Claudia Gabel ’00
Ten years ago, when Claudia Gabel ’00 was handed her Master of Arts in English and American literature from Hofstra University, she thought she would walk off the stage and in the direction of a Ph.D. Instead, she moved to New York City and became a children’s book writer and editor.
Claudia came to Hofstra one year after graduating from Binghamton University with a B.A. in literature and rhetoric, hoping to pursue a career in academics. She’d loved books ever since kindergarten, and enjoyed talking about the power of prose with anyone who would listen to her. Naturally, she thought of becoming a professor — she’d be able to discuss books with people all the time … and get paid for it!
However, Claudia had another passion that was just as great — creative writing. While she attended Hofstra, she wrote her first full-length novel, and, in between classes, she dreamed about sharing her stories with an audience that went beyond her family and friends.
After leaving Hofstra, the time had come to decide on whether to apply to a Ph.D. program or get a job. Claudia sought out her teachers at Hofstra for advice. When told of the harsh reality facing Ph.D. students — few job opportunities and shrinking college budgets — Claudia chose to pursue her interest in books in a totally different fashion: through the publishing industry.
In late 2000 she took an editorial assistant job at HarperCollins Publishers, where she worked behind the scenes with two senior editors on a bunch of best-selling books, including Have a Nice Day! by WWE wrestling superstar Mick Foley and To Hell and Back by recording artist Meatloaf. From 2001 until 2002, she was an assistant editor at Crown Publishers, where she helped bring more books to life, including memoirs from celebrities like KISS front man Gene Simmons and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
In 2003 Claudia became an editor at Alloy Entertainment, a multimedia company that develops books, movies, and TV shows for teen audiences, including the CW’s Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries. There, she created and edited several best-selling books, including the Summer Boys series by Hailey Abbott. In 2005 Claudia moved over to Random House Children’s Books as an editor and continued her work on novels for teens and middle grade readers — a genre of books she has really grown to love.
In 2007 Claudia’s first Young Adult series, IN OR OUT, was published by Scholastic/Point. The four books are loosely based on her life and feature two best friends who grow apart during their freshman year of high school. Teen readers e-mail Claudia almost every day, thanking her for writing about how to deal with cliques … and crushes on boys.
Currently, Claudia is a senior editor at Katherine Tegen Books, and her next novel, Romeo and Juliet and Vampires, will be published by HarperTeen in August 2010.
This summer she will also be teaching a writing class for Mediabistro.com, a career site for media professionals. So, in a way, she got to be a professor after all.
What is your edge (strength)?
Connecting with people through writing.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without Hofstra’s supportive faculty and my student peers.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What was your major?
English and American literature.
What was your favorite class?
It’s difficult to choose just one, because I absolutely loved the English Department’s graduate courses. The ones I remember most were “From City to Suburb,” “Memoir Writing,” and “Milton.” Great 20th-century novels, fascinating autobiographies, and Paradise Lost — what more can a book junkie like me ask for?
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
Many of my fondest memories of Hofstra are from my time as a graduate assistant at Alumni House. I really enjoyed connecting with members of the Hofstra community when I worked at events like Homecoming Weekend, and writing up all the class notes for the Hofstra Magazine.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
When I was about 6 years old, I fell in love with books — both reading and writing them! So it comes as no surprise that I ended up working in book publishing, as an editor and an author. All the comparative literature classes I took at Hofstra gave me the critical thinking skills that are needed to be an effective book editor, and the creative writing courses challenged me a lot. I was able to forge successful careers on several fronts because of that, and I consider myself very lucky to be part of an industry that has enriched my life ever since I was a little girl.
Who in your field do you most admire?
Without a doubt, Judy Blume. She came into the office one day, and I ran up to her like a crazed fan. After I shook her hand, all I could say to her was, “You have really soft skin.” Pathetic, but true.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
I was an editorial assistant at the ReganBooks imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Judith Regan is infamous for her outrageous personality, but I was awed by her ability to anticipate trends in the marketplace and come up with ideas for best-selling books. The office was always bustling and no one had any time to train me, so I had to learn the ropes myself by doing. My experience there was dizzying, exciting, and energy-depleting, but when I moved on to my next job, I knew I could take on anything.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Obtaining a college degree is a great achievement, but it doesn’t mean that when you enter the “real world,” you can skip all the entry-level grunt work. Once you graduate, you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the totem pole again at your first job — and that’s OK. Showing your new bosses how diligent, eager, and unflappable you are while you answer phones and make copies is more valuable than flashing them your diploma. Also, if you have a dream job in mind, pursue it doggedly — in my opinion, doing what you love brings more fulfillment to your life than the size of your paycheck.
How do you balance work and life?
I work from 9-5 at my editorial job; then I write at night and on weekends. I also teach a writing class once a week, so sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed. But I always make time for the people I love, because hanging out with my family and friends brings such joy to my heart — and great story ideas to my head!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Is it cliché to say married with children and a house with a picket fence? Ah well, I’ll say it anyway. I’d also like to have a few more books and maybe even a couple screenplays under my belt.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
When my book was published, definitely. I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a store and saw something I wrote on the shelves. Second runner-up would be when a book I edited receives a starred review and/or an award. It’s such an amazing feeling!
Do you have a favorite quote or saying that has kept you motivated through the years?
“We read to know we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis.
When you were a young adult, what books do you remember reading and enjoying?
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle — I read that book in second grade and I felt transported to another world. I wanted to be a part of recreating that experience somehow. Who knew that when I grew up, I’d actually have the chance? I also was a fan of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. How I wished Ramona lived next-door to me back then — I really wanted her to be my best friend.
Is there a book you remember reading that made you say, “I am going to be an author one day!”?
Oh yeah. Junior year of high school. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. That book still inspires me … and gives me chills
After a long day at work, is there a particular type of reading or writing that helps you relax?
I’m a huge magazine reader, but nothing too tabloid-y (unless I’m at the nail salon, of course). I have subscriptions to Entertainment Weekly, Wired, The Economist, Variety, Glamour, and New York Magazine. Believe it or not, one or two book ideas have come out of these!