Hello, from Lake George in the Adirondacks. There are white caps on the blue lake, nestled amidst fading fall colors. This weekend, 35 children’s picture book writers gathered on the shore to schmooze, learn, talk, gossip, and passionately discuss the art and craft of writing a 32-page children’s picture book. Thanks Nancy Castaldo, Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI for a great retreat, an excellent editor’s weekend.
In attendance were 35 writers, who were fabulous. See pics on Facebook soon.
5 Picture Book Editors
Speaking were five editors: Sylvie Frank of Holiday House, Kelly Smith of Sterling, Dianne Hess of Scholastic, Marilyn Brigham of Marshall Cavendish, and Kate Fletcher of Candlewick.
(NOTE: Please see the publishers’ websites for submission info.)
Sylvie Frank, Holiday HouseSylvie Frank is the Miss Elizabeth Swan (from “Pirates”) of children’s literature; she’s a dashing woman who chooses to challenge herself by running a marathon. Sylvie’s mother is the children’s book author Martha Freeman, so Sylvie grew up with all things literary and the ups and downs of the publishing world. Look out–she’s going to make a name for herself! Sylvie brings a smart, sincere, yet fresh view to the field. She’s authentically excited about story possibilities and realistic about what it takes to bring a story to market. She’s interested in anything from picture book to YA.
Kelly Smith, Sterling BooksLike Sylvie, Kelly Smith is a marathon runner. She’s the Nancy Drew of children’s literature, figuring out the mystery of what makes a good story work and how to bring that story to market. Sterling is owned by Barnes and Noble, but they have to sell their books to B&N just like other publishers; they might get a couple weeks head start, but the marketplace competition keeps them sharp and choosy. While they’ve done middle grade science series, they are moving more toward younger books to keep up with demand. Still, Kelly edits the full range from board book to YA.
Kate Fletcher, Candlewick
Kate Fletcher is the young Meryl Streep of children’s literature, classy and smart, destined for great things. Think literary, smart, clever, tongue-in-cheek. While Candlewick publishes fiction and nonfiction, Kate will usually pass off nonfiction to a more enthusiastic editor. Instead, she looks for fictional picture books and novels. Genre matters less than literary quality.
Marilyn Brigham, Marshall CavendishMarilyn Brigham is the Lois Lane of children’s literature, a smart literary woman. She love chick lit and boy lit and all things in between. Wow her with YA, MG novels or the occasional smart, quirky picture book. Quirky to her means something like Princess Peepers, Hero Dad, or Poco Loco, three books she edited. Overdone topics that she sees too often are holidays, new siblings, or baby books. She avoids stories that are too wordy, too nostalgic or sentimental
Dianne Hess, ScholasticDianne Hess is the Mary Poppins of children’s literature, enthusiastic and in-touch with all things to do with kids. She led the group in an improv exercise, making the subtle point that when we write, we should be open to possibilities that arise from the story as we write. She’s interested in great picture books and great middle grade stories; enthusiasm flows when she talks about the classic middle grade that sweeps away young readers into a great experience. A young reader can spend the afternoon at a castle in France, and go the next day into space. It’s the story, not the genre that matters. Dianne says, “I am hoping to find books on the very young end of the Middle Grade spectrum—from grades 3-5.”
Art Director for Picture Books
Also participating was Kristina Damkoehler, Assistant Art Director of Sterling Children’s Books. She’s the Catwoman of children’s literature, lithe, lean and able to see what others don’t. She graciously agreed to do portfolio reviews for all the artists in attendance. She works hard to match the sensibilities of a story with an artist’s style to make a book the best it can be. She said she keeps a list of author websites to look over when she is looking for the perfect match.