"There is an alternative reality, in which Rakia Clark had not become the editor on this book, in which I would not have ever completed it. The subject matter was difficult and dense, and I'd reached a bit of a creative impasse with a previous editor — the tension between the book they wanted to see on the page and the book that I did. When Rakia joined the project she immediately saw what I was trying to get at, leaning into what I dreamed for this manuscript and dedicating herself to making it a reality. Her feedback was sharp and precise. She was stern about keeping the trains running, but dedicated to creating the time and space needed for me to deliver the best work that I could muster. If the opportunity presents itself to work with Rakia, you should seize it. She's a star."
—Wesley Lowery, author of American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress
"I've been at this writing game for 30 years. I've written criticism, reviews, and opinion pieces, and I've done a great deal of reporting as well. One thing I know a lot about is working with editors. I've worked with all kinds, and I can tell you which strategies encourage writers and which make them wilt and falter. Some of the editors who make the process harder keep trying to impose what they would have written on the work. But there is a different, better way — one that is not 'Here's what I would have written,' but 'How can we arrive at the best possible version of what you wanted to write?' Rakia Clark is very, very much in the latter category.
Rakia instantly got what I was going for with my first book, and there were so many times I thought back to the moment, in our first meeting, post-acquisition, when she told me to 'talk my shit.' Her guidance helped me do exactly that. I flailed at times during the process, because it was my debut book and I'd never written at that length and scale before. But the precision and the insight of the feedback she offered was invaluable, and it kept me on the right path when I was floundering, meandering or uncertain. There were countless instances in which the questions she asked made the book better and the commentary she offered unlocked an idea, or gave me much more clarity about what I was doing and how best to do it.
For a non-fiction author attempting her first book, Rakia was a godsend. Just a couple more examples: She fought like hell to make the cover of the book eye-catching and unmissable — I've gotten nothing but compliments about it. And she also made sure the book had the attention and resources it needed to thrive. And it did. Writing a book is like going into battle, and I'm really glad Rakia was the one leading the charge. She rocks."
—Maureen Ryan, author of Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood
"When I started on my journey to write a memoir about my battle with PTSD, I was looking for an editor who had the same goal I did: to tell a story about mental health and to help as many people as possible. Naturally, as someone who had existed in the zeitgeist as a politician, I encountered a lot of publishers who found that story interesting, to the extent that I was willing to make it a political memoir 'with a mental health aspect.' Rakia, on the other hand, saw the book just as I did from the jump. In fact, as I went through the drafting process, she ended up pointing out to me places where I had delved too deeply into politics and lost the thread. She always brought it right back to the place we both wanted to go — a valuable and useful book for everyone, as opposed to a strictly military or political memoir. Rakia also helped me in my goal to include more fully my spouse's perspective, something you don't often see. But Rakia embraced it. As a writer — particularly a writer of memoir — it's easy to get wed to riffs and passages you've written. It's important to have an editor who can gently and compassionately steer you back onto the tracks and convince you that you're not sacrificing anything, even as you let certain parts go. Rakia is superb in that process. More than anything, she serves as a representative for the eventual reader. It's like having the consumer's perspective always right there with you. I cannot recommend her highly enough. If you have the chance to work with her, don't pass it up."
—Jason Kander, author of Invisible Storm: A Memoir of Politics and PTSD
"I had no idea what to expect when I entered into my first book deal. I was nervous and distrustful. Rakia Clark put all those feelings to bed right away. Her openness, honesty, and passion came right through the telephone upon our first conversation. As a writer, it's gratifying to work with an editor whose enthusiasm for your work is consistent and, on some days, even outshines your own. Half-stepping with Rakia is not an option. She will work you like a shore leave bartender and, at the end of the day, it will all be worth it. Her keen eye and critical reading brought out the best in my work. Her professionalism and directness drove me to work harder and has made me a better writer in general. She wholeheartedly believes in the projects that she takes on and devotes herself to them totally. Even after the editing process, she supported and fought for my work in myriad ways from front cover to back, both literally and metaphorically. She championed it to the right people and made them take notice. She stayed the course throughout, and I have no doubt that she will continue to do so. I could not have been luckier that she chose to work with me."
—Brian Broome, author of Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir
"From the conceptualizing stage until my book was between two covers, Rakia Clark was a professional, conscientious and dedicated editor. She took the work seriously, balanced the often-difficult space between the needs of the writer and the business of the house, and by my mind there was only one way to make that possible: by really caring. We all want to feel like our work matters, and Rakia gave my book the kind of attention every writer craves. It sounds basic, but trust me, it is not."
—Howard Bryant, author of three consecutive books with Rakia, Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original, Full Dissidence: Notes From an Uneven Playing Field, and The Heritage: Black Players, a Divided America and the Politics of Patriotism
"Rakia Clark was right most of the time. But being right never trumped her ultimate goal of making my copy better each time she touched it. She is the only person in the industry who could have edited my book and put up with me at the same time. Even in my most acerbic moments, she not only managed to be collegial and decisive; she displayed the ability to conjure occasional magic in the editorial space between us. She knew how and when to press hard without sowing too much frustration. She reveled in my best moments often enough to soften the mentions of some of my unfortunate ones. I felt supported enough to take chances, and she inspired me to bring forth my strengths while simultaneously addressing issues that could potentially impede readers' connection with the very controversial and emotionally wrenching topics in Spare the Kids. Over the last 20 years of my writing career I've had a lot of editors. But Rakia is the first that I've ever remained in close and consistent conversation with throughout the editorial process, from start to post-publication. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that she picked up the phone almost 100 percent of the time. We argued and debated a lot, and we laughed just as much. She listened and had a great ear for phrasing, tone, and pacing. She empathized, cajoled and did whatever it took to make my work better. But she never imposed her will on me or tried to stifle my voice. Readers around the world are grateful because of her editorial pruning. And so are legions of children living and yet to be born."
—Stacey Patton, author of Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won't Save Black America
"Rakia got me from our first hello. I had a proposal that I felt very strongly about. So often in the publishing world, you have to jump through multiple hoops to persuade others why that proposal you feel so strongly about is important. It can be crushing. But Rakia did away with the hoops and understood me and my book right away. She is the turbocharger of proposals — from immediately recognizing the best title for the book my proposal would become, to turning around my first draft in breathtaking speed with elegant and smooth edits, to recognizing the book's successor and saying 'Write this!' Rakia is the editor you want on your side. I'm thrilled she is on mine."
—Mona Eltahawy, author of The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls
"Rakia is ... everything. I would not have my book without her. She is brilliant, skilled, supportive, compassionate, and the biggest cheerleader. She really helped me get over the finish line and I never doubted that she cared about not only my book, but me as a human being. I hope to work with her again and again and again."
—Feminista Jones, author of Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets
"Having done one book with Rakia, I find it difficult to imagine ever wanting to work with a different editor. Rakia is a fearsome talent — whip smart, exacting, kind, generous in her help, demanding of excellence, crystal clear in her vision for the book — in short, everything you could want in an editor. My book would very simply not be what it is without Rakia. I am a better writer for having worked with her."
—Naomi McDougall Jones, author of The Wrong Kind of Woman: Dismantling the Gods of Hollywood
"Rakia Clark is a rising star. Watch this woman: she is going places."
—Lara Bazelon, author Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction
"Rakia believed in my project from the start and fought to make sure it found a home. She effortlessly melds professionalism and attention to detail with warmth, kindness and humor. I am immensely grateful to Rakia for helping me write a book that I’m proud to share with the world."
—Nicole Aschoff, author of The Smartphone Society: Technology, Power and Resistance in the New Gilded Age
"Rakia is a champ; the best in the business. She fought hard for my book, was tough and thorough and at the same time an absolute joy to work with. She shepherded the work from its inception and proposal stage through the manuscript and finally to voila!: the book on the shelf. She did then, and still does, have my deepest respect."
—Richard A. Serrano, author of Summoned at Midnight: A Story of Race and the Last Military Executions at Fort Leavenworth
"Rakia made my book happen. From the start, she was enthusiastic about the stories I was telling and the message I wanted to share with readers. Her advice and edits were smart. In our process of collaboration, she never wavered in her support and encouragement of my work. She listens. And, she cares. Thank you, Rakia."
—Peter Jan Honigsberg, author A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantánamo
"When working with a publisher, every writer needs an editor who believes in them and their project. Most writers are passionate about their subject matter but they also need someone who can help them balance the story they want to tell with the business of publishing. Rakia was not only a champion of my work, but she took the time to get to know me, my project, and how best to position it for the market without compromising my voice. That is a real gift. She shared valuable insights about my work, helped sharpen my prose, and inspired me to produce a book that I'm very proud of. Rakia was everything I could ever hope for in an editor … and more."
—S. Craig Watkins, author of Don't Knock the Hustle: Young Creatives, Tech Ingenuity and the Making of a New Innovation Economy
"Rakia is a pleasure to work with, giving me freedom to create productively and giving me strict deadlines to meet to keep us on schedule. She is smart, capable and personable. I highly recommend her. What is also significant is that the biography of Miss Brooks was Rakia's idea. She recognized that such a testament ought to be available on the 100th anniversary of Miss Brooks's birth. Rakia is a visionary editor."
—Angela Jackson, author of A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks
“Working with Rakia Clark as a first-time author was an incredible experience. She is the reason my book Infinite Hope is in bookstores today. Looking back on this journey, I am thankful to have had her as my editor. You ROCK, my sistah!”
"Rakia Clark has been an indispensable treasure — as a researcher, editor and multifaceted assistant. She's steady, reliable and has a million dollar personality!"
—William C. Rhoden, New York Times columnist and author of Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete and Third and a Mile: The Trials and Triumphs of the Black Quarterback
"Thank you so much for your work on my first book. And for the vote of confidence. You are a real G at this editing game!"
—Luvvie Ajayi, author of I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual
"Rakia Clark is a hard worker and really did an awesome job editing and preparing me for the publication of my book. She worked endless hours to get the manuscript into shape and keep it on schedule. I couldn't have done it without her. Thanks Rakia!"
—Lisa Leslie, four-time Olympic gold medalist and author of Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You: The Making of a Champion
"In 2007-2008 Rakia Clark was the editor at Kensington Publishing Corporation when Lisa Leslie and I co-wrote Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You. It was my first book and we were on a very tight schedule to get it finished and into bookstores before the Beijing Olympics. Rakia had a strong grasp of our concept and content and she guided us through several twists, turns and bumps in the writing/publishing road. We were all proud of the finished product and thankful for the insights, talents and efforts of Rakia Clark. I would definitely work with her again and I highly recommend this classy professional!"
—Larry Burnett, writer of Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You: The Making of a Champion
"I hired Rakia to edit my first novel, Preseason Love, prior to approaching publishers. She came highly recommended and her work exceeded my expectations.... As I went through her development and line edits I realized that she was an expert in catching minor mistakes as well as helping me to strengthen my manuscript with her feedback and ideas. Her notes were thorough, which made my job easier. Rakia also took the time to sit with me to go over all of the edits in person.... I followed Rakia’s advice and my finished product led me to a publishing offer from a major publishing house, so I must say that she worked her magic on my manuscript."
—Ahyiana Angel, author of Preseason Love
"Rakia is a great editor to work with. She's patient, understanding and really knows her stuff! She helped me to add more structure to my forthcoming novel, which is something I was really struggling with. I appreciate her talent and insight."
—Starrene Rhett Rocque, author of Bloggers Can't Be Trusted
"Rakia makes the writing experience so pleasurable and stress-free. She is someone I can actually call on for advice while I'm writing because she has great ideas and is very knowledgeable. She is a fantastic editor who catches even the smallest errors and inconsistencies. I can honestly say that I would recommend Rakia to any writer."
“Rakia is a very patient and attentive editor. With her, I was able to take off my ‘do everything’ hat and simply write, knowing she’d edit smartly and judiciously while maintaining my own voice as the author. Every book with her was a great experience.”
“Rakia is the best! She’s the kind of editor who respects an author’s vision and work while adding her expertise to ensure that—in the end—the body of work shines.”
“Rakia has edited two of my books and is wonderful to work with. She is honest in her opinions, professional, knowledgeable, and addresses my questions and concerns promptly. What more can any writer ask for?”
“Rakia Clark is a terrific editor who believed in my writing as much as I did. She’s passionate about her job, and that and her energy earned my trust and respect. I highly recommend her.”
“Rakia has a great knack for editing and an eye for details. I enjoy working with her because she was always available and she has a clear vision on everything from the plot to the cover art. She was a joy to work with and has only great things ahead of her.”