MS Publishing: Chapter Two
From the pages of the adventure tales she read as a child, to the manuscripts that she has worked on as an author, editor, publisher, and educator, words have taken Manuela Soares to some fascinating places. Now, her passion for language, books, and good stories has landed Soares in the director’s chair of Pace University’s Master’s in Publishing program. Soares took the reins in July 2018, and she’s ready to make her mark by furthering the unique strengths of the department and finding innovative strategies to capitalize on growth opportunities.
“Our program has an excellent reputation. I want to make it better,” she says.
Soares’ story began in Essex County, NJ. Growing up she was a frequent patron of the local library, where she devoured everything from teen fiction to the classics.
“For me, books were a way of understanding the world,” she says.
After attending Schiller College in Paris and London and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University, she later earned an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. Soares spent more than 30 years in the publishing industry working on both magazines and books and making connections with a variety of writers and industry professionals. Most recently, at Scholastic, Inc., she served as managing editor of the hardcover imprints and worked on the first five Harry Potter books. She has also authored her own published work, both fiction and nonfiction.
“At the start of my publishing career I wrote photo captions and articles and conducted interviews for magazines. Later on, I wrote mostly non-fiction books, but in the MFA program, I focused on fiction.” Soares says. “Recently one of my short stories was accepted for an anthology of Luso-American writing that will be published soon by the Tagus Press.”
Soares, who came to Pace University in 2004, was inspired to begin teaching when she noticed what she perceived as a skills gap in some of the young professionals entering the publishing industry. Her appointment as director of the MS publishing program follows the retirement of longtime faculty member Sherman Raskin, who cofounded the program in 1984 with professor Allan Rabinowitz.
Today’s publishing industry is more diverse demographically and drastically different technologically, and Soares plans to prime students for whatever comes next by teaching a well-rounded range of cutting-edge technological skills along with the core curriculum. That could mean anything from adding new courses on topics such metadata and digital audience development to providing new avenues for course content delivery. Currently, 20 percent of the MS Publishing program students are completing their degree fully online. Soares envisions developing new digital resources such as podcasts and video interviews to enhance both the online and classroom learning experience.
At the same time, she stresses the importance of retaining a focus on content. To that end, Soares plans to create more opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience through an expanded internship program and student contributions to Publishing Research Quarterly (PRQ), an academic journal published by Springer-Verlag. She is also working on various projects for Pace University Press, where she is the director, publishing seven scholarly journals a year.
“Working on the Pace University Press journals and books gives students real world experience and training that can help them in their job search later on, and being published in PRQ is a great addition to any resume,” Soares says. She also sits on the editorial board of PRQ.
Since stepping into the director’s role, Soares has brought on new faculty and begun reaching out to find new avenues for scholarship funding. Looking ahead, she is hoping to build a broader sense of community among the diverse mix of students. Eventually, she would like to see the program’s Midtown Manhattan campus become an even more vibrant center of activity, where students, faculty, and alumni connect with one another. Students enter the program with a range of experience, so networking with peers is a valuable part of their education.
“It is also good for students to have that support as they go through the program,” Soares says. “Many of them are working and studying at the same time.”
Soares also hopes to provide new opportunities for students to explore different areas of the industry by working with industry partners, faculty, and alumni to create new internship opportunities.
“Once you’re working, it can be hard to learn about other areas in publishing,” says Soares. “Our program gives each individual an opportunity to explore the industry. Many students come into our program planning on working in editorial and discover that they love marketing or publicity or contracts.”
Ultimately, as Soares begins drafting the next chapter for this longstanding program, she plans to focus on one key theme.
“Our responsibility is to enable them to complete their degree successfully while preparing for a job.”