Interview with Camilia Kahrizi

Check out my interview with the stellar Camilia Kahrizi! She’s a Marketing and Website Coordinator

Occupation: Marketing and Website Coordinator

Why did you decide to venture into the world of publishing?

14883411_10154873465927214_2325974902712972858_oI was going into my last year of university, and quickly realizing my English degree wouldn’t get me very far once I graduated. So I started looking into internships. I came across one at a small publishing company in Montreal, and though it seemed daunting and unreachable to me, my friend Mahak Jain pushed me to apply. I got the internship, and worked there for three months. I loved it, and felt like I had a purpose for the first time. I came out of it knowing what I wanted to do with my life.

What got you into marketing?

That first internship was in marketing—I thought, based on my personality and previous work experience, that I would be better suited there, rather than editorial. It ended up being a good choice; I think there is more competition for editorial positions, and marketing skills are transferable to many other industries, should the publishing thing not work out!

What are some things you love about your job and your work?

I like working with authors and illustrators, and getting to see all the new books as they are published. My favourite part is connecting them to teachers and librarians, either through our book giveaway program or through school readings; it feels like I’m making a difference in a very tangible way.

Also, as a result of my job, my niece and nephew got to grow up with lots of great Canadian books.
What do you think is the most difficult part about your work?

The industry in general is a hard one to be in – the low salaries can be challenging for many, and jobs are few and far in between. Jobs that do come up are insanely competitive. You have to be fairly privileged to gain access, which doesn’t help for diversity.

Is there anything you’re working on right now that you want to share? Any exciting industry trends we should be aware of?

I’m in my second year as a jury member for the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award. It’s exciting because I get to read over 100 picture books published in Canada, and therefore get an overall picture of new trends and developments. In particular, you can see that a lot of publishers are making an effort to include more diversity in their books, which is encouraging. 

This interview series is about working women. Have there ever been times when being a woman has affected how you do your job (for better or worse)?

This is hard to say, because I work in such a female-dominated industry. I do think that, working in marketing and publicity, I sometimes have to force myself to break out of learned behaviour that often corresponds to how girls are socialized—never taking up space, never speaking up, never asking for things. These things do not serve you well in this line of work, and I’m glad I’m getting better at leaving them behind as I get older and gain more experience.

Any advice for young workers, or people who want to make the transition into marketing?

Prioritize work experience, either paid or volunteer, while you’re in school and/or still living at home. School is great – I still take continuing education classes every opportunity I have – but work experience will help you get jobs when you graduate. Also, you’ll pick up some useful life skills that don’t necessarily come to you at school, even basic things like how to comport yourself in an office environment.

If you’re already in the work force, I recommend volunteering to build up your resume and make connections—there are so many non-profit organizations out there that can use marketing help. Don’t be afraid to network too. It seems like such a daunting thing, but really, it’s just a matter of saying, “Hey, I find your work interesting. Can you tell me more about it?”

Finally, build up your web skills.

Bonus question: What are you currently reading/do you want to recommend a book to the world?

I’m currently reading Call Me by Your Name, because I can’t see a movie before reading the book first.

Interview with a PhD Candidate and Course Instructor

Below is my interview with a brilliant PhD candidate who wishes to remain anonymous. I urge you to read it, and take a moment to think about the internalized discrimination in your own industry, and how that can affect the work and health of those around you. books-2596809_1920

Occupation: Phd Candidate, Course Instructor

What drove you to pursue your PhD?

After I completed my Masters, I was fairly certain I would never be back in school. I started working as a talent agent assistant and working in marketing and development, but fairly quickly I missed the opportunities I had at school to learn and to write. I missed the busy schedule and surprisingly, I missed the stress of trying to get it all done. Working was wonderful, but the 9-5 wasn’t the right fit for me. I love having control of my schedule and feeling like I am contributing to something that is important to me. I left the talent agency to pursue an MFA in film, and knew as soon as I got back to school that this was what I wanted to pursue. I started attending conferences and writing articles and applied to do a PhD in my second year of the MFA.

Can you tell me about your thesis?

My PhD thesis actually builds on my MFA project. It looks at queer women and non-binary artists in the theatre and performance industry. I thought at first it would be more quantitative, surveying the community and tallying up the lack of resources available to queer women and non-binary artists. As I continued to research and write, the project became more rooted in queer theory and performance analysis. The project doesn’t aim to count bodies or to survey the industry; others have done that before. Instead, my work questions how precarity influences representations on stage.

 What are some things you love about being a PhD candidate?

I love teaching and writing. We often forget to remind our undergraduate students that they are scholars, that they are developing and producing new ideas in the papers they write, in their research, and through their insights. I love when my students start to value their own contributions. It changes the commitment they have to the work, when they feel they are respected at that level. It is so important and it makes me feel like I am doing my job when I see them internalize that message.  I also love writing. Publishing and presenting my work and engaging in conversation is essential to maintaining my motivation to continue in this industry. It isn’t an easy one to stick with, there are many obstacles along the way, so it feels important to prioritize what I love about this world in order to cope with the stress and anxiety it brings.

What do you think is the most difficult part about your work?

We aren’t isolated from the problems that exist in other work places. Though many try to improve the university environment, there are problems with sexual assault in the academy, with homophobia, racism, white supremacy, abelism and settler colonialism. It plays out in who gets funding, whose work is valued, and how resources are allocated. Our students don’t have adequate access to mental health and wellness services, and neither do we as graduate students. The racism on campus is increasing with professors like Jordan Peterson vocalizing violent racist and sexist rhetoric on the internet and on campus. It can make the university feel very unsafe. I have a strong network of graduate students to work with to cope with these obstacles, and I try to provide my students with support and to create a space where we can openly talk about racism and sexism at the university. But, it is hard and it is draining. The people who take on this labour are the people who are most disenfranchised by it. It is exhausting, which impacts our research and our job prospects. It is a cycle in that the privileged students and faculty are not worn down by the effort. They can continue, if they choose, with business as usual. Those who resist inequities have to rush to get it all done. In a competitive industry like academia, this takes a toll not only on your mental health, but on your productivity and your ability to produce research and for graduate students to finish within their funded cohort. So, you need to decide early on what your priorities and values are, and to give yourself permission to take the time you need. Self care is incredibly important.

 How do you balance your teaching requirements with your own research?

I try to push through. There isn’t really another option. There is so much to do and all of it is important. Making lists and keeping my calendar up to date is a practical way to make sure it all gets done. But, the balance shifts depending on the week, or the day, or when it comes down to it, the hour!

How do you like to relax?

Physical activity is pretty important. Though maybe not “relaxing” in a conventional sense, it is how I try to spend my “me” time. It feels good to learn new skills with my body when so much of my work is done sitting still.

This interview series is about working women. Have there ever been times when being a woman has affected your work, or how you work? 

Yes. everyday and in everything that I do. Women have acquired significant rights and access, particularly  white women, but the emotional labour expected of women, and the additional obstacles that consistently arise because of internalized and conditioned sexism are as prevalent here as other work places. People don’t necessarily notice when they are being sexist, but look around the room in a meeting and see who is taking minutes, who is arranging food, who is providing care? Count the number of times women get interrupted, how quick men are to offer their opinion or take up space. These can be traces, tiny moments of power inequities. These can also appear to be kind gestures: holding open a door, giving a back rub, complimenting a dress. But the words we use and the behaviors we enact are inextricable from the ways we have been conditioned to view gender. This is entirely exacerbated for folks who inhabit multiple positions of marginalization, Indigenous women, Black women, Disabled women, experience these microaggressions and assaults simultaneously to other forms of oppression. The academy is hard for everyone. A neoliberal capitalist restructuring of higher education and the resulting insecurity of academic positions, makes this a competitive and difficult space for all PhDs and sessionals. But, for women, this can result in silencing and a culture of fear and secrecy. We are afraid to speak up about sexual assault or inappropriate behaviour because it could have lasting effects on our future job prospects. We don’t know who will be on a search committee or who will be a chair or dean when we are on the job market. We don’t want to be seen as ‘trouble makers’ or too feminist or too progressive. It is hard to be a woman in academia, but through the presence and support of incredible mentors and faculty members, PhD students and Masters students can learn to navigate this system. The women who have taught me have been essential to gaining voice and courage. Their strength is both an inspiration and an education.

Any advice for young people heading off to graduate school? Any hot tips for navigating the university environment?

Ask questions. Meet with Faculty. Talk to other students. Try to get a really solid picture of what the day-to-day experience is like at the department you are interested in. When you apply, find a supervisor who is passionate about their work, and who is truly interested in yours. Their excitement in supporting you early on is something I would look for and prioritize. It will make all of the difference during your degree and after when you are looking for work.

Bonus question: What are you currently reading/do you want to recommend a book to the world?

Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life. Go read it!

An Interview With… Me!


Being very mature.

As you’ve seen, I’ve been posting interviews with a bunch of awesome ladies. I thought it was high time I posted an “interview” with myself,  and let you peek behind the curtain of this blog!

What do you do for a living?

I’m the Sales and Marketing Coordinator for Trade titles at Oxford University Press Canada. Essentially, everything that isn’t a textbook, K-12, ESL, or modern language book is mine!

What drove you to publishing?

My background is in theatre, but it’s not exactly the most stable of professions. I wanted to find something that still allowed me to be creative and help bring projects to life. So I switched from scripts to books, and here I am!

What are some things you love about your job and your work?

I’m the only one on my team in Canada, so I have quite a lot of freedom and responsibility. My job description is constantly changing and I get to try new things all the time, as well as work with both big companies like Amazon and small ones like independent bookstores.
What do you think is the most difficult part about your work?

The same things that make my job great can also make it really challenging. I have a lot of freedom, but I also have to take on some pretty big challenges on my own. Taking on new projects is fun, but it can be lonely to troubleshoot things on your own.

Is there anything you’re working on right now that you want to share? Any exciting industry trends we should be aware of?

 Print is in, baby (she said from her online blog)! While I still appreciate the convenience of ebooks when I’m travelling, ebook sales have actually flatlined, and print is on the rise. Ebooks were supposed to be the death knell of the printed book, but it’s just not the case.

We saw a lot of independent bookstores close when Amazon and Indigo became popular, but the indies are actually starting to re-open. People are starting to gravitate back to bookstores in their communities that cater to their interests and have knowledgeable staff. Personalized recommendations from a bookstore owner tend to be more accurate than those coughed up by Amazon’s algorithms.

This interview series is about working women. Have there ever been times when being a woman has affected how you do your job (for better or worse)?

I’m fortunate that I’ve always felt very supported by my colleagues. Of course, I see instances where my decisions are questioned by external contacts when they see my name on the email, but accepted when a male colleague is involved. It always seems to take that much more work to be taken seriously if you’re a woman.

Bonus question: What are you currently reading/do you want to recommend a book to the world?

The toughest question of all! I just finished a couple of books that I quite enjoyed – The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel, and The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill. Two great Canadian novelists!

Interview with Ella Mazur

ECMazur Photo

Photo courtesy of ECMazur

Ella Mazur (known professionally as ECMazur) is a fantastic Toronto-based visual artist, working primarily and pen and ink, though she also has some fantastic pieces in other mediums. I had the pleasure of speaking with her recently about her life and her work. As someone who can’t even pull off a proportional stick figure, I was, needless to say, pretty impressed with her skill!

You go by EC Mazur, professionally. Any reason why you chose to do that, rather than your legal name?

I always used my initials when I was signing my artwork. My full name can be long on a piece of artwork, so when I started to create social media profiles and a website, it seemed natural to go with that. It’s ended up being a good way to have a little separation between my personal life and my professional life.

How long have you been an artist? What inspires your work?

I didn’t call myself an artist until I started sharing my work publicly. That was only about 2 and a half years ago! My work is inspired by nature – I end up drawing a lot of botanicals and animals, and lately I’ve been obsessed with drawing space and the stars.

How did you start out as an artist?
I took art in high school, and I always loved it,  but it didn’t become a serious hobby until I found myself travelling Europe for six months with a notebook and a ballpoint pen. I brought it to write with, but started doodling with the pen instead. I haven’t put down my pen since!

As an independent artist, it must be a lot of work to get people to see your pieces. What did you do to grow your brand?

Social media has been an immense help. I wasn’t active on any networks before I decided to start sharing my artwork online, so it’s been a slow learning process, but I’ve grown to enjoy my marketing efforts – especially on Instagram.
I also found the print on demand sites I use very helpful. You have your own profile page on these sites, which is a great landing page to show off your work. It’s a great way to meet other artists and have tons of great images to share on social media. Many of the  collaborations I’ve done have come from people finding me through my profile page.

What are some things you love about being an independent artist?
It’s always exciting! You never know what opportunities will present themselves next. I find having an online platform to be a constant source of motivation. I’m always eager to keep improving my craft and sharing with my network.

What is the hardest part about working independently?

Trying to learn everything! You have to know all aspects of business and marketing. It’s not an easy thing to master, and I’m not even close to figuring it out. There are a ton of resources available online though, and I’m enjoying the process of learning it all.

This series is about working women. Have there ever been times when being a woman has affected how you do your job (for better or worse)?

Selling through POD sites and online lets you be pretty anonymous, so I haven’t encountered challenges being a woman, or at least that I’m aware of. I’m definitely self-conscious when I’m posting pictures of myself on my social media platforms. It’s a necessary aspect – letting people put a face to the artist, and feel like they get to know you so that you can build a real relationship with your fans. But then you get comments on your looks instead of your artwork, and you start to worry about how you look; if your image is too girly or if people aren’t taking you seriously.

Any advice for aspiring artists?

Keep going! Being an artist is an emotional roller coaster — there are definitely many moments of self-doubt, but there are groups you can join with other supportive artists, and that can help you get through the rough patches. It’s important to remember that you are always improving and getting better, so don’t give up!

What are you up to this season? Where can people buy your art?

I’ll be at the Roncesvalles United Church holiday market in Toronto on Saturday, November 18th. There are two floors of really talented vendors, and it’s a great neighbourhood, so come by for brunch and some shopping!

Otherwise, my art is available as high-quality giclee prints and on a variety of products at! You can also find out more about me at or by following me on Instagram @ecmazurart.

 Any artists we should be checking out?

One of my favourite illustrators right now is Yuko Shimizu, who makes beautiful artwork using ink as her main medium. Art is actually her second career, so she’s definitely a constant source of inspiration for me!

Check out this time lapse of Ella’s drawings (video courtesy of the artist).

An interview with Valentina D’Aliesio

This week I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Valentina D’Aliesio. She’s the Ancillaries Coordinator at Oxford University Press Canada. It’s a very busy job, so if anyone needs project management or organization tips, you should hit her up!
What exactly is an Ancillaries Coordinator?
 I am responsible for the coordinating and editing of the supplemental material that comes along with textbooks –  manuals, guides, test banks, and all that fun stuff!
How long have you been in your role?
I’ve been working with ancillaries since September of this year, but I’ve been with OUP since 2014 starting out as an editorial assistant.

Valentina D’Aliesio

How did you get into your job?

I’ve always loved books and wanted to work closely with them! At first, I studied journalism in university and worked for various outlets but quickly learned the freelancer life was not for me. I enjoyed editing much more than writing, which led me to enrol in the Humber publishing course. After completing the program and gaining experience in both trade and academic publishing, I wound up at OUP!
What’ s the best part of your job?
I love that I get to work on something new every day – there is not a moment when I’m short for work. It’s fast-paced and hardly ever boring. I am also lucky to work with some of the kindest and smartest co-workers you could ask for. I learn something new from the people around me every day.
What about the hardest part?
I have a high number of projects on the go at any given time, so making sure they all stay on schedule can be a challenge.
This series is about working women. Have there ever been times when being a woman has affected how you do your job (for better or worse)? 
Having worked in an industry dominated by women for a number of years now, I’ve been fortunate enough to develop strong professional relationships with many talented and inspiring women. Having such strong female support and friendship early on in my career has been such a positive influence in my day-to-day working life!
Do you have any advice for any other women who want to get into publishing?
I will dish out advice I received in my publishing course – network! You have to network early on. Attend publishing events, book launches, etc. with classmates and introduce yourself. Know the presses, the editors, and do your homework. Publishing in Toronto is a pretty small industry – you will cross paths with the same people over and over again. Make them remember you.
Bonus question: What are you currently reading/do you want to recommend a book to the world? 
I just picked up The Power by Naomi Alderman – it won the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, so I’m expecting good things!

Interview with Dr. Elizabeth Ritter

books-2596809_1920Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Elizabeth Ritter, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Calgary. She’s fabulous, and so is her advice.

What put you on the path of academia? What made you want to become a professor and linguist?

When I was a kid I lost things a lot, and I was constantly being told that I was an absent-minded professor, so that was the first bit.

In high school I had to choose between the linguistics stream and literature stream in English. I picked linguistics and LOVED it. But when I went to university my school didn’t have a linguistics program, so I didn’t pursue it immediately. I didn’t come back to until after I finished my B.Comm, decided NOT to become an accountant and spent 6 months in Israel, in an immersion program in Hebrew trying to figure out what to do next. In class I spent a lot of time wondering why some students struggled with language learning, and why different bits of the grammar where difficult for students with different first languages, and realized that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So I went back to university to re-train… and that was that.

What are some things you love about your job and your work?

I love it when my first year students fall in love with linguistics, when my graduate students figure out what they want to do their theses on, and when in my own research I discover something new.

What do you think is the most difficult part about your work? Grading poor work, struggling with an analysis, writing anything up.

What has changed about the world of academia since you started out as a student (or a professor)?

The skill sets of my students – they used to know some basic grammar when they entered first year. Now they are PowerPoint whizzes. They used to know how to take notes, now they expect to download my slides. Everything moves faster now, and almost everything that has been written recently is available online.

Is there anything you’re working on right now that you want to share?

I am writing a couple of papers that I am hoping to publish.

This interview series is about working women. Have there ever been times when being a woman has affected how you do your job (for better or worse)?

I remember when a female linguist was giving a colloquium talk, and the room was PACKED. In the middle of her talk, she walked to the front of the room where there were a couple of chairs and took one over to somebody who arrived late, and was standing in the back. She didn’t stop talking. That was so cool – I remember thinking that I wanted to be like that – brilliant linguist and caring maternal, human being… I’m pretty sure a male speaker would never have done that.

Any advice for aspiring academics, or those about to enter university?

Follow your passions, be who you are. There are a lot of ways to be a great academic.

Bonus question: What are you currently reading/do you want to recommend a book to the world?

Recreationally, I am currently reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Do Not Say We Have Nothing and am re-reading a short story collection from 1989 edited by Margaret Atwood. I recommend reading books that challenge your thinking, that push your boundaries… whatever that means to you.

Sweater Weather Wars

It may not feel like it, but winter is, ostensibly, coming. This means winter weather, and with the cold comes the constant chess match of changing the office thermostat. It’s a tough one to deal with, because everyone has a different idea of what “dressing for the weather” means. In many office settings, this is complicated by what men and women are supposed to wear to comply with office dress codes, gender norms, and fashion trends.

This means that on any given day, a woman may come to the office in a skirt, sweater, and tights, and her male colleague may arrive in a full suit. What do you set the thermostat at then?! If it’s anything like my office, it’s set to the industry standard, which is based on the average male employee in a suit. This means that in many offices, most of the women have a sweater, blanket, or scarf stashed at their desks for the colder days.

It’s tough. No thermostat setting is ever going to make everyone comfortable, and you can’t spend your whole day fiddling with the dial just to try. But maybe it’s time to rethink the default settings in our working life. Is 23 degrees really the right temperature? And for that matter, is 9-5 the best way to get the most out of your employees? Women have been in the workplace for a long time now – maybe it’s time to start reconsidering how offices are built for them.

All the same, I’m still glad it’s fall. Bring on sweater weather!


Sex and Power in the workplace

painting-2611922_1920I know I promised you some interviews, and they’re coming. But something came up this week that I felt like I had to write about.

Now, I wanted to feature women and female-identifying folks on my blog because even in 2017, women are still under-represented in leadership roles, and under-paid at every level. We all know that this is an issue (and if you don’t, you need to catch up to the rest of us), but I never dreamed that this issue would be brought to the fore so disturbingly this week.

The revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual abuse has forced the conversation about sexual violence in the workplace to the forefront. We all know that sexual assault is about power rather than pleasure, and given that women are disproportionally shut out of leadership roles, it is unsurprising that they are predominately the victims of workplace sexual assault.

What is perhaps most telling about the Weinstein saga is how unsurprising it was to so many. Whether or not they know Weinstein personally, I guarantee every woman you know has some sort of sexual harassment scenario – most likely have too many to count. The power imbalance between men and women has been going on since time immemorial, and it has allowed this kind of fear-mongering power display to fester. Getting groped at the office or ignoring insulting asides from coworkers is commonplace, and women have been forced to adopt a “keep calm and carry on” attitude as they navigate office politics.

I’m fortunate that in my career, I’ve experienced relatively little sexual harassment in the workplace, and certainly nothing to the extent of Harvey Weinstein’s victims. I have, however, experienced my fair share of misogyny, and it’s all part and parcel of the same thing. Women are seen as less valuable, and so their opinions are less valued. Women are seen as possessions and trophies, and so many men see themselves as entitled to touch or take them, consent and professionalism be damned.

I’m not saying any of this to be dramatic (which, because I’m one of those “emotional females,” I feel like I have to explicitly state), but rather to lay out the facts. No matter the job, whether it’s student, or office worker, stay at home mom, or actor, women have to put on a suit of armour just to walk out the door every morning. There’s a culture change that needs to happen, and it needs to start with men. Sexual harrasment and assault shouldn’t be part of “a day at the office.”


Coming soon…

I’m embarking on a series called “Women at Work.”

I’ll be conducting interviews with women or female-identifying folks about what it’s like to be a working woman in the 21st century. We’ll explore what it’s like to make a living in the 21st century, and you’ll hear from millennial trying to establish themselves, as well as a few women who are farther along the career path. We’ll talk passion, work-life balance, and fighting for a place at the table. I’ve got a really great line-up of people, on all sorts of different career paths. I’d also love to hear from you! If you have any thoughts or stories about your working life, feel free to share them in the comments or get in touch.

In addition to these interviews, I’ll be posting some of my own thoughts about working life. There have been a lot of news stories lately about the difficulties women face on the job, from misogyny, to wage inequality, to not being taken seriously. I’ll be writing about these as well, and am looking forward to your comments.

I think this is going to be a great series, but the first interview isn’t quite ready yet. Until it drops, please enjoy this picture of Walter the dog.IMG_0905