It started innocently enough. When Scholastic editor Nick Eliolpos spoke at a local conference, he talked about his love of Spiderman. So, I dubbed him the Peter Parker of children’s literature. And now, it’s a tradition that speakers at our conference must be tagged with a popular super-hero or super-character.
Read about these figures in the children’s publishing world:
Karl Jones, the He-Man of Children’s Literature
Conference sessions can get repetitive and stuffy, but Karl Jones, Assistant Editor at G.P. Putnam/Penguin, kept the 2013 Arkansas SCBWI conference attendees laughing and working at the same time.
We had writing exercises with provoking questions: what character has traditionally been left out of children’s books and can you find a way to add that character to your WIP?
We had group Pitch sessions: “From the great state of Arkansas, we have Darcy Pattison to regale us with a pitch specially crafted by her group.” It was a take-off on a Pitch session that Jones regularly holds at venues in NYC. Only there, the GPPutnam Editor in Chief gives the winner his business card! The funniest pitch was when Robin Burrows walked on-stage and accidentally tripped and lost a shoe–then pitched a modern version of Cinderella. Yeah, right, Robin! That wasn’t an accident!
Karl Jones has been with GP Putnam for three years and is now starting to acquire. They do everything from picture books through middle grade (no YAs), with many licensed properties that are done as work-for-hire. He’s interested in middle grade novels, in particular.
One of the topics that came up was gender and how it is treated in novels today. He recommended P.K. Pinkerton and the Deadly Desperados as a recent novel that walks a fine line on this issue. Jones said he didn’t know if the main character was male or female until the very end.
In that vein, he talked about He-Man, Master of the Universe and She-Ra, Princess of Power. He noted the irony that He-Man called power from his castle, “By the Power of Gray Skull?” However, She-Ra didn’t get power from her own castle, but had to refer to He-Man’s castle, “For the honor of Gray Skull.” And for that reason, we’ll dub him the He-Man of children’s literature.
Note: Jones follows the general Penguin policy of no unsolicited manuscripts, unless you have met him at a conference.
Dawn Frederick, the She-Ra of Children’s Literature
Dawn Frederick, agent and owner of Red Sofa Literary, is a roller derby ref and a social media guru. Her list of social media book-related sites was the longest, most comprehensive I have ever seen. Are you on RiffleBooks.com, yet? Are you a Pheed.com addict? Read anything lately on BookCountry.com (a Penguin company)? Will these be the next place that people will discover new books? Maybe. Personally, I am keying in on Pinterest.
Frederick holds a B.S. in Human Ecology, and a M.S. in Information Sciences from an ALA accredited institution; she has been department head for children’s books at a couple bookstores. And yet, she began her career representing adult nonfiction. In that genre, she’s got some quirky titles about zombie tarot cards and roller derby. Another book she admires, but didn’t rep is Yiddish with Dick and Jane. But two years ago, a children’s book editor–astonished at the depth and breadth of her knowledge of kids’ books–insisted she should represent that genre, too. She has since acquired clients who write middle grade and YA novels. Frederick was approachable and enthusiastic, passionate about her clients. And the banter between Jones and Frederick made it an easy decision. If he was He-Man, then she is the She-Ra of children’s literature.
Note: For submission information, see redsofaliterary.com.
Thanks to Phyllis Heman, Regional Advisor for the AR-SCBWI, for a great conference.