Alumnae/i Feature

Curating the Eric Carle Museum's Bookstore with Eliza Brown '10MFA

Why did you decide to attend Simmons?

I was in my senior year as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a guest speaker came into my children’s literature class. It was Megan Dowd Lambert who at the time worked at The Eric Carle Museum and was a Simmons Children’s Literature graduate. Hearing her speak about her work at The Carle and studying children’s literature at Simmons was so inspiring, I remember thinking, “that’s exactly what I want to do!” and I went up to her after class to talk more about it. It was her enthusiastic encouragement that eventually got me my job at The Carle and got me to apply to Simmons during their inaugural satellite campus year at The Carle in 2008.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Children's Literature?

Eric Carle and Eliza Brown in 2012
Eric Carle and Eliza Brown in 2012

I’ve always had such a passion for children’s literature throughout high school and college but didn’t think about it as a career path or major direction of study until working with Masha Rudman at UMass during my undergraduate studies. Each year she held a conference at UMass and through my years of volunteering at the conference I was able to meet the creators of some of my favorite books, as well as editors and agents and other professionals who had built their careers around these books that I loved.

Through the conference, I met the editor at Barefoot Books who offered me an internship in my junior year. Once I entered the world of children’s books at a publishing house, I knew I had found my people and started to look for opportunities for a career in children’s literature.

What should we know about the Eric Carle Museum?

We’re not just Eric Carle! In the bookstore, we carry over 7,000 titles in about 40 different languages. We rotate through multiple exhibitions a year and keep titles from past featured artists in stock — so it may be one of the few brick-and-mortar stores where you can walk in and find every title in print by favorite children’s book creators like Maurice Sendak or Margaret Wise Brown.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Every bookseller knows there’s truly nothing better than finding the right customer for the right book. It’s always so satisfying when a customer buys a book you’ve recommended just to them, but it’s extra special when the same customers keep coming back for more because they trust your recommendations. It’s the relationship that forms between book-lovers that makes the bookstore such a warm and rewarding community.

What leadership skills did you learn at Simmons that have helped you succeed in your career?

Eliza Brown with the late Simmons professor Susan Bloom presenting the best books of the year list in 2018
Eliza Brown with the late Simmons professor Susan Bloom presenting the best books of the year list in 2018.

I’m such an introvert — probably most book people are, honestly. But my years at Simmons truly helped me become so much more confident and empowered, especially when speaking and presenting. I started out hardly speaking in my classes and being so hesitant to voice my opinions, but now you can’t shut me up once I get going talking about children’s books!

The small, intimate classes filled with students who shared my same passion for children’s literature provided a unique environment where I could feel safe and comfortable speaking my mind, offering criticism or conflicting views, and taking ownership and pride for my hard work.

The professors — especially the amazing Cathie Mercier — kindly, but strategically, forced me to speak up and to share my thoughts because they were worth hearing. I now manage a staff of booksellers, curate an entire bookstore of titles based on my personal opinions, chat with customers and regularly talk books in professional settings. I use the knowledge that I gained at Simmons to think critically about children’s books every day in my current job.

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