Emily Behnke joined the American Booksellers Association staff last month as Junior Writer/Researcher for ABA’s weekly e-newsletter, Bookselling This Week (BTW).
Working under ABA Content Development Director Sydney Jarrard, Behnke creates content for BTW and for the association website, including trade and business-related news; association news and updates; educational material; and other relevant information to help member bookstores operate more successfully and profitably. In her new position, Behnke also works with ABA’s Liz Button, who in May was promoted from BTW Writer/Researcher to Senior Writer/Researcher.
Behnke’s other areas of concern at ABA include identifying trends in bookselling, publishing, and retailing to help enrich education and information content development; generating new ideas for content; developing, and maintaining strong relationships with booksellers for future articles; creating, proofreading, and posting content on the ABA website; participating in the production of the newsletter; and assisting in editing and proofreading of materials generated by other ABA departments.
Behnke has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and began classes for an MFA in creative writing at The New School in New York City this month. At Manhattanville, she worked as a writing tutor, interned at the college’s Office of Communications, and was the poetry editor of her college’s literary magazine, stepping up to editor-in-chief her junior year. She also interned during college as an editorial assistant at Westchester Magazine in Rye, New York, and at Folio Literary Management in New York City.
A bookstore-lover to the core, Behnke told BTW that where she lives in Connecticut there are several wonderful indies she has always loved going to, including The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot and Byrd’s Books in Bethel. Among her many jobs during college, she also worked for a short time as a bookseller at the Bank Street Book Nook in New Milford, Connecticut.
“Working at an indie bookstore gave me the opportunity to experience a community of readers,” said Behnke. “I worked mostly weekends, so I usually sat behind the counter and talked to customers about books. I’m otherwise a pretty introverted person, but I really enjoy recommending books.”
“I love that indie bookstores can be a local spot for not only readers, but everyone in the community,” added Behnke. “While a lot of my job was recommending books, I also found myself recommending other small businesses. Some people would stop by to pick up a book or card and end up asking for the best floral shop around or where to bring their family for dinner, and I would literally turn my computer monitor around and help them search if we weren’t too busy.”
As a child, Behnke said, she was always reading, something that just continued into adulthood. Literature she loves includes Virginia Woolf and the Brontë sisters as well as Gothic literature. She names Helen Oyeyemi’s White Is for Witching (Nan. A Talese), Michael Cunningham’s The Hours (FSG), and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (W.W. Norton) as three of her favorite books, plus Layli Long Soldier and Marie Howe as two of her favorite poets.
Behnke said she applied for the job at ABA after one of her Manhattanville professors e-mailed her and a few other students about it. When she saw that the position combined both of her favorite things — bookstores and writing — she knew she had to apply. What Behnke loves best about her new job is being able to write in some capacity every single day, she told BTW.
“So far, I’ve loved interviewing authors for the Kids’ Indie Next List; I feel very lucky that reading has become a part, albeit a smaller part, of my job description,” she said. “As an active supporter of independent bookstores and other small businesses in my own life, I love being part of an organization that supports that effort.”