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Imprinting change: seven women in the book industry who are encouraging diversity

Emily M. Keeler (illustration: Chris MacDonald)

Emily M. Keeler

In just three years, 27-year-old Emily M. Keeler has gone from being a 50-book-challenge blogger to a sought-out, respected literary critic, editor, and journalist with one of the most coveted book media jobs in the country.

The short path Keeler traversed from unknown scribe to books editor at the National Post started with an informal meeting with Rachel Rosenfelt, editor of The New Inquiry, who took a chance on then-unpublished Keeler, accepting her pitch for an essay on “female genius.” TNI’s literary editor bungled the piece so badly, Rosenfelt fired him and offered Keeler his job. Then the floodgates of freelance opened, unleashing stints running the #LitBeat Tumblr for The Millions, editing for Joyland, and writing a column for Hazlitt – wherein she made international news for her now infamous interview with David “I’m not interested in teaching books by women” Gilmour – and bylines in the Los Angeles Times, Maisonneuve, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Walrus, and many others, including Q&Q.

“I was very lucky to be standing in exactly right place at the right time, over and over again,” says Keeler. But luck only had so much to do with it. Keeler also introduced her own lauded magazine, Little Brother, with her partner­ ­­Charles Yao in 2012, as a venue for fostering and showcasing new writing talent, an idea she appears to be carrying forward in her position at the Post. “It is really important to me that as many kinds of voices are heard as possible,” says Keeler. “Because that is what it means to live with other people, and that is one of the things that is amazing about humanity.”

The section now features a weekly column on children’s and YA books, written by former Worn editor Anna Fitzpatrick, adding both a new voice to the paper and some much-needed coverage for a segment of the industry that is largely ignored. Keeler says that dearth of attention was one of the things she knew she wanted to rectify when she took over.

“Canadian kids’ books are sold well all over the world,” says Keeler. “We have, like, a renaissance of Canadian illustrators who are doing incredible work – it’s nuts that this is yet another time in Canada where no one wants to be first.” – Dory Cerny