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Exploring Life & Business with Kamina Smith of Wildest Dreams Press

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kamina Smith.

Hi Kamina, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Back in 2014, I found myself often daydreaming about living a radically different life that didn’t involve sitting in a cubicle – a life that would allow me to travel the world while having interesting conversations with interesting people. Around the same time, I read Ta’Nehisi Coates’ article “Case for Reparations” in The Atlantic. Never in my life had I read such a well-researched and beautifully articulated piece of writing. I was determined to learn more about the man who wrote this article that cracked open my world and I came across his book The Beautiful Struggle. In it, he tells the story of how his father, who owned and ran a small publishing company, introduced him to the world of literature by forcing him to constantly read a wide range of books. In his book, Between the World and Me, Ta-nehisi builds on this foundation and details how he had the revelation that he “needed more books” while doing research in Howard’s library; his hunger for knowledge had been unlocked. In reading his story, I had my own revelation of how I wanted to define myself in the world. I want to find and cultivate talent like Ta-Nehisi’s. Those who do not necessarily have the typical pedigree seen in the traditional world of publishing but do have the gift to shift how we see ourselves and each other if given the right opportunity and platform.

In January of 2020, before we knew were in a pandemic, I decided it was finally time to take the leap to start my publishing company, bookstore, and literacy collective, Wildest Dreams Press. Given that I’ve spent my entire 15-year career in Corporate, Nonprofit, Public Sector and Consulting firms focusing on Organizational Development, Talent Management & Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work, I knew that I had a lot to learn about the publishing industry, so I applied to and was accepted into the Los Angeles Review of Books Publishing Workshop’s Entrepreneurial Track Cohort. It was an incredible experience that introduced me to a wide array of peers and industry experts that encouraged me, equipped me, and validated that I was on to something special. As a young, Black woman, I see this as a prime time to enter an industry where there has been a consolidation of gatekeepers who have historically reinforced the perception that the publishing world is only for an exclusive subsection of the population. I am not only striving for a seat at the table, but I want to build the table and expand the range of voices and ideas. I was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Sacramento, and moved back to South LA in the summer of 2016. It’s incredibly important to me that Wildest Dreams Press reflect not only the many Black and Brown lives that make South LA so special but also reflects the dreams my own family had when they moved to South LA 80 years ago and where we still live today.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Ha! The road definitely has not been a smooth one so far, but it is incredibly fascinating. The publishing industry is notoriously & overwhelmingly white and exclusive. This is not only in the books that are published but at every single stage of the publishing lifecycle. The industry is also rapidly consolidating so there are really only a shrinking number of players who publish, distribute, and sell books. The industry isn’t dying but it is stale and stagnant. This is why I am so proud to be joining the community of independent publishers and booksellers, where innovation and risk-taking are happening (Big shout out to LA’s Black-owned bookstores – Reparations Club, The Salt Eaters, Eso Won & Malik’s). Given that I don’t come from an MFA, Academic, or Big 5 Publishing House background, there’s just a whole new world, language, and ecosystem to learn but I also think that this gives me the advantage to approach this business with fresh eyes and a level of curiosity that will allow Wildest Dreams Press to be a platform for truly unique and interesting voices and perspectives. Diversity and equity aren’t afterthoughts that we will have to somehow incorporate into how we work after 50, 60, 70 or 100 years in business. It’s in our DNA from the very beginning, infused into every single thing we do and how we show up in every interaction with our authors and partners. For far too long, emerging authors of color have struggled to gain traction with big publishing houses. Once they do show up on their radars, rarely do the teams that acquire, edit, produce, and sell their books reflect the diversity of those authors. Equally troubling, 45 million Americans are functionally illiterate, half of all Americans can’t read above an 8th grad level and in South LA alone, there is an 84% low literacy rate. We’re setting out to tackle all of these issues head on through bringing new and beautiful stories to the world.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Wildest Dream Press is an independent publishing company, bookstore, and literacy collective based in South Los Angeles. Our mission is to cultivate and empower emerging voices of color by publishing and selling books that change the way we see ourselves, each other the world and beyond. The ultimate goal is to build an ecosystem that ignites the ambitions of generations of storytellers to stand boldly in the power of identity and craft. We produce thoughtfully curated books, eBooks and audiobooks by emerging voices of color focused on American and International literature spanning a wide array of genres including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Our stories are for those who are looking for their new literary loves in unconventional places and those who want to connect with emerging writers who amplify their cultures and craft in interesting and thought-provoking ways. For everyone who is striving to rise above being marginalized, overlooked and undervalued, please know that we are our ancestor’s wildest dreams!

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
First and foremost, we will be opening our first call for submission soon, so if you, or if you know of any writers who are looking to publish a first or second book, please submit a manuscript! It will be an open, rolling process as I’m always in search of a good story. Second, I deeply believe in community, collaboration, and most importantly growing the pie because I want us all to win. If you are an editor, book designer, agent, distributor, bookseller, librarian, literacy advocate, or fellow publisher – or looking break into these fields – please connect with me or point me to where can plug into these communities. There is so much that we can learn from each other! Special thanks to Jazzi McGilbert from Reparations Club for warmly welcoming me into the local and national literary community. When we support each other, we grow ourselves as well. Lastly, BUY BOOKS FROM INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES – especially Black and Latinx owned bookstores. Check out books from your local libraries. Encourage the writers in your life – including yourself. Read more, read often and read widely.

Contact Info:

  • Email: hello@wildestdreamspress.com
  • Website: www.wildestdreamspress.com
  • Instagram: @wildestdreamspress
  • Twitter: @r_wildestdreams


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