Kandace Coston is the assistant editor at Lee & Low Books, an independent, multicultural children’s book publisher. She grew up in the Bronx, New York where she spent weekends devouring books and scribbling in journals. After graduating from Barnard College, she won an internship grant from We Need Diverse Books, a non-profit organization that advocates for change in the publishing industry, and joined the Lee & Low team. Kandace enjoys working with new authors and helping their manuscripts grow into picture books. Professionally and personally, Kandace loves books about strong female protagonists as well as any story that can make her laugh.
All my life I’ve loved reading, writing, drawing, and storytelling. In 2007 I took first place in the B’nai B’rith International Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge. My entry, an original children’s book entitled Sole-mate the Poem of a Shoe, was deemed to best convey the importance of tolerance and diversity to elementary-age children. Two-thousand copies of Sole-mate, the quirky tale of a shoe in search of its match, were published and donated to public schools and libraries in New York City. You can read about the program and my winning picture book here. This achievement also earned me a college scholarship which I used to attend Barnard College of Columbia University.
At Barnard I majored in music, another talent I’ve been cultivating since childhood. I loved every moment as a music major but any class not devoted to its requirements was spent in some kind of a creative writing or reading class. I especially loved The Enchanted Imagination, a seminar that required students to write a fairy tale for the final, and The Classical Tradition a seminar in which I got to study the works of Ovid, Homer, Sophocles, Apuleius and other poets. I also actively participated in CU Sign, Columbia University’s American Sign Language Club and by senior year I was president of the group.
The summer of 2015 I was fortunate to attain a summer internship at Lee & Low Books AND a grant from We Need Diverse Books (WNDB)! Lee & Low is the largest independent publisher of multicultural children’s books in the United States and WNDB is focused on diversifying the children’s book publishing industry, so I am grateful to be a part of both organizations. I spent the summer of 2015 getting first-hand experience in marketing and publicizing children’s books. That September, I was invited to join Lee & Low’s editorial staff full time. So, by day I edit children’s books and by night I write my own. It’s a lot of working and writing but I truly enjoy being part of this industry and exploring the different facets of storytelling.
Diversifying literature and the publishing industry is very important to me. I volunteer with WNDB’s Intership Grant Program and am proud to serve the team as the alumnx manager. In 2019 I co-founded UnimPRESSed, an NYC-based independent zine press that focuses on stories and art by POC creators. The work of POC creators does not have to be steeped in oppression and trauma — our stories can be light, joyful, and funny! I work with my co-founder, the wonderful and inimitable Abhi Alwar, to curate and produce content that reflects our heartfelt mission. You can read more about our zines on my publications page and learn more about UninPRESSed on Instagram here.
Is it true you make handmade jewelry too?
Excellent question! Yes I do. I picked up the craft while at Barnard. It was in the midst of academic stress and despair during my freshman year at Barnard when I stumbled upon a poster advertising free jewelry-making sessions in the Quad. I’ve always been an artsy person and the idea of a productive, hands-on, stress-relieving activity sounded ideal! Attending that first session has proven to be one of best decisions I ever made! I instantly fell in love with beading: its intricacies, the endless combinations of colors and textures, and its demand for patience and attention to detail. Now I sell my beaded creations on Etsy, the website for handmade and vintage items! You can check out my store, That Shiny Goodness, here.