Jacobs, Harwell Speak in Arkansas

The Arkansas Society of Children’s BookWriters and Illustrators conference (see the national SCBWI site here) was this weekend in North Little Rock, AR, my home town! It was a small, cozy conference; but look out, because Arkansas writers have big dreams. Kudos to the AR-Regional Advisor, Phyllis Heman, for planning a great conference.

The speakers, Katherine Jacobs of Roaring Brook and Andrew Harwell of Dial/Penguin were informative and encouraging, partly because they are NYC transplants and seemed to understand the sensibilities of our mid-South region better than some.

Andrew Harwell, Ass. Editor, Dial Books for Young Readers

Dial Books does not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

When I reported on the Oklahoma SCBWI conference last month, I referred to Nick Eliopulos of Scholastic Books as the “Peter Parker of children’s publishing.” So, the pressure is on–who is Andrew Harwell?

At first, I thought maybe he was the Clark Kent of children’s publishing. (Nice symmetry, that–if it worked.) But there aren’t thick glasses; and he’s not shy and retiring like Kent. Andrew (never Andy or Drew) is from Georgia: maybe he’s a kick-ass version of a young Colonel Sanders? No, the southern gentleman qualities come through for sure, but that’s not the right description, yet. Perhaps the best comparison is this: Andrew is a young Bill Gates of children’s publishing. Do we see a Harwell Publishing in his future?

Nick’s mandate at Dial Books is to publish a wide variety of books, from preschool picture books through young adult or teen novels. He’s not afraid of “series potential” in a submission, because he grew up reading and loving series of fantasy, such as the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Currently, he’s working with Jim Arnosky on nature books, while editing a middle grade series about a girl detective, and working on an edgy teen novel (“I can do dark,” he says brightly.)

When considering a manuscript, he’s always looking at the commercial potential in the trade market, while keeping an eye on the school/library market. But Dial is firmly trade and books that Andrew acquires must have legs in that market. Got one with sturdy commercial legs? Have your agent send it his way.

Katherine Jacobs, Roaring Brook Press and Andrew Harwell, Dial Books

Katherine Jacobs, editor, Roaring Brook Press

Roaring Brook Press does not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
(Uh-oh. Now the pressure is really on! Who is Katherine Jacobs in the children’s publishing world?)

Professional, a bit of an academic, enthusiastic, and of course, dressed in regal purple–if 007 needed M to keep him on track, authors should look at Katherine Jacobs as a young, enthusiastic M, who gives them the license to “kill with creativity.” (Think Judi Dench many years ago!). Katherine, “the M of children’s literature,” tempers her academic bent with an enthusiasm for stories. Like many other editors, she came to publishing from a childhood of total immersion in stories, one of readers we write for. She realized early on that her participation in the publishing process would be as an editor, not as a writer or bookseller–though she has tried both.

Katherine loves a great story. Period. Mystery, fantasy, realistic–while some genres have a special pull, it’s the story and especially, the character that draws her in.

Poetic picture books are Roaring Brook’s specialty: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, created by author-illustrator team Philip and Erin Stead won the 2011 Caldecott. Its other Caldecott winners are My Friend Rabbit (2003) and The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2004). First the Egg, also published by Roaring Brook, was a Caldecott runner-up in 2008. While Katherine does do picture books and some non-fiction, the mix of editors at RB and each one’s individual strengths, means she tends to do more novels. In fact, to balance those Caldecotts, she’d love to edit the next Newbery–if you’ve written it, please ask your agent to send it her way.

4 thoughts on “0

  1. Thanks for the tips, Darcy. I just published a middle grade eco-sci-fi on Amazon and Smashwords and have finished the first draft of book two. At some point I would love to see the books in print.

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