First Second/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Kiara Valdez landed her first full-time publishing job in 2016, as an editorial assistant at First Second Books, the graphic novel imprint of Macmillan’s children’s division. The better part of a decade and three promotions later, she’s still there, acquiring middle grade and young adult graphic novels, with a special interest in magical realism, memoir, and stories by diverse authors—especially works from Latinx and Black creators and those featuring LGBTQ characters and romance. And she’s racking up industry honors.
“Kiara is a passionate, highly competent editor whose impeccable taste has brought projects to MCPG that garner multiple starred reviews, critical praise, and esteemed awards,” says Trisha de Guzman, an editor at MCPG sister imprint Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, who nominated Valdez for the award. “She brings a unique perspective to kids’ books and is an encouraging, supportive colleague who is generous with her praise and guidance both.”
Among those awards are the American Library Association’s Pura Belpré Children’s Author Awards, for Claribel A. Ortega’s Frizzy, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the young adult category, for Harmony Becker’s Himawari House—in this year alone. Valdez has also worked on Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! series; Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero O’Connell’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me; and Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon.
“Have you ever met somebody who just seems destined for a remarkable publishing career? For me, that’s Kiara,” says Calista Brill, editorial director of First Second. “It’s unusual to find somebody whose instinct for balancing business and commercial reality with artistic vision are so well honed this early into their career as Kiara’s are, and it really sets her apart.”
“As an ‘only graphic novels’ editor, when I first joined publishing in 2016 I felt like I was standing in some dusty corner of the trade publishing industry,” Valdez says. “Of course, so many people were already doing the work, First Second included, but as the years have progressed, I’ve seen the industry really embrace and nurture graphic novels. It’s been such a joy to experience graphic novels finally getting the limelight they really deserve. And after an incredible year and a half for my own career, this feels like the cherry on top.”