Meet Vitola, Richardson: Encouraging Editors

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At the Arkansas SCBWI conference this weekend, I met Krista Vitola of Delacorte and Ariel Richardson of Chronicle. Here’s the skinny.

Note: Please look for their submission guidelines and follow them carefully.

Meet Krista Vitola, Assistant Editor, Delacorte Press

Official bio: Krista Vitola is assistant editor at Delacorte Press. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Villanova University in 2008, Krista began working at Delacorte Press, a division of Random House Children’s Books. A lover of middle-grade and young adult fiction, she’s always in search of a story with a strong protagonist and unique voice. Her list ranges from Victoria Laurie’s middle-grade adventure series, Oracles of Delphi Keep, to Sophie Littlefield’s young adult thrillers.

In previous posts about meeting editors, I’ve described them in terms of super hero(ines), popular characters or folk/fairy tale characters. Read about:

Following those precedents, Krista is as beautiful as the lovely Snow White, but this Snow White is a 21st Century dynamo, no cowering female here. She’s stuffed her magic mirror into the recesses of her closet, probably only saving it for her wedding day. Instead, as a speaker, she put us dwarves through training exercises. She’s a marathoner–so many half-marathons she’s lost track and a full marathon–and she uses her intimate knowledge of children’s literature to coach writers with encouragement and a standard of excellence.

For example, one of her pet peeves is what she calls “list actions”. When you try to Show-Don’t-Tell, one misstep is when you rely too heavily on a “subject-strong verb” construction.

“A shaft of sunlight slanted across the tundra and struck the troll. The roar stopped. The tundra paused, silent.”

This is a step above a telling that simple says, “The sun rose and it was quiet.” But the sentence patterns are too static, creating what Krista terms “list actions.” To revise, break it up with dialogue or thoughts, or revise for better sentence variety.

Krista edits MG and YA, preferring stories about guys (must also include a strong female, though, for marketing) and she buys voice.

Ariel Richardson, Editorial Asst, Chronicle Books (on left), and Krista Vitola, Asst. Editor, Delacorte Press

Meet Ariel Richardson, Editorial Assistant, Chronicle Books

Official bio: Ariel Richardson is a children’s editorial assistant at Chronicle Books (read their blog) in San Francisco, CA. She assists three editors working on projects ranging from novelty books to picture books to novels, in addition to editing select projects. She has been a children’s bookseller for over five years, at three different independent book stores on two coasts. She also has a master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Simmons College in Boston, where she took courses on all genres of children’s literature. Her favorite books include Feed by M.T. Anderson, Crossing Stones by Helen Frost, and The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood.

Ariel (R E el — three syllables) Richardson arrived with ruby red slippers to pass out to anyone who asked. She’s the Good Witch of the North, the mentor that sets writers on the yellow brick road. Sure, writers have to follow the path themselves, but it’s a huge boost just to be set on the right road, wearing ruby red slippers that hold the promise of finding our way to a great publishing home and knowing that Glinda is watching and ready to step in.

In other words, Ariel was a strong encourager. Everyone who walked out of a critique or pitch session was smiling.

One of Ariel’s sessions concentrated on the importance of serving the book, not the child audience. She meant that the book is an object to respect in and of itself and quoted Uri Shulevitz, “Your first obligation is to the book, not the audience.”

Working at Chronicle, an independent publisher known for its quirkiness and located on the left coast, her priorities are texts that will “succeed in today’s crowded market.” She recommends that you choose three mentor texts, examples that can inform your story in some way, even if indirectly. Look at HOW they are successful: What stores carry them? Where are they shelved? Who is their audience(s)? Are they illustrated with photos or art? How much text is on each page (count!)? What sorts of front/back matter do they have? Any blurbs?

Looking at the commercial possibilities is essential for any books you send to Chronicle. She mostly edits non-fiction and picture books, but as an assistant editor, she is still building her strengths and preferences.

How do you condense 24 intense house into a few words? You can’t. If you don’t attend your local conferences, you’re missing out. Volunteer. Go. Soak it up. Me? Hey, you should see MY ruby red slippers! I’m running along the yellow brick road even as you read this, cheering on the marathoner in all of us who attempt to write, revise and market a picture book, an easy reader, a nonfiction subject, or a novel.

Addendum

After this was posted, Ariel sent me this photo of her several years ago at the Harvard Book Store dressed as Glinda. Crazy coincidence that I compared her to Glinda and she had this photo!

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