From Carnegie Mellon To Simon & Schuster
Chloe Fraboni said she remembers peering through the window of Carnegie Mellon University’s Gladys Schmitt Creative Writing Center as a prospective student. The lounge-like atmosphere with students writing and talking amongst themselves on comfy couches drew her in to the Creative Writing Program. Add to the fact that the English Department boasts a long list of noteworthy writers and instructors—and Fraboni was sold.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and English in 2011 and is now an editor and author at Simon & Schuster, which is home to acclaimed novelists, such as Stephen King, David McCullough, Jennifer Weiner and more.
Fraboni has launched two children’s book series at the publishing company: “The Hidden World of Changers” and “Living in…” In her “Living in…” books, kids discover what it’s like to grow up in different parts of the world through the perspective of a child. Fraboni is focusing on Egypt for a forthcoming book due out next year—the eighth book in the series.
She also writes licensed tie-in books for movies and TV shows like “Batman,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Peanuts.”
“It’s a blast—I really enjoy what I do,” Fraboni commented. “The first storybook I loved as a child was a Minnie Mouse tie-in, so these books hold a special place in my heart. Licensed tie-ins serve two crucial functions: they get children interested in reading about characters they’re already familiar with, and they give parents a wide variety of titles that are often more affordable than the standard picture book.”
Fraboni said she credits the rhetoric course, ‘Rhetoric & Narrative,’ with Professor of English Andreea Deciu Ritivoi for helping her learn how to set a good example in children’s literature.
“In my middle grade series, I’ve learned to look at manuscripts very carefully. Studying rhetoric, learning to analyze texts from multiple viewpoints has really helped me edit and craft stories that are sensitive and inclusive,” she said.
Fraboni said that on the surface, that might mean having a diverse cast of characters or exploring plotlines that promote tolerance and empowerment.
“Underneath, it can mean making sure these stories actually are empowering—for example, that female and male characters have an equal amount of speaking lines, action and development,” said Fraboni.
Ritivoi reflects on Fraboni’s honors thesis presentation, in which she discussed her literary vision behind a collection of feminist fairy tales she wrote.
“It was a brilliant combination of literary erudition and social and political sophistication. I also saw this combination in the papers she wrote in class, as well as in class discussions,” Ritivoi said. “She always found a new angle from which to look at the world.”
While editing other authors’ writing at Simon & Schuster, Fraboni said Creative Writing workshops with the late Professor of English Hilary Masters and Associate Professor of English Sharon Dilworth were helpful in learning how to phrase constructive comments for an author. She said she remembers fondly Professor Masters’ advice on making endings too neat and tidy, and admits to repeating it often: “You can’t always give the orphans treasure.”
During her senior year, Masters introduced Fraboni to Creative Writing Program alumnus Michael Szczerban (CW’07) who at the time was an associate editor at Simon & Schuster. He gave her advice on how to break into publishing and helped Fraboni land her first job as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster.
“I knew firsthand how smart and passionate CMU graduates are. It was evident from our first meeting that Chloe was hungry to learn and to work hard in pursuit of her professional goals,” said Szczerban, who is now executive editor of the publisher, Little, Brown and Company.
Szczerban said when he’s looking for potential assistants, the differentiating factor isn’t where the graduate went to school, but how much time and effort he thinks they are going to put into learning everything about the publishing business—treating the work as an apprenticeship.
“The conservatory atmosphere of the CMU Creative Writing Program encouraged that work ethic. What you get out of the education is what you put into it—from the curriculum to the relationships you make with faculty and other students,” he said. “Chloe carried that attitude into the publishing industry, and it has served her well.”
Szczerban and Fraboni recently returned to CMU to share stories from their life after graduation with current students in order to help them begin to navigate their post-graduation opportunities.