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Where They Have Gone: Laura Tisdel Makes a Mark in Book World

'I want to be part of the history of literature,' says Rochester Hills native.

This is part of an ongoing series of stories on Rochester-area alumni and what they are doing now. Read the other stories on our Rochester alumni page.

When Laura Tisdel was growing up in Rochester Hills, she read anything she could get her hands on.

She read the Little House on the Prairie series. She read everything by C.S. Lewis and she read magic books before Harry Potter was in every book store window. By the time Tisdel was in middle school, she was reading Larry McMurtry.

"I ready quickly and I read everywhere," she said.

When Tisdel was a student at Michigan State University, she became involved with the Red Cedar Review, the university's literary digest. That's where she realized her love of reading had turned her, naturally, into an editor and a critic. 

Today her reading life has come full circle: Tisdel, 29, recently became a full editor at Reagan Arthur Books in New York City. She is married to Matthew Burton, who works for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They live part-time in New York and part-time in Washington D.C.

She is fulfilling her dream of making a mark in the world of books.

As a kid: Tisdel, the daughter of Mark and Susan Tisdel, attended , and Notre Dame Prep Academy. Her favorite teachers were Gail Harrington (fourth grade) and Gail Martin (seventh grade). She spent her summers at Black River Farm and Ranch.

Bursting into the book business: Tisdel landed a job as a publicist for Penguin Books in New York City shortly after graduating from college. "I wasn't afraid to cold call people and pitch a book," she said. She worked her way up to be an editorial assistant,  then an associate editor. She accepted a position as a full editor at Reagan Arthur in August.

Authors she has helped along the way: Garrison Keillor, Geraldine Brooks, Sue Monk Kidd and Lev Grossman, among others.

Books that inspire: "I love fiction — literary fiction," Tisdel said. "But not dense literary fiction. I love literary novels where the quality of the writing is top-notch but where there is something different — fiction that plays with genre boundaries."

What she's editing now: The Unknowns, by Gabriel Roth, will be published in the summer of 2013. Roth is a new writer. "It's a novel about the sentimental education of a nerd," Tisdel said. "It's a funny, voice-driven book. It's fun to see authors who've been toiling in obscurity — it's great to make their day, to tell them you want to publish their book."

About the future: Tisdel plans to stay in publishing. "My hope is to find young authors who are going to have a long career and stick with them," she said.
"I want to be part of the history of literature; I want to make a mark, so that when I have kids someday, they can say, 'My mom worked on that book.'"

5 books for kids who are voracious readers like herself: We asked Tisdel for a few recommendations; here's what she offered up: The Lives of Christopher Chant by Dianna Wynne Jones (Tisdel describes this one as "an early Harry Potter."); Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls ("It's sad but wonderful," she said.) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Superfudge by Judy Blume and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.

What she misses about Rochester Hills: "I get back there once or twice a year," she said. "I miss the state of Michigan — I didn't realize how cool the Great Lakes were and how unique they were. I miss the need to drive. Michigan is a great place to be from."

If you have roots in Rochester or Rochester Hills and want to share the story of what you're doing now, send an email to editor Kristin Bull at Kristin.Bull@patch.com.

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