English alumnus pockets the red pen
Orlando Dos Reis finds fulfillment as editor at Scholastic
March 9, 2023
Like many English majors, Orlando Dos Reis’ love for books began with children’s literature and young adult novels. Unlike many people, though, Dos Reis was able to convert this passion into a career.
Dos Reis, a 2010 graduate of Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing, now works as an acquisitions editor at Scholastic, one of the largest publishing houses for children’s literature.
Dos Reis will return to Virginia Tech on March 21 to discuss his experience as an editor with Scholastic and how his English major helped guide him there. The event will be held at at 12 p.m. in Shanks Hall 370/380.
His path to Scholastic began at Virginia Tech, in Kaye Graham’s classroom where he learned about children’s literature as an academic pursuit for the first time.
Graham, a former professor in the Department of English, taught an introduction to children’s literature class, which Dos Reis chose as an elective course during his undergraduate studies.
“I was able to learn about the literature that really got me excited about reading and writing, and those stories inspired me to pursue the creative writing degree,” Dos Reis said. It was through this class that he connected with Graham, who served as his mentor during the rest of his time at the university.
Graham’s children’s literature course allowed him to study the stories he loved as a child and showed him the importance of children’s literature. He said he noticed a tendency in academia to belittle or infantilize children’s literature because of its audience, and that he wanted to pursue further studies in the field to show its value. Literature geared toward children is, for many people, how they learn to read and love literature, making it a significant part of literacy and English studies.
During his time at the university, he wrote a paper about children’s literature that was accepted into a conference, further solidifying his wish to pursue children’s literature academically. For Dos Reis, Graham’s class and his connection to her allowed him to incorporate his passions into his study, something he recommends for all students. As advice for current students, Dos Reis encourages students to go to office hours and connect with faculty.
“Generally speaking, people want to see you succeed and want to be helpful, but they can’t read your mind,” he said. “You have to go up to them and speak with them.”
Following his time at Virginia Tech, Dos Reis acquired a Master of Arts in children’s literature from Kansas State and attended the Denver Publishing Institute. What began as a hiatus from academia led to his first internship in children’s literature, managing editorial with Bloomsbury USA.
From there, Dos Reis’ first job was with Abrams Books, publisher of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. Following that, he accepted a job with Scholastic, where he has worked since 2017.
A typical day for Dos Reis is not what you might imagine, though.
“I had this romanticized idea of what editing is, and publishing is especially difficult to imagine because it’s so opaque,” he said. “I pictured I’d sit at my desk with stacks of paper all around me and read manuscripts and ponder the art of it all. That’s a part of it, but it’s not all of it — not by a long shot.”
As an acquisitions editor, Dos Reis’ day-to-day duties stray ever farther from the stereotypical image of an editor with a red pen in hand, worrying about grammar. Instead, his primary role as an editor is to find and develop projects and authors.
Acquiring new work can happen in many ways. The more traditional pipeline for a work to follow is that a publisher receives submissions and pitches from agents who represent authors. With these kind of projects, Dos Reis helps develop the editorial vision and mold the work from the pitches, manuscripts, or sample pages he receives into what the books will look like as final products.
Dos Reis also acquires new work through intellectual property development, which means that he comes up with ideas for books based on what the publisher needs. Once the idea is approved, he seeks writers interested in the concept. These potential writers range from aspiring to published authors. Dos Reis’ time studying creative writing contributes to his current career not only through idea development, but also by helping him to understand how authors connect with their work.
“I got a sense of what it’s like to be a writer and creator and what it’s like to give feedback,” he said.
The act of sharing writing can be very vulnerable, and Dos Reis’ own experience studying English helped him learn how to give feedback on writing and navigate these emotions.
The editorial process that Dos Reis contributes to is a myriad of different tasks, tailored to what is most helpful for different authors and their work style. What counts as editing, Dos Reis has learned, is a wide range of tasks, from reading and taking notes, to writing editorial letters, to talking on the phone for hours with authors. As an editor, he acts as an advocate for the author and is at the center of the development of the project, working with the text from manuscript to marketing to publication.
Like with any job, working in publishing requires Dos Reis to navigate many different personalities, and different editors have their own personal style. Communication skills, public speaking, copywriting, networking, project management, and many other proficiencies contribute to his career, which he notes requires a surprisingly extroverted personality.
The industry of publishing can be siloed by location, Dos Reis said, as most publishing careers require employees to live in New York City. This is what led Dos Reis to the Denver Publishing Institute initially, as the two other major publishing institutions, New York University and Columbia, are located there. Knowing he would return to the city to work after attending the institute, Dos Reis opted for this geographic change. He said this exclusionary characteristic of publishing and the questions around how its limited geographic location allows or denies access to certain groups, makes it difficult to enter the field. So, networking can play an important role in becoming part of this industry.
For current Virginia Tech students aspiring to work in the publishing industry, Dos Reis said his time working at the Writing Center was helpful in establishing a strong foundation in reading and responding to writing. He continued to hone these skills as he taught first year composition while he pursued his masters. Working with college students and their writing in both capacities taught him how to critique structure and discuss language, which directly contributes to his work writing editorial letters now.
Dos Reis is living the dream of many English majors — working at a publishing company in New York — and his experience shows that studies in English can allow one to leverage a passion for reading into a successful career.
Written by Hannah Ballowe, a graduate student in the Master of Arts in English Program.