Urban Book Source
Susan Hampstead, the Senior Editor of Don Diva Magazine, and owner of Hampstead Publishing, is certainly one person dedicated to the cause. Noticing that a lot of incarcerated authors were being denied the time and opportunity they deserved, Susan decided to take it into her own hands to publish them. Never letting any talent go to waste Susan was soon dUBSed “The Recycler” for her uncanny ability to fix up previously lackluster novels, into attention grabbing reads. Read on to learn the inside scoop on what it’s like being an editor for Don Diva.
UBS: What do you think of urban literature as of right now?
Susan: I’m impressed by it. I’m impressed by our people that have gone forth and pursued an industry and art that they know nothing of and managed to conquer it. I’m speaking more of the street lit when I say this. I do feel like a lot of folks need to step their game up and take some more time with their product but I love the fact that we are able to communicate our thoughts, ideas, culture and make those who were never interested in reading, pick up a book or magazine.
UBS: Who do you think has it easier, magazine editors or book editors, and why?
Susan: That’s an easy question. For me, I’d say book editors. You don’t’ have to do a lot of chopping down. Or deal with a lot of personalities. You can pretty much leave a lot of it alone. You don’t have to worry about what message is being conveyed because you pretty much leave that up to the author. At the magazine I get tons of articles that you have to make a lot of tough decisions on. It requires a lot more thinking and a lot of back and forth with the writer. When I change something an author writes verses changing something a contributing writer of an article does, I get a lot more tension from the contributing writer. They’re the ones who did that interview. It could have taken them all day to conduct an interview with someone, because a lot of subjects are difficult, and then I come in there and make it seem like a two minute interview—that’s painful for me to do and painful for the writer to see get done. A lot of times articles don’t even make it to press. Now that hurts!
UBS: Do you enjoy the fast pace of magazine editing?
Susan: I do. It’s challenging and I love a challenge.
UBS: On average, how long does it take you to edit an article?
Susan: There are a lot of elements to consider and stories vary in length and topic. Sometimes I read something 20 times just to understand what needs to be done with it. So I can feel the flow of it more and see where it’s bumpy and what has to be smoothed out.
UBS: What are some of your favorite article topics?
Susan: I love sex and relationship articles. I think they’re the most shocking and revealing and I think that out of all of the things that Don Diva has broken ground with—it’s the way we handle that topic that helps us stand out from the rest. We’re so raw about it and break it down for everyone to understand. I also love the way we educate the people with our “News U Can Use” section. There’s stuff that we talk about that CNN talks about but we cater to our people. We make them understand the law and politics.
UBS: There seems to be tension between magazine editors and book editors at times, have you ever experienced that?
Susan: No. I think because I do both I can’t see what others would see. Or maybe I see more so I can deal with it. But to me and for me there is no tension.
UBS: How do you juggle your time being editor of Don Diva Magazine and running your own publishing company?
Susan: Shae and Jessica. Those are my partners at the publishing company and they hold me DOWN! Doing both things and being a single mother is time consuming but these women make it an easier transition for me. Also, with Don Diva being a quarterly magazine, I have more time than the average monthly publication to meet deadlines.
UBS: Can you tell us about Street Team by Joe Black?
Susan: It’s about 4 dudes from the BX. I sum it up by saying this: The brains, the killer, the soldier and the weak link. Street Team was an underground sleeper! When I say, ‘underground’, I mean it. It doesn’t get more underground than the prison system and that’s where that book came from. In its rawest form, it was a handwritten manuscript that was shuffled around federal prisons for years. It was making noise long before a lot of these other successful street lit surfaced. I had a lot of letters sent to me at the magazine about it, when I was giving shine to other authors that were on the street in the magazine. I took a look at it as well as some other manuscripts from Robert Booker and Rogelio Ferrer and drew the conclusion that I needed to be in publishing because these guys were being slept on due to their present circumstances.
UBS: With Urban fiction receiving a lot of flack for the way some of their books are edited, what do you suggest to combat this problem?
Susan: Writers really need several people to proofread their work, if they can’t afford an Editor (hiring an editor can be expensive) but YOU can always go to a local high school and ask an English teacher to go over it for a smaller fee. Some books I wonder if they even had someone take a look at it before they went to print. When street lit isn’t respected because of grammar and punctuation it takes away our creditability from the rest of the literary industry. But we’re just as strong and we shouldn’t appear to be inferior. For a lot of people that read more than just street lit it can be frustrating. I really think a lot, not all, of street lit needs to be improved.
UBS: How do you feel about using slang in novels and articles about
Susan: To me the slang is fine. You know who your audience is. Cater to them. But don’t be ignorant. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Use quotation marks when speaking! Know how to separate your paragraphs. Know how to start a new scene. Know when to close a chapter.
UBS: Is it hard to break into the editing side of magazine publishing?
Susan: For me it wasn’t hard. I was at the right place at the right time, with the right people and not even pursuing a job in the publishing world. I was blessed with the ability to write, and my favorite subject in school was English. It was the only subject I got all A’s in. I didn’t pay attention to how easily it was for me to communicate thoughts onto paper. I was told I had a talent by my friends and the owners of Don Diva Magazine. Every corporate job I had noticed that I was quick to correct something. They’d all pass letters by me first before they went out. I was just blessed with the opportunity.
UBS: Is it hard to stay on top of all the breaking news to make sure your story is the most up to date? And is it hard competing with other editors?
Susan: I don’t look at it as competing. Especially in the magazine industry, in which Don Diva stands out so distinctly from the rest. We have set more trends than any other magazine. We have our own thing going on and I’ve never felt competitive about it. As far as up-to-date news...well the only thing we really need to be aware of constantly is changing laws and politics. We’re a quarterly magazine and we present ourselves that way. No breaking news, No old news, just topics that are here to stay unless something changes. We don’t usually know who’ll be on the cover until the week we’re going to print, although we had a whole 3 months to decide. We were the first to put 50 Cent on the cover of a magazine. We knew what time it was because we’re so in tuned with the streets.
UBS: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Susan: At Don Diva, meeting different influential people and picking their brains. From ODB to Dame Dash. Just getting inside their minds and watching how they operate. I love representing Don Diva and what it stands for. I love giving a forum to those prosecuted and persecuted. I love the fact that we enlighten those about what our community is up against and what we can do to step our game up. With my publishing company I love the fact that we’re giving these people that ordinarily feel hopeless, a chance to shine and a voice—even from behind those prison walls.
Susan Hampstead is an editor for Don Diva Magazine and Publisher of Hampstead Publishing, for more information, visit: www.dondivamag.com or www.hampsteadpub.com
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