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Truth About Assistants: Interview with Felicity Disco, assistant to Maureen Johnson

With the stress of writing, not to mention keeping up with blogs/Twitter/Angry Birds, and oh yeah that family too, pretty much every writer has thought about hiring an assistant. But what would an assistant really do? In further exploration of assistants and the writers that love them, YA Highway interviewed Felicity Disco, currently Maureen Johnson's right-hand woman, about what she does.

Firstly, tell us a little about yourself!
I'm a twentysomething who lives in New England. I have a BA in Literary Studies and an MS in Library & Information Science. I spend a lot of time reading, writing, knitting, playing with Kitten Disco, and going to Brother Disco's college football games. I have a full time regular 9-5 job in addition to my work for Maureen, and do some various freelance work as well.

Have you worked as a personal assistant or something similar before working with Maureen Johnson?
I worked as a part-time administrative assistant in college, briefly, but that's as close as I got.

How did you come to be Maureen's assistant? 
Earlier this year, Maureen ran some awesome fundraisers for Shelterbox. I volunteered to help her with the administrative side of that, and organized everything into a spreadsheet for her. After that happened a few times with fundraisers, she asked me to help keep her organized in other areas of her live as well!

How long have you worked with Maureen? 
Several months now.

What are some activities that are a part of your job? 
It really varies based on what Maureen has going on. You know how she'll tweet "Hey, I just had THIS IDEA"? Well, that generally means that I start figuring out how to keep that idea from blowing up Maureen and/or the Internet.

What does a typical day look like for your job? 
Have you READ Maureen's tweets? There is no typical. :)

What's your favorite part of the job? 
I went to LeakyCon with Maureen and helped her organize Lit Day. That was a blast. Also, Sherlock.

Least favorite? 
I honestly can't think of anything! Well, I am mostly an online assistant, and I do wish I lived closer so I could work with Maureen in person more often.

Do you know/hang out with other literary assistants? 
I met Cassie Clare and Holly Black's former assistant Alex, and chat with him on Twitter, but he's gone off to do other things and doesn't work for them anymore. There are a few others I know a bit on Twitter but have not met in person.

Are you a writer yourself? 
I am!

Do you have much time to focus on your own work? 
I freelance for several different online publications, so that writing tends to take time away from my fiction writing. It's a balancing act, and it's different at different times of year, too. I'm constantly trying to be aware of how I'm spending my time and how to spend more time doing the things I want to be doing.

A lot of writers dream of having an assistant, but in your opinion, at what point does having an assistant make sense for a writer?
I think they should consider it whenever they have enough "stuff" (web site updates, fan mail, etc.) to significantly distract them from the writing they want to be doing. Even having someone go through stuff for an hour or two a week could be helpful, and that would be pretty affordable for most people.

Would you recommend seeking work as an assistant to aspiring writers/publishing professionals?I LOVE my job, but I would not recommend it as a stepping stone to anything else, no. If you want to get into publishing, a traditional internship is probably the way to go. Also, for this work, being logical and organized is more important than knowing anything about publishing.

Thanks so much for giving us that insight, Felicity! Check out more about Felicity on her blog, and on Tumblr and Twitter.
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  1. I love this idea of a post. Thanks for the interview! Very insightful!

  2. I talked to Felicity when we were both in the audience at the Diversity in YA panel in Cambridge, MA -- it's great to see her interviewed here!

    YA Lit really is a small world.

    Holly W.


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