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Managing Editor Interview: Cabrini Cruz

Today, we are thrilled to be interviewing Cabrini Cruz, a Project Lead and Managing Editor at the University of Guam Press. You can learn more about Cabrini on her LinkedIn.


We started this book publishing professionals blog series to spotlight Pacific Islander book publishing professionals for Asian and Pacific Islander month. Our hope is that this series will inspire other Pacific Islanders interested in pursuing a career in traditional publishing. There are only a handful of Pacific Islanders in the publishing industry and we hope to see that number increase.


Thank you for joining us!


Could you introduce yourself to our audience?


Håfa Adai! My name is Cabrini Cruz, and I am a proud Indigenous CHamoru born and raised on the island of Guåhan. Growing up in the beautiful village of Inalåhan and being raised by a family of CHamoru language educators, musicians, artists, and fishermen has instilled in me a profound sense of pride and responsibility to practice and preserve my heritage. Currently, I am privileged to serve as the Project Lead and Managing Editor for a collaborative project between the University of Guam Press and the Guam Department of Education to create place-based social studies textbooks that center on Guåhan and the Micronesian region. Outside of work, I find comfort in island living, where the essence of life lies simply in being. Whether I'm enjoying time with loved ones in nature or doing things I love, like painting, walking my dog, reading, playing music, these moments make life special for me.


How did you get into the publishing industry? What were the steps you took to prepare yourself for your career? What advice did you receive early on in your career that has been the most helpful for you now?


After COVID hit, I found my way into the publishing world. Despite the challenges it brought, the pandemic became a catalyst for new opportunities. Prior to publishing, I had a background in marketing. What I found most fulfilling, apart from practicing my project leadership skills, was the creative process of copywriting and localizing brand campaigns for events and projects. As I pursued these interests, I found myself collaborating with diverse groups across Micronesia. Little did I realize, these experiences were preparing me for my eventual career in publishing.


When I was offered the chance to lead the localization of social studies textbooks with UOG Press, it felt like the perfect match considering my background. Looking back on my journey, the advice that sticks with me is to follow your passions. Especially for young people, the future might seem uncertain with so many possible paths. But if you pursue what truly drives you, opportunities will naturally find you. So, keep dedicating yourself to what you love, even if the destination isn't clear yet. Because when the right opportunity comes knocking, you'll be prepared to seize it!


What types of projects do you work on? 


In my role with the press, I handle all projects related to textbooks. What I find most rewarding is being part of every step of the process. It's not just about keeping up with what everyone else is doing; it's about actively contributing to something I genuinely enjoy. From brainstorming sessions with authors and designers to diving into submissions and editing, every task brings its own excitement. I particularly enjoy the puzzle-like process of piecing together sections and engaging in discussions with our team about imagery, functionality, and purpose.


Away from my main job, I've had some exciting developments. I've recently submitted a children's book that's been accepted for publication. Currently, we're in the final editing stages, and soon we'll be diving into creating the artwork. The story follows a young girl on her first fishing trip with her papa, and I can't wait to share more details soon!


Additionally, I'm honored to serve as a Young Pacific Leader with the U.S. Department of State. Recently, my Guåhan team was awarded a grant to develop a children’s guide about canoes across Micronesia. We’ll be working on this for the rest of the year in hopes of completing the resource by November. 


Why do you think it’s important for students in Guåhan to see themselves in their school materials?


Everyone should be able to see themselves reflected in their educational materials, but for students in Guåhan, I would argue it's particularly crucial given our history of colonization. Historically, Guåhan has relied on textbooks sourced from the United States, which often fail to resonate with the unique experiences of students living on the island and in the region. This project marks the first occasion where a series of textbooks will be developed by local people and integrated into the elementary public school system, replacing US textbooks. As learning thrives on relatability and context, it's important for students to have materials that mirror their immediate environment from a young age. This is especially significant for elementary students in Guåhan, where the absence of locally rooted content has far-reaching consequences beyond academics, impacting students' sense of identity and mental well-being. Early in the development process, surveys revealed that students were more familiar with states in the U.S. than with the Marianas Islands, the archipelago to which Guåhan belongs. What message does it send to students in Guåhan when they open their textbooks and encounter information about people and places who live thousands of miles away before first learning about themselves and the islands they call home? It tells students that their stories, cultures, and heritage are not as valued as those of others. As an Indigenous Chamoru who has personally experienced the effects of this exclusionary narrative, I understand its profound impact. This place-based approach not only ignites student interest in learning but also nurtures a sense of curiosity and self-love, ultimately enhancing student academic performance.


What advice do you have for someone who would like to get into writing educational texts? 


My second grade teacher, Mr. P, shared valuable advice with me: "To become a good writer, you must first be a good reader." This advice stuck with me over the years. Reading educational texts, especially those you aspire to create one day, offers countless learning opportunities. Nonetheless, it's important to acknowledge that not all educational texts are flawless. As you delve into reading, it prompts you to question and reflect. What aspects did you find enjoyable? Where do you see room for improvement? In my opinion, the more you read, the more distinct your authentic voice becomes.


Why did the team decide to include creative devices in the textbooks? In what ways is that helpful for students?


Using creative devices in textbooks is a standard model, but with this entire project, the aim is to localize it. Just as children learn from familiarity, they learn through enjoyment. These devices break the monotony and offer children an experience that will, hopefully, cement the content in their minds. I'm excited for students to experience these devices and see characters inspired by the images they see in their everyday lives.


For instance, each book incorporates a story device. In the 5th grade textbook, a girl, her little brother, and their auntie travel back in time on a karabao cart. They journey through different historical periods while their auntie teaches them about history. Additionally, the characters’ likeness draw inspiration from real students in Guåhan's public school systems and community members.


What kind of marketing is involved with educational publishing? Is the author involved in the marketing process?


As an educational text, our marketing approach differs from conventional strategies. Our main goal is to inform the public about the ongoing development of this project and to showcase the involvement of local talent. Our focus has two main aspects: firstly, to highlight that the content is specifically tailored to our community, and secondly, to emphasize that these books are entirely crafted by our local people. It's a celebration of our collective creativity and expertise, aimed at fostering a sense of pride and ownership within our community, while also showcasing the richness of our local talent pool.This messaging is mostly shared via social media. 


Anything else you would like to add?


I would like to acknowledge our wonderful textbook team, as they are all Pacific Islanders in publishing! I hope that seeing more names that look and sound more familiar to other Pacific Islanders inspires them to create and pursue their publishing dreams.


Authors: 

Josephine Cruz 

Elyssa Santos 

Laura Souder

Matthew Limtiaco 

Michael Bevacqua 

Robert Underwood 


Developmental Editors: 

Desiree Taimanglo Ventura

Kisha Borja Quichocho Calvo 

Francine Naputi 

Dominica Tolentino

Mary Cruz 


Supplemental Writers & Researchers: 

Samantha Barnett

Dana Bollinger 

Natasha Aldridge 

Artemia Perez 

Joseph Taitano

Via De Fant

Athena Meno


Line Editors:  

Catherine Payne 

Kimberly Borja 

Victoria Blas 


Regional Consultant: 

Master Navigator Larry Raigetal 


Illustrators:  

Ciana Yanger 

Mikeala San Nicolas 

Jerilyn Guerrero 

Sonny Chargualaf

Clyde Grapa 

Jack Bevacqua 

Sumahi Bevacqua

Veronica Cruz 


Cartographer: 

David Garcia 


Songwriter: 

Andrew Gumataotao


Photographers: 

Anthony Tamayo

Francis Valencia 


Grade-level Advisors: 

Kim Thai Cruz

Dawn Perez

Jonilin San Nicolas 

Teresa Taitague

Natasha Palomo Cruz 

Aldrin Cajigal

Zena Sablan 

Johana Guzman 

Christina Pestanas 

Joylene Limes

Tina Bunedicho


Graphic Designer: 

Ralph Eurich Patacsil


Lead Designer and Production Manager: 

Jessica Merrill


Executive Editor: 

Victoria-lola Leon Guerrero 

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