Member News — March 2020

Member News is a new monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s-book-related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please e-mail Laura Parnum at epa-ara@scbwi.org before April 20.

Here’s some exciting news from members in our region this month:

Way Past Mad

Hallee Adelman launched her new picture book this month entitled Way Past Mad (Albert Whitman & Co.). With illustrations by Sandra de la Prada, Way Past Mad tells the story of Keya who is so mad she kicks rocks and yells at her best friend. When that makes her best friend mad, Keya has to find a way to make things right. Hallee held her book launch at Children’s Book World earlier this month.


 

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Sally Morgridge at Holiday House has bought world rights to Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz. The debut novel in verse is about a twelve-year-old girl with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder who loves music, math, and everything in its place. When her older brother disappears from his college campus, her family starts slipping away from her. Publication is set for summer 2021.


 

unnamed-5Linda Oatman High will be teaching an online course at the Writing Barn called “Finding your Unique and Quirky Voice.” The course is designed for writers of fiction and narrative nonfiction (children’s, young adult, and adult) who are searching for their writer’s voice; writers at any stage of writing (beginner to published, first draft to stuck-in-the-middle to polishing-the-revision); writers who are outlining or conceptualizing a new project; and writers who have plotting down pat, but need some spark in their characters’ voices. The course will be held online on May 9, and you can register here.


 

York County LibrariesAuthor K. M. Walton recently collaborated with York County Libraries for their teen program, “Part of the Story.” In this program, teens select a book with topics surrounding their everyday lives. This year’s theme was mental illness and bullying. After reading the book, teens met for a day of discussion, creativity, and engagement. Their objective—How can their discussions make an impact in their communities? From small discussion to highway billboards, Part of the Story gave teens the chance to let their voices be heard in a big way. Check out the program in this video.


 

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Kokila Books has acquired the world rights to A Cot in the Living Room, a picture book by Hilda Eunice Burgos that follows a Dominican-American child’s journey from jealousy to empathy as her parents babysit young people from the neighborhood whose families work night shifts. Publication is set for summer 2021 with illustrations by Gaby D’Alessandro.

Hilda will also have a short story appearing in an upcoming anthology entitled Calling the Moon, which will be edited by Aida Salazar and Yamile Saied Méndez. Calling the Moon will feature middle grade stories and poems about menstruation that reflect a range of emotions, experiences, and cultural, ethnic, racial, and gender expressions. The anthology was bought at auction by Candlewick Press and is planned for release in spring 2022.


 

Shadow Moon cover

Shadow Moon, the fourth book in The Goddess Chronicles series by K. B. Anne (Kim Briggs) was released last month with a new character, Caer. In this book, Gallean fears the day Caer, Gigi, and Scott are prophecied to come together, for then the trí chumhacht, the three powers, will be set into motion. These three can barely control their own magic, let alone be able to handle their combined forces. But, when three gods walk into a wizard’s keep, there’s bound to be trouble​—and a good bit of mischief. Kim also released a bonus novella, The Druid Sisters of the Gallicenial, which can be read as a standalone or as part of the series.


If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ara@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column.

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A Lesson in Frustration, by Anthony D. Fredericks

Write Angles Logo

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

A Lesson in Frustration

Fizzle coverThis coming June, my latest adult nonfiction book, Fizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity (https://amzn.to/39zTatI), will be released. In advance of its publication, my publisher asked me to prepare a YouTube video that would help promote the book to sales reps and bookstores. And so, I contacted a former student and “hired” both she and her four-year-old daughter as actors for a short 67-second video.

As the videographer set up his cameras and laid out his equipment, the young girl pulled several playthings from her toy box. Included was an extensive set of building blocks. As the camera began rolling, she began to build a tower of blocks. It quickly collapsed. Without missing a beat, she reassembled the tower into a new formation that also toppled over. There was no frustration, no anger, and no “this will never work” attitude. She simply began again, and on the third try, she created a multicolored tower that stood proud and tall. The smile on her face was enormous.

The second part of the video features the young girl’s mother engaged in a writing activity we have all experienced throughout our professional careers. It is something both you and I can easily relate to: total and complete frustration over a manuscript that just doesn’t work! The reaction of my former student conveys an emotion we have all felt and one we’ve all expressed. Watch the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft9qFv98zR0) and you’ll see something quite familiar.

frustrated womanI’m sure you’ve been so frustrated with a manuscript that you wanted to set it aflame, toss it in the garbage, or flush it down the toilet. Yeah, me too! As authors, we often start out with the best of ideas and the best of intentions; and wind up with something that is pure and simple trash. We shout at it, we scream at it, we throw it up in the air with an air of disgust that frightens small animals and strikes fear into our neighbors. We’ve created some garbage!

But, let’s look at that “garbage” as a four-year-old might. Maybe that manuscript is the beginning of something we had never considered before. Perhaps it hides the germ of a new idea that was not on our radar. It may be a spark that leads us in a completely different direction. It may be a beginning rather than “The End.”

Desert Night, Desert Day cover 1One of my all-time best-selling children’s books, Desert Night, Desert Day (https://amzn.to/33bByCd), began as a clear and complete lesson in frustration. I wanted to focus on the nocturnal and diurnal creatures of the Sonoran Desert, but my first draft looked like something excerpted from a bad Wikipedia entry. It was dry, dull, and completely devoid of emotion. I had done my initial research, framed all the creatures in appropriate verbiage, and created all the necessary background information in myriad sentences. But, that initial draft was bad . . . I mean, really, really bad!

And, so, I decided to rebuild. I searched through the detritus of that manuscript until I found two words—yup, just two words—in that initial draft that could be used to create something entirely new. The two words (“dancing” and “fluffy”) conveyed an intimacy with my intended audience (preschool to Grade 2) . . . a connection that was considerably less cerebral than what I had originally conjured. In short, I saw those words as potential building blocks for a book that engaged prospective readers rather than simply informing them.

The two words, rescued from the ashes of the original manuscript, set me off on a new direction, a different tangent, and a sparkling new journey of discovery and involvement. What resulted was a poetic tribute to some unique critters in an equally unique ecosystem. Here are the first two verses of that book:

Sonoran night,
Dancing light,
Shadows playing—
Full moon bright.

Above the ground—
High-pitched sound.
Tiny owls—
Fluffy, round.

child readingYears later, a plethora of five-star reviews and some very impressive sales figures told me I had made a good choice! So, here’s my lesson: When I get frustrated with a manuscript, I try not to get frustrated with every word. Somewhere in all that “garbage” there may be one or two words (or one or two sentences) that that can be rescued and used to construct a changed story . . . a completely different conception that will impress a child, a classroom of children, or perhaps a national audience!

_____________

WritingChildrensBooks

A retired professor of education and resident of York, PA, Tony (www.anthonydfredericks.com) is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books. He is also the author of the best-selling Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published (https://amzn.to/2TN52Sp).

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A Cafe Chat with Erica De Chavez, by Heather Stigall

Please note: Since this interview was conducted and due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns for our community, we have moved our Pocono Retreat to an online conference format. Please see our coronavirus updates here.

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We are excited to welcome Erica De Chavez to the EasternPennPoints Café today. Erica is a senior designer at HarperCollins and will be joining us in April at our 2020 Pocono Retreat. Heather Stigall had a great discussion with Erica about her role as a children’s book designer and what to expect in her breakout session at the Retreat. Here’s what they had to say:

Heather: Welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Café! We’re so happy you’ll be joining us for our upcoming Pocono Retreat. You have an impressive résumé. Can you tell us a little about the path that led you to children’s publishing?

Sailor MoonErica: I have always loved picture books and being read aloud to. As a kid, my grandmother used to read me picture books right before bed and I would make her continue to read more books to me until I fell asleep. I grew up naturally loving to draw, tracing the art from the Sailor Moon VHS movie cover art. My brother also has a talent for drawing and creating his own comic book characters. He is seven years older than me, so as a younger sister I tried to mimic almost EVERYTHING he did. My interest in drawing and painting was further fostered by my grandmother who picked up acrylic landscape painting in her retirement. I went into art college knowing I wanted to pursue a career in art, but I had no clue what sort of creative industry I wanted to break into. It wasn’t until the spring semester in my third year that I was fortunate to take an elective class that opened my eyes to the world of children’s publishing—Tom Casmer’s Illustrating Picture Books. For my senior thesis project, I wrote and illustrated a picture book dummy about my brother’s dog and my own dog’s adventures getting lost and found. I attended my first SCBWI winter conference the winter after my graduation. I needed money and a job fast, so I applied to dozens of publishing jobs and another dozen odd design jobs before I applied, for a second time, to HarperCollins for a design assistant opening. It was a lucky day when Martha Rago decided to hire me as her assistant at the time. I have her to thank for my break into the industry and I haven’t yet regretted my decision to become a children’s book designer.

Heather: You are now a senior designer at HarperCollins. Can you give us a peek into a typical day (or week) in your position?

desktop with iconsErica: A typical day in the office for me starts by answering e-mails in the morning, prioritizing e-mails that are awaiting my immediate response and e-mails pertaining to very hot book projects due to the printer first. If I have the time, I try to write or at least start an e-mail draft of art notes for an artist before lunch. Art note e-mails truly do take up most of my time. I move onto designing my hottest (closest to its printer dates) book projects: from downloading and placing interior and/or jacket-cover sketches into live InDesign files, to choosing and laying out several different font options for covers and interiors, to preparing presentation slides for jacket-sales meetings. On any given day of the week I could be meeting with editors on sketch passes or final art passes for interiors of picture books, board books, illustrated middle grade chapter books, graphic novels, or early readers; meeting with my art directors on edits or problems that I need to get a second opinion on; or meeting with artists and/or artist agents reviewing illustration samples and dummies. I try to answer my e-mails several times a day (I can get hundreds in a day). I could also be meeting with my production managers to review color proofs and color correcting digital art files they’ve scanned from reflective art.

Heather: What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Erica: My personal favorite, when I have the time, is to meet and talk with artists in person, review their artwork, and get to know why they got into art in the first place, how they broke into the industry, why they make the art they do, and just pick their brains about art in general. I love geeking out with a fellow artist about art supplies they prefer, sharing tips and tricks, tossing around story ideas, and finding out what inspires their art and stories.

Heather: I’m looking forward to the presentation you will be giving at the Pocono Retreat. Can you give us a hint about what we will learn in your session?

Erica: I’ll be talking about some of the key parts of the children’s-book-making process that I, as a designer, get to work on more closely with the illustrators. I will discuss scenarios where I am sampling and considering multiple artists for a book project as well as other scenarios where I work with the artist, editor, and the licensing client to create a line look and main character design. You will get to hear and hopefully learn from my own trials and errors in my journey to being a published author-illustrator (which I am still striving toward in my “free” time). And you’ll get a list of my personal Dos and Don’ts when you work with me as your book designer and art director.

Heather: You will be providing art critiques to Retreat participants who sign up for them. Can you share any tips on how to receive a critique?

experience feedbackErica: Be open minded and understand that my opinions and thoughts are one out of many opinions in this industry. You will find that every editor, every designer, every publisher has different aesthetic tastes in the artwork they like to acquire. Maybe my cup of tea is not your exact style or subject matter, but my colleague or other editors may absolutely love and actively be searching for your exact art style and characters. Do not be afraid to get many people’s different opinions on your work. Take it all in, write notes, and then after you have some time to be away from it all and let it soak in, sit down again and choose the opinions and feedback that truly resound with what you want to do with your own artwork. You can pick and choose which comments you want to work on getting better at and which comments don’t fit with what you want to do. What’s most important is, continue to strive and better your craft in the art style that you truly enjoy producing.

Heather: Okay, now it’s time for some lightning round questions. What is your favorite . . .

Outlet: Bookstore outlet? I don’t particularly play favorites, but I recently fell in love with McNally Jackson Books, an independent bookstore in NYC’s financial district. Their store is so much bigger than it looks from the outside and its interior design is quaint and homey. Gotta love that blue-carpeted staircase!

Indulgence: I shamelessly devour reading Japanese/Korean/Chinese manga. It’s always been something I loved reading, ever since I was a young kid. I used to save all my lunch money for a week just to buy the next volume of Sailor Moon comics.

Chrysanthemum coverChildhood book: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. I always hated my name growing up, so this book really rang true for me.

Thing you look forward to: My next vacation, my next overseas trip. I love to travel and see different parts of the world.

Recently published picture book: I have three at the moment: Whatever Happened to My Sister? by Simona Ciraolo, Colette’s Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault, and A BIG Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin.

Piece of kid-lit-related advice: Be nice and pass it forward. The industry is so much smaller than you think. And what makes children’s publishing truly a great industry to work in are the people. Be nice, be professional, and put your ALL into loving the work you put into the books you make.

Heather: And lastly, what is something about you that few people know?

Erica: I love gardening. I have a lush fire escape garden in the spring through fall, and I keep a jungle of small- to medium-sized indoor plants all year long. I’m currently obsessed with breeding spider fern plants as they help to purify the air around them. Who doesn’t like breathing cleaner air?

Heather: Thank you, Erica! I really enjoyed chatting with you, and I look forward to seeing you in April in the Poconos!


Erica De ChavezErica De Chavez is a Filipino-American illustrator and author, and also a full-time designer of picture books, middle grade books, graphic novels, and board books for HarperCollins Publishers. She is the designer of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel series PopularMMOs Presents A Hole New World. She made her illustrator debut with the indie-published The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship. Her newest indie-published picture book, Mighty May Won’t Cry Today, is due on sale in late May. Erica enjoys a good cup of tea and playing with her Jack Russell terrier, Maxwell. She lives with her fiancé in Brooklyn, NY. You can visit her online at www.PandaErica.com.

 

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An Interview with Illustrator Floyd Cooper, by Berrie Torgan-Randall

Coming Home

We are excited to have award-winning author and illustrator Floyd Cooper on our faculty at our upcoming Pocono Retreat in April. Our Eastern PA SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator, Berrie Torgan-Randall, interviewed Floyd in preparation for the event. Here’s what they had to say.

Berrie: Thank you for agreeing to be our featured illustrator for the SCBWI Pocono Mountain Retreat. I’m so excited to see you again. We first met over 25 years ago when you were a visiting illustrator at the Westtown School where I was working as the Lower School Librarian, and more recently I enjoyed your presentation at the Bucks County Book Festival.

new-yorkCan you tell us a little about the path that led you to children’s book illustration?

Floyd: I arrived into Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel, hungry. For work! Taking whatever door that opened for me just to get some duckets. Publishing doors opened for me.

Berrie: You work in oil primarily, using erasers and negative space. Where did you pick up this technique?

Floyd: My infamous oil eraser technique was incubated in the bowels of Hallmark Cards in the 1980s where I worked alongside fellow Hallmarkers Thomas Blackshear, Dean Mitchell, Alex Bostic, Davis Hannah, Deb Edgerton, and the late, great Mark English.

Berrie: You’ll be talking with many children’s book writers and illustrators at our upcoming Pocono Mountain Retreat. Can you give us a sneak peek at your session topics and what attendees can expect?

Floyd: “The Importance of Visual Voice” and “Developing Your Perspective Eye to Ground Your Fantasy World Order.”

Berrie: What are you looking forward to most at the retreat?

Floyd: Meeting my PA neighbors after living here in Easton since 2006.

Berrie: Okay, now it is time for the lightning round! On your marks, get set, GO . . .

The Big Box coverFavorite sport: BaskFootBase Ball
Favorite Chef Amanda (chef at the Highlights Foundation) meal: Turducken (see Sport) —(Berrie’s Disclaimer—Chef Amanda doesn’t serve Turducken but has served turkey, duck, and chicken separately.)
Favorite book that you illustrated: Unachieved yet
Favorite children’s book that you did not illustrate: The Big Box by Toni and Slade Morrison with illustrations by Giselle Potter
Favorite thing to do with your grandson: ROK-N-BOK! (Rokenbok Construction Set) —(Berrie’s Disclaimer—I had to do a Google search for Rokenbok. My son didn’t play with this construction set as a kid but would have loved it as a break from his LEGO world.)

Thank you, Floyd!

I’m excited to reunite in the Poconos!


Floyd-Cooper-150x150Floyd Cooper is the Coretta Scott King award-winning illustrator of more than 60 books for children. Floyd started his career in illustration at Hallmark. After a successful career in the industrial side of art, he made the leap into picture books with Eloise Greenfield’s Grandpa’s Face. Since then Floyd has worked with best-selling authors, including Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, and Virginia Fleming. Floyd has illustrated and authored his own books, including Jump!, about the life of Michael Jordan, and the ALA notable book Coming Home, about the life of Langston Hughes.

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A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Wendi Gu, by Susan North

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We’re looking forward to having Wendi Gu, an agent with Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, join us at the 2020 Pocono Retreat in April. Wendi will be leading one of our breakout sessions as well as doing critiques. Recently one of our volunteer members, Susan North, had a chance to catch up with Wendi at the Eastern Penn Points café. Here’s what they had to say.

Susan: Hi, Wendi. Thank you for joining me at our virtual café. Before we get started, may I offer you something to drink—a cappuccino or cup of tea perhaps?

beagleWendi: Thank you! A cup of lemon-ginger would be great.

Susan: As a fellow dog-lover, I’m curious about what draws you to beagles?

Wendi: I grew up with a beagle named Spunky, god rest his sweet soul. I love their big velvety ears and silly personalities.  

Susan: It sounds like you gave him the perfect name! I read that as a child you spent summers with your grandparents in China. What is a special memory from those times?

Wendi: Walks in the park with my Laoye, watching him do calligraphy in the park, eating my Laolao’s dumplings. China is going through a lot at the moment—and so recently I am spending a lot of time thinking of them.

Susan: I’ve been thinking about China as well. I’m hoping we can all pull out of this soon. As a literary agent, how many projects might you be working on at any given time? 

Wendi: I work in almost all children’s book formats, so the number is usually pretty big. Almost all of my 30-some clients have at least one project going on at various stages of development. Sometimes, even after a project is acquired, the client or editor asks for my eyes, but I try not to step on anyone’s toes.

Susan: Wow that’s impressive! I never realized a literary agent juggled so many projects at once. Do you have any advice for authors actively querying their work?

pencil in handWendi: You know, I tried writing something myself the other day and it was SO hard. Everything I put on the page felt stupid and I had every conviction that no one else would ever be interested in reading it. I gave up too quickly and started answering my work e-mails instead. I’ll go back eventually—probably, maybe.

Writers, don’t take for granted that you are already putting your dreams into action by just getting something down on the page. Do you delight in the writing process? Good. Then you are already, in my book, living a successful life.

Susan: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I hope you are looking forward to the SCBWI Pocono Retreat as much as I am. Be prepared to relax in the serene environment and enjoy spectacular meals!

Wendi: I am so looking forward! Thank you for having me.


IMG_0294Wendi Gu is a literary agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She is lucky to work with fiction and nonfiction children’s books across the spectrum, from board books all the way up to young adult. She enjoys lyricism at the line level, sophisticated rhythm, as well as whimsical, absurdist humor. She does not shy away from heavy, darker subjects related to mental health, trauma, and displacement, with a special focus on family stories, and nonfiction books that unearth unexpected corners of history and science. For middle grade and young adult novels, she enjoys voice-driven stories with thoughtful, contemplative, often-flawed characters. She is looking for authors who value intersectionality. Wendi’s clients range from New York Times bestsellers, Pushcart Prize recipients, to various reader’s choice and humor award winners. She grew up in the Chicago suburbs and spent many of her summers with her grandparents in China. With academics as parents, she has always had a nerdy interest in the humanities. You can find her online at @wendilulugu.

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Call for Art and Poetry Submissions: April’s Special Theme Is Earth Day

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Did you know that the first Earth Day was celebrate 50 years ago this April? The continued celebration of Earth Day has helped raise awareness and given voice to the growing concerns that our environment faces.

Fun fact—April is also National Poetry Month!

This year, to commemorate 50 years of Earth Day, we’ll be filling the EasternPennPoints blog with our members’ art and poetry celebrating our amazing planet. That’s where we need your help. We need you to send us your original art and poetry to be featured on the blog.

Here’s what to do:

  • E-mail submissions to Laura Parnum at epa-ara@scbwi.org.
  • Send artwork as a jpeg.
  • Poetry can be pasted into the body of your e-mail.
  • Please include your name, a title for your artwork or poem, and a brief bio (one paragraph) to tell our readers about who you are.
  • Feel free to include a link to your website and where we can find you on social media if applicable.
  • You retain copyright of your work. If you’d like it to be removed from the blog when the month is over, just let us know.
  • Deadline for submissions is March 31, 2020, but we’ll kick things off on April 1, so submit early if you can!
  • All submissions are welcome, whether you’re published or unpublished, new to Eastern PA SCBWI or a long-time member. We can’t wait to see it!

Earth Day Facts

Earth Day was founded in 1970 after U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson witnessed the ravages of a 1969 oil spill off the coast of California. He sought to use the energies of student-led anti-war protests to also raise awareness about air and water pollution and put environmental protection on the national political agenda. Twenty years later, in 1990, Earth Day went global. Today, Earth Day is recognized as the largest secular observance worldwide.

Please join us in celebrating our beautiful planet Earth this April!

—Laura


Earth Day facts are from https://www.earthday.org/history/.

 

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An Interview with Associate Editor Alex Borbolla, by Virginia Law Manning

We are so lucky to have Associate Editor Alex Borbolla of the Atheneum imprint of Simon & Schuster joining us for our 2020 Pocono Retreat in April. Alex will be part of our fantastic faculty lineup and will also be offering critiques. Our Eastern PA SCBWI Field Trip Coordinator, Virginia Law Manning, recently interviewed Alex in preparation for the retreat. Here’s what they had to say.

Virginia: Is this your first time coming to Eastern PA and the Highlights Foundation for an event? If so, what are you most excited about?

Alex: It is my first time! When I mentioned to my coworkers I had been invited to the Pocono Retreat, all of them immediately told me to go. Those who had been previously have only positive things to say about the people and atmosphere at the Highlights Foundation—I’m most excited about experiencing what everyone is raving about! Plus, what city girl doesn’t dream of escaping into nature every once in a while?

united-states-mapVirginia: You’ve moved around a lot! Can you tell us a little bit about your background and travels? Were books always an important part of your life?

Alex: When I tell people how much I moved around, they usually assume I was an Army kid, but really my parents just kept getting great job opportunities—I’ve ended up moving every 4 to 6 years my entire life! I was painfully shy when I was younger and I HATED moving, so I relied on books to get me through those difficult transition periods. I won’t say books were my only friends, but they were definitely my main source of social interaction until I found some humans to hang out with—ha.

Looking back, I’m grateful now that I had the opportunity to live in so many different places; it exposed me to different kinds of people and cultures (ask me about the time I thought Midwestern hospitality was a guise for attempted murder) and has ultimately made me a better person and editor. And for those curious: I went from Jacksonville, Florida to Ft. Lauderdale to Cincinnati, Ohio to Scottsdale, Arizona then Orlando for college—including a semester abroad in London—and NYC after that. We’ll see if New York will make it past the 6-year mark!

Virginia: Has your taste in books changed from the time you were a child-reader to your present taste as an editor?

Alex: Honestly? Not really. I’m one of those people who never made the transition to reading adult books; I’m just not that interested in reading about failing marriages and major life regrets and characters with a bad case of ennui—sorry! I love children’s books because no matter how they end, there’s always hope and a sense that there’s something better to come, and that’s the message I want to send out into the world.

Cuba 15When I read submissions, I’m looking for a voice that feels as welcoming and all-encompassing as Meg Cabot’s, whose books I absolutely devoured; stories that inspire readers to try something new and aim for something better like Looking for Alaska and Perks of Being a Wallflower did for me; and books that will make a kid who has never seen themselves or their family in stories before stop dead in the middle of a bookstore like I did when I saw Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa. The books we read as children shape who we are as adults, and they definitely shaped what I look for as an editor!

Virginia: From your social media posts, it looks like you’re very close to your editorial family. What is life/work at Simon & Schuster like? 

Alex: Thank you for phrasing “clearly codependent” so kindly—ha. But seriously, anyone will tell you the best part of working at S&S is the people. It’s like being in your favorite college English/media/art course every day. Children’s publishing definitely attracts a certain type of person, and I’ve ended up meeting some of my best friends through S&S—I was even a bridesmaid in one Production Associate’s wedding!

Publishing a book is truly a collaborative effort, and we are so lucky to not only have a team of insanely talented and passionate people in every department, but also to have such a friendly and supportive environment to work within.

Virginia: When you’re interested in a manuscript or hiring an illustrator, how important is the creator’s social media presence? In terms of social media, what are you looking for?

Alex: I don’t usually look at an author’s or illustrator’s social media when considering their work, actually. Unless the basis of the project is the author’s or illustrator’s platform (i.e., if they’re using that as a selling point), social media doesn’t influence my decision to move forward with a manuscript or illustrator. When it comes to social media, I think for authors and illustrators it shouldn’t be about what an editor or agent is looking for, but rather about creating meaningful connections. Book Twitter is REAL, and the support of fellow authors and illustrators as well as book bloggers, librarians, booksellers, etc. will be invaluable down the line.

Virginia: From your experience and education, what is the most precious bit of wisdom you’d like to share with picture book writers? How about MG and YA authors?

reading togetherAlex: For picture book writers: Read your book out loud—and more importantly, have other people read your book to you. Picture books are meant to be read aloud to kids, and that will be the real test for success! Also, keep in mind the logistics of illustrating. I’m not saying add an art note for every line (please don’t!), but everything will eventually have to be illustrated—make sure what you’ve written can translate into art.

For MG and YA authors: Respect your audience. It’s clear when an author is writing what they think kids sound like because it’s just a little too over-the-top, whether that be in terms of precociousness or angst. And okay, yeah, tweens and teens kind of are overly dramatic, but part of the reason MG and YA are so appealing is because at that age you are allowed to feel fully and without shame. I would love to roll my eyes and make a dramatic exit every time I’m told to do something I don’t want to, but I am an adult and that would be weird! But for a teenager that’s just a Tuesday. And that should be treated as an asset to your work.

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Alex BorbollaAlex Borbolla joined Simon & Schuster in April 2015 as managing editorial assistant but was drawn more to story editing than copyediting, so she moved down the hall to Atheneum in May 2016. As assistant to Caitlyn Dlouhy, Alex has been lucky enough to work with multiple award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors, and is the editor of her own talented authors including Margaret Finnegan, Jennifer Moffett, Laura Taylor Namey, Alexis Castellanos, Kira Bigwood, and Paola Peretti. She earned a BA in English and Communications from Rollins College, and holds an MS in Publishing from NYU. Follow her on Twitter @Alex_Borbolla.

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