WNDB Interns Share Their Experience: Kandace Coston

by We Need Diverse Books

Kandace CostonWhen I received the email from We Need Diverse Books offering me one of their five summer internship grants, I was so excited I almost forgot to send a thankful response. To be honest, “excited” is a profound understatement. Just the day before, I was offered the internship position at Lee & Low Books, a dream come true in itself. So when I read the email of acceptance from WNDB while on my way to work, my first reaction felt less like excitement and more like disbelief overcome by immense gratitude. I stopped walking and reread the email two more times to be sure I wasn’t mistaken, and as the good news sank in it manifested into a victory dance. I dropped my tote bag on the sidewalk, and got-down-with-my-bad-self right there on the street corner.

Three weeks later I began my summer internship at the country’s largest independent publisher of diverse children’s books. As enthusiastic as I was, the thought of being in an office executing administrative tasks was very unnerving. Thankfully, the transition was effortless due to the welcoming and approachable nature of the Lee & Low staff. I could also breathe easier knowing I had the support of WNDB, a community whose agenda aligns with Lee & Low Books’ efforts. I was working in and supported by institutions that shared a mission I believed in. The camaraderie between them also helped facilitate my learning of the children’s book industry. WNDB encouraged me to be receptive, and Lee & Low Books was eager to teach—a winning combination!

As an aspiring writer/illustrator suddenly immersed in the world of publishing, I had a lot of questions regarding my personal writing and goals. Thankfully WNDB’s assistance only began with a grant and complimentary tote bag full of award-winning titles. WNDB was an endless resource! They held luncheons, dinners, panels, and provided well-established industry professionals as personal mentors. A few of the other grant recipients are also aspiring writers and illustrators, so our luncheon and dinner together were especially insightful. During these occasions we shared our experiences working at different publishing houses and got to pick the brains of the WNDB membership which included industry leaders, published authors, and the President of WNDB herself! Each outing WNDB provided was an invaluable opportunity to learn from my peers and professionals.

As the summer came to a close, I could proudly reflect on my internship experience. All five of us WNDB grant recipients were fortunate to have had this summer opportunity, but I felt especially privileged to have had it with WNDB through Lee & Low Books. Armed with a solid understanding of the industry and the support of the WNDB community I knew I’d be an asset to any publishing house. Recognizing this as well, Lee & Low Books made my dreams come true a second time by offering me a full time position as their Editorial Assistant. Instantly overcome by that familiar feeling of disbelieving gratitude I excused myself from the office. The quiet, empty corridor comforted me as I waited for the good news to sink in. Once it did I celebrated the best way I know how…a victory dance.