Creative Contributor: Wesley Salazar
A little about Wesley:
Wesley Salazar is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. In addition to being a freelance writer and editor, she has served as a book marketer and publicist, editor of a kid lit site, and commerce editor. When she's not at her computer, Wesley can be found reserving books from her local library (and reading most of them), baking bread, and fostering dogs.
What got you interested in writing? How did you get started?
I became interested in writing the way most writers do: through reading. I devoured books as a child, and that love of reading didn’t fade as I grew older. I studied English at Barnard College, then worked in book publishing on the marketing and publicity sides.
I later landed a job editing a website centered on kids’ books, where I got to think about children’s literature every day for several years. What a dream! While every position I had up to that point required writing skills, it was my first full-time role where writing and editing took center stage.
Now I’m fortunate enough to have another full-time editing job in the general lifestyle space, and I have the privilege of being able to choose additional projects that expand my skill set and bring me joy. Bravery is one of those projects.
What is your favorite genre to write?
I don’t often consider the answer to this question because I tend to think of myself as an editor first and writer second. But I’ve always enjoyed writing personal pieces, a byproduct of journaling as a child, I’m sure. I also enjoy service journalism — helping make people’s everyday lives easier in small, and sometimes big, ways. And, of course, I enjoy writing about reading in general and about specific books, for both children and adults.
Writing for Bravery has made me understand children’s content in new ways, though — even after dedicating a good chunk of my career to exploring the kid lit space. Writing for kids is so much fun! It’s quickly becoming my favorite genre, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
What is one of your most favorite things you’ve written?
The Bernice Bing biographical story for Bravery is certainly up there on the list. I feel immensely honored to be able to translate many, many hours of research into a story of her life for children.
What do you love most about being a writer?
I love that it never feels the same. Every blank page offers a new adventure. Every story can evoke emotion and take you places you’ve never been.
I also love that I can work from anywhere, whether that’s from my desk, my backyard, or a different country. A couple of years ago, I uprooted my routine to live in Mexico City for a few months. It was an incredible experience — and it would have been much harder, if not impossible, to do if I wasn’t a writer. Being a writer and editor by trade gave me the freedom to leave New York City, immerse myself in the Spanish I grew up with, and feel a deeper connection with my heritage and roots. Not every career path enables that kind of personal exploration, and I’m very thankful for it.
What's something hard about being a writer?
It can be difficult to break into a writing role, and it rarely feels like that path is direct. I’ve learned to embrace new opportunities and simply see where they go, and I’ve also learned that sometimes you have to take a leap of faith to try something totally new. I’m naturally a cautious, oftentimes shy person, so this boldness (dare I say, bravery?) doesn’t always come easy. But I’ve learned to appreciate a career pivot when the timing feels right. Change doesn’t always signal a bad thing — it can sometimes be restorative in ways you never expected.
What is your dream project or collaboration?
Any project where I can get paid to write or edit, enjoy the collaboration, and grow from the experience is a dream project to me. It’s sappy but true.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Given my love of animals, I’m sure I wanted to be a vet at some point. But I mostly remember wanting to be a writer. I still want to pinch myself when I think too hard about getting to work with words for a living.
Talk us through your process for co-writing the feature biography for the Bernice Bing issue.
As a regular content writer for Bravery, I’ve worked independently on a number of projects for the magazine — but for this feature biography about Bernice Bing, I teamed up with my good friend Alicia Tapp. Alicia studied East Asian Art History in college and is even a volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She has a deep appreciation for the visual arts, and she knows her stuff!
We collaborated on the story from start to finish, and we began with the research. Together, we compiled everything we could find about Bernice’s life and began to piece together a story that we felt children would connect to. From there, we outlined the story, then we got to work writing it. We had Bernice on our minds for months.
Aspects of Bernice’s life were difficult, particularly her childhood, so it was a challenge to present those themes but still keep Bernice’s victories, resilience, hard work, generosity, and influence at the forefront. Bernice was an inspiration to the people around her, and we wanted to be sure to convey that message — but we also needed to present a full picture of her life, even some of the somber moments. It was a delicate balance. There wasn’t a ton of published information about her life available to us, and it made us sad to understand how such an innovative, talented artist had been so overlooked by much of the broader art world. We felt a lot of pressure to make sure we got her story right. We hope that we did it justice and children will see parts of themselves in her story.
By several accounts, Bernice was a great friend. Her friends still advocate for her work today, decades after she passed. So there’s extra resonance in Alicia’s and my collaboration: She has been my great friend. We have known each other since college, when we were assigned to be roommates our first year. I trust her implicitly, and it was such a joy and relief to work alongside her on this intense project. Getting to collaborate with Alicia to tell this story has been a highlight of my career and a true celebration of art and friendship. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity.