippines, but also from Guyana, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Jamaica. You see Queens in the way Lisa’s eyebrow raises almost involuntarily when you’ve said something wayward, or in the darting fire in her twinkling eyes that lets you know, she will hold you to it. Whatever “it” is.
But Lisa, ultimately, is love. The lilt in a voice reading poetry, the hum in a child’s favorite lullaby. Her laughter is cathartic. How can a thing be soft and sharp at the same time? Razor-wit and refuge; she brings this nuance to all she does. It is what we hope for our children: Courage, knowledge, humor, aptitude, perspective, compassion.
It is only fitting then, that books that land in the laps of mothers the world over, with their limitless hopes and wildest wonder for their children, often do so by way of Lisa. Currently the Director of Publicity at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in Manhattan, Lisa, for 16 years, has piloted attention toward some of the most formative children’s books of our generation.
Lisa with R.L. Stine and Marc Brown
A self-professed bookworm from an early age, Lisa found refuge at the library, and credits her parents for stoking her passion by buying her books whenever they could afford it. Despite their own careers, which were steeped deeply in the sciences, their children, Lisa and her brother, were given free rein and support in exploring what resonated to them.
So how did Lisa find her publishing and publicity spark point?
“In college, I majored in English and minored in Communications. It wasn’t until an internship interview at a major publishing house that I discovered there were career opportunities in publishing outside of editorial. I owe that HR rep so much, as she helped put me on the path that I’ve journeyed now for over 15 years,” Lisa shares.
“She recommended me for a publicity internship over an editorial one because she thought I spoke well and with confidence. She told me that publicity professionals were the face of the company, and that they were responsible for convincing the public why certain books need to be read. I learned so much during that interview, and it forever changed my perspective on what a career in publishing could be.”
Today, Lisa pays forward that insight by sharing a little bit about what her success has fundamentally been built on.
What do you spend your most productive hours doing?
Writing (emails, press releases, pitch letters, etc.) and meetings. Although the number of meetings you attend as a director can be staggering, those I find most impactful are the one-on-ones with my staff (I love mentoring and helping other strong women become better professionals) and pitch meetings with media (there’s nothing better than seeing someone’s eyes light up with interest as you talk up a project that you are excited about).
What would you do with a spare 30 minutes during your day?
I never spend more time playing with my son and with my dog.
Why do you do what you do?
I love stories, and I can’t believe that I get paid to be a cheerleader for books and their amazing creators. It’s a challenging job for sure, but I love that each project (and each day) is vastly different from the next. I get to interface with smart and talented creatives on a daily basis, and when I come home with a new book for my son, I get to see the happiness that comes from sharing a book with a child firsthand.
With Children's Literature Legacy Awardee, Tomie dePaola
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What are some routines, systems, or habits that keep you performing at your best—physically, mentally, spiritually?
Every morning, before I head to work, I walk my dog around the neighborhood. I don’t take my phone... we just walk and enjoy the quiet time together. I can think clearly about the day ahead and it helps me prioritize everything I want to accomplish. I’m able to get my steps in for the day, while also spending one-on-one time with my fur-baby.
Weekends are usually work-free for me, unless I have an author event to attend. My weekdays are filled with working and traveling to and from the office, so I like to make sure that my role as wife and mother takes precedence on the weekends. We wake up early, cook breakfast, go to the park, and watch a lot of movies together. We laugh and play and eat ice cream. On the weekends, I’m carefree.
What are a few moments in your career that made you want to pinch yourself?
Every opportunity I’ve been given to work with a living legend in the world of literature has been a dream come true for me. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with Neil Gaiman, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Tomie dePaola and R.L. Stine, and I’ve worked on campaigns for Beverly Cleary, The Berenstain Bears, Shel Silverstein and others. I ask myself regularly, “What is this life?” and I don’t take any of it for granted.
I’ve also worked with several celebrities throughout the years, which is always an experience. What I find most interesting is getting to know people as they really are, without the cameras or the crowds, when they’re just themselves. At the end of the day, I’ve learned that people are people. We’re all doing the best we can. In that respect, we’re all connected.
“Psychology fascinates me, and I recently had my staff take the Myers–Briggs personality test to get a better idea about how they each see the world and make decisions. Work styles differ, and I want to make sure that I’m challenging each member of my team in a way that makes sense for them as individuals.”
What is a quote that brings you strength or solace?
One high school English teacher in particular made a lasting impression on me. On the last day of school, he handed everyone in the class a small slip of paper with the below poem and told us to keep it in our wallets. He said we’d likely forget about it being there until it was time to switch wallets. But when that time came, we’d find it, read it and remember our time with one another. We’d also be reminded to slow down, be present, and never give up hope. I lost that original slip of paper, sadly, but I’ll never forget him or this poem.
“Watering the Horse”
How strange to think of giving up all ambition!
Suddenly I see with such clear eyes
The white flake of snow
That has just fallen in the horse’s mane!
When are you at your most confident?
Each time I face a major hurdle and overcome it. When the sh*t hits the fan (in life or at work), I’ve learned to breathe, think things through, and follow my intuition. It usually leads me in the right direction.
With Bethenny Frankel
Did you have anyone that looked like you to look up to in the career that you wanted to pursue?
Although the publishing community still has a long way to go in terms of diversifying the workplace, I was lucky enough to have had a few strong Asian-American role models throughout my career. In my role as a director, I now hope to inspire other Filipinos and people of color who want to pursue a career in publishing or public relations.
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If there's anything you want people to take away from your journey, what would that be?
If you have a passion, follow it. Even if it’s one that isn’t shared by your family or circle of friends, forge ahead and create your own path. It will lead the way for others.
Also, give yourself a break every now and then. And allow yourself to fail. You learn so much about yourself when you’re forced to put those pieces back together again.
Before you go, could you put us onto something you love? (be it a life hack, a product, a podcast, poem, idea, person, etc.)
If you don’t know what your personality type is, I highly suggest taking this eye-opening questionnaire from 16 Personalities. I’m ESFP!
Twitter - @MoraLisaSmile