Phoebe Robinson on Her New Imprint and Anti-Racism Reading Lists
In Conversation with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review Podcast
This week on The Maris Review, Phoebe Robinson joins Maris Kreizman to discuss her new essay collection, Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes, out now from Tiny Reparations, Phoebe’s new publishing imprint.
On reading submissions for her new imprint:
I think what helps is right now we’re set to publish three to five books per year. I think I would eventually like for us to double that to 10 or even 15, but I never want this imprint to publish 60 books a year. So it’s manageable. I’m in a space where if something comes in and it really sounds interesting and my editor Amber Oliver is really excited about it, I can wake up early or be like, “Okay, I guess I won’t Netflix tonight and I’ll read this instead.” But usually I know right away. Or if I’m like, let me read the first 100 pages because it’s not all the way there, but I think there’s enough potential where Amber could really work her magic and get it to the next level, then I’ll do that. When there’s stuff where the idea is great but the execution is not that great, we can dip out after 60 pages. We tried, it’s okay.
On trying to make a living as a writer:
People think writing is so glamorous. We’re constantly underpaid. We’re constantly pushed up against deadlines. It’s so difficult to write a book under normal circumstances. My first advance was $50,000, which is not bad. But that’s spread out over 18 months; I have to pay my literary agent, I have to pay my manager, I have to pay my taxes. [By the time you get your first check] it’s like nothing, and you have to do all of these freelance gigs in order to survive. [A livable advance] makes the writing process so much easier because your attention is not divided with, “I’ve gotta get this work so I can pay rent,” and that’s taking away from writing the book of your dreams.
On anti-racist reading lists:
I do think a lot of those books are valuable and necessary. But I think it’s very easy, as I wrote about in my book, to get caught up in the idea of, here’s this new book! Let me highlight these things and I’ll keep learning and keep “studying.” But you’re not actually applying any of the things that you’re learning to your actual life. If you want to support authors who write this, absolutely! Ibram X. Kendi is fantastic, Ijeoma Oluo is amazing, Austin Channing Brown is great. But that is not where the work should stop. There are Black people who write poetry, novels, romance, YA. All that stuff should be read. I think if we limit ourselves to the [idea that] the only worthy work from the Black community is talking about pain and struggle and trauma, that does a disservice to all the authors out there. It also allows people to not see Black people as anything other than their suffering.
Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comedian, writer, producer, and actress. She’s the cocreator and costar of the hit podcast and series of TV specials 2 Dope Queens. She’s also a New York Times bestselling author whose latest essay collection is called Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes, and it’s the first book out from Tiny Reparations Books, Phoebe’s new imprint at Dutton/PRH.