Ashley - I have a background in advertising, business, and photography and have always had a great love for magazines. I’ve never had any experience in publishing or art directing so starting Bravery was a HUGE learning curve.
Elyse - I have a background in elementary education and have always had a talent for writing. After having my third baby, I was ready to pursue something that could utilize my talents in a meaningful way. When the idea for Bravery came along, I was ready to jump in head first.
Bravery came about after we had separate experiences with our daughters. I (Ashley) had the chance to dress up my almost three-year-old daughter as Rosie the Riveter for a Halloween photoshoot. I gave her a little background on Rosie the Riveter so she would have some idea about what was going on. The entire week afterwards she ran around the house pretending to build and fly airplanes. I was floored at how influenced she was by the little bit of information I had given her. It was in this moment a lightbulb went off for me. I realized she could have real women as role models and it could be interesting and fun.
I (Elyse) had an opposite experience with my daughter. As a four year old, she loved to dress up as princesses, but one day I heard her running around yelling, “Help me! Save me!”. When I asked her why she needed someone to save her, she replied, “Princesses aren’t brave, so I can’t be brave.” I realized at that moment that I hadn’t given my daughter any other options for role models besides what the world made easily accessible. I knew I had to change what role models she had access to.
There are a few things that we believe set Bravery apart from what else is on the market. First, it’s designed for both girls and boys. We believe that boys can (and should) learn about strong female role models just as much as girls should.
Secondly, the interactive nature of the magazine makes it stand out. It’s designed to be a resource that parents, caretakers, and educators can use to teach their children about strong female role models.
Lastly, the aesthetic of the Bravery is beautiful. We wanted to make a magazine for children that was designed so parents could enjoy it as well. We believe that children should be exposed to and learn to appreciate beautiful art and design.
Ashley - I was always influenced by my mom’s bravery growing up. She was a huge role model to me in the way she pushed to accomplish her goals and also pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and go for things. I also grew up with a large poster of Rosie the Riveter in my room with the statement “We can do it!” on it. I was incredibly inspired by Rosie and what women can do when given the chance. Many times, I remember feeling motivated by their stories and using that in my own life.
Elyse - I was (and still am) a major bookworm. As a kid, I read every book I could get my hands on. As I look back, I realize that the books I gravitated toward as a young girl had strong female characters in them: Ella in Ella Enchanted, Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, Hermione in the Harry Potter series. I was especially drawn to the story of Anne Frank. She inspired me to keep a journal for several years. I loved her optimism and bravery in the face of tragedy and cruelty. Anne’s story is still one that inspires me.
The biggest reward is doing something we feel passionate about and getting to work with so many talented people. We’ve been amazed as we’ve reached out to people all over the world to contribute to Bravery and they’ve said yes! With no previous experience in publishing, we weren’t sure how to go about things, what standard processes were, and if people would want to work with us. It’s been so rewarding to work with some really talented creatives.
One of the biggest challenges of owning your own business is the sheer amount of time and work it takes. We’ve sacrificed family trips, nights with friends, LOTS of sleep, and more to make Bravery what it is today. Sometimes it’s easy to feel burned out by the amount of work and stress that comes with owning your own business.
Each issue has a specific style to it, but overall I would say our style is very different from what you might think a typical children's magazine would look like. We like the art to be very simple and something that an adult could enjoy just as much as a child.
I think when Rebecca Green said yes to doing our very first cover, that was a huge moment for us. We had nothing to show her since it was our first issue and she took a big risk with us. We love the way the Jane Goodall cover turned out and it will always have a special spot in our hearts.
Another favorite collaboration is when Alice Lindstrom did the story illustrations for our Frida Kahlo issue. Alice is a paper artist and the details of her illustrations are absolutely incredible.
It’s so hard to pick, but the first four covers of Bravery are some of our favorites.
Make sure you’ve found your style. I’m always attracted to artists who have honed in on their style and have found their niche. If you want to highlight separate styles then put them in separate sections on your Childrensillustrators.com portfolio using their image set feature.
Our Temple Grandin issue talks a lot about autism, and we had a reader who ordered that issue to help tell her daughter that she had autism. She used the content in the Temple issue to show her daughter that she actually had a gift in the way she was able to process the world.
Everytime we think about that email, we get choked up. It’s exactly why we created Bravery—so kids could have strong female role models to look up to and so parents could have a resource to support them in the difficult and important conversations they want to have with their kids.
We’d love to grow into a podcast and YouTube content some day. Our goal is to be a resource for parents, teachers, and caretakers. We’d love to expand our platforms and reach more kids in more ways.
Photography courtesy of Kimberley Murray, Liz Stanley, Liz Johnson, Priscilla Gragg, Anna Killian and Kirsten Wiemer
While in college, I did a number of internships both in magazines and then in book publishing. I thought my dream job would be writing columns on love, fashion, and pop culture (think SJP in Sex and the City). But after interning for a magazine and not having very much enjoyed the experience, I worked for Carol Fitzgerald at The Book Report Network and fell in love with the publishing world. I realized some of my best childhood experiences revolved around books. I had no idea there was such a complex, fascinating and creative process behind a book’s publication. Whole teams of people working together to spread the word about beautiful works of literature. And one person who gets to read endless stories and shepherd them out into the world.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many brilliant editors, writers, agents, and colleagues who have made my eleven years in publishing such a delightful experience. I was lucky enough to work on a wide range of projects and learn an array of editorial styles that have helped shape my editorial vision and execution today. I started my career at Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, and was able to work on commercial successes such as Lauren Kate, Ann Brashares, Carrie Ryan, Nicola Yoon, James Dashner, Tyra Banks, and Zayn. I edited a nonfiction project by famous chef, Andrew Zimmern and was a part of the repackaging of Sweet Valley High. (The mass market editions of those books are still sitting in a box in my parent’s attic.) It was a dream come true!
While I’ve always enjoyed a dark teen mystery or coming-of-age novel, I have a deep love of middle-grade and this is the space I’ve been living in for the past three years. (I moved over from Delacorte Press to Books for Young Readers at Simon and Schuster in November 2016.) There is something so very special about this time in life. We begin to ask more questions and gauge our autonomy yet still want (and need) the guidance of our parents; we start to see the world around us in a new light—a playground of opportunity and promise just waiting for us to take that leap of faith. We still believe in magic, albeit in a more practical way, and we start to feel the ties of childhood friendships fray and perhaps tether themselves to different individuals. I could go on and on. At times I find it interesting that I want to dwell in the world that was so unpleasant for me growing up, yet at the same time I know it was the books I read and the adventures I took each time I cracked open that worn library binding, that helped me to escape the everyday nonsense that is middle school.
My area of expertise falls in the middle-grade to teen spectrum.
As I mentioned, I focus on middle-grade and teen but within that scope, I love to commission interior art to accompany the prose whenever I can. I have a novel that came out this past spring titled Meena Meets her Match that follows an elementary school-aged girl who finds out she has epilepsy. It’s perfect for Junie B. and Ramona Quimby graduates and the author, designer, and I just knew we needed to visually share Meena’s journey throughout the novel. Meena’s energy and love of color and art sings across the stage with a series of spot art illustrations that capture some of the key scenes in the story. I also love a good map.
I think it really depends on the content—sometimes a dynamic scene works, other times it’s an iconic image from the story. Whether the novel is poignant or more adventure-driven, I do feel the color palette should be bright and dynamic. You want the image to pop off the shelf, not fade into the backdrop.
The absolute best part of my job is asking my authors questions that inspire them to think about their plot threads, characters, situations, and themes in a new light. My goal as their editor is to provide them with the tools to reshape their novel to its highest potential. So I’m going to say that on a daily basis I communicate ideas that spark in my mind when I read drafts of manuscripts and look at title suggestions and sketches and then I provide the necessary conduit for the author to turn that lightbulb on to its highest wattage.
This is hard! I’m so proud of all my authors and their stories. Alright, if I’m forced to choose, one of the first novels I acquired at S&S was a touching coming-of-age story about a girl who finds mean notes about her on her classroom floor titled If This Were a Story. It touches on so many real and raw experiences in a delicate and moving way. The next would be a historical novel in verse called Lifeboat 12. Atmospheric and gripping, readers will learn about a little known WW II story packed within a sea faring adventure. And finally, The Paris Project, which comes out in a few weeks. I’ve worked with Donna for a long time and her pitch-perfect middle-grade voice wins you over from the first page. Full of family and heart, this is a story I would have read over and over again as child.
I’ve truly had some of the best bosses in the business. Their superb editorial skills, excellent methods of communication, and overall warm personalities have shaped the editor I am today. I’ll start with Beverly Horowitz, whose in-depth editorial phone calls could be works of art. Wendy Loggia, whose attention to detail helped me to realize there is no small act that goes unnoticed and that the smallest actions have the biggest payoff. Krista Marino, whose editorial letters are genius and help to bring out the very best in her authors in addition to her kick-ass presence. And my current mentor, role model, and boss: Justin Chanda, who knows how to capture an audience—whether it be by phone, email or in person. I hope I can effectively communicate such publishing passion and knowhow one day.
I’m happy to help a fellow writer navigate the publishing waters and attend conferences year- round to meet new talent. The world is always in need of more beautiful stories. For both illustrators and writers, it’s immensely helpful to attend portfolio workshops and presentations at conferences available in your area; this will also grant you the opportunity to meet agents and editors who acquire content similar to your style. The faculty will be there with fresh, proficient eyes and insight into the marketplace to help steer your talent in the right, most successful, direction.
Finding new voices and seeing stories change and grow, to when they finally reach their audience, has been an excellent adventure . . . and a dream thus far.
My first job in publishing was with First Second Books – I started there as a Marketing Associate, working with Mark Siegel and Lauren Wohl. I started six months before they published their first books and then stayed there working in marketing and publicity until I moved to Random House Children’s Books last year as the Publishing Director of Random House Graphic.
Our mission statement at Random House Graphic is, “a graphic novel on every bookshelf.” What that means is that we want graphic novels to be everywhere – and read by everyone.
As Publishing Director, I do a little bit of everything at the company – from editorial to marketing to systems to public speaking. The job of a Publishing Director is really to support everyone else in doing the best work possible.
My passion for graphic novels stems from the fact that they’re awesome! I love the combination of writing and art. And the community around graphic novels – from the authors to the booksellers, teachers, librarians, and media people I work with on a day-to-day basis – are some of the most enthusiastic and supportive people I’ve ever met. It’s a wonderful space to get to work in.
I can’t wait for our spring 20 list! What we’ve got coming up is:
The Runaway Princess, by Johan Troïanowski – this princess doesn’t want to stay home and be polite. She wants to have adventures – so she runs away!
Bug Boys, by Laura Knetzger – in which you’ll meet the nicest, kindest bugs yet. And they go to the library (as well as having other adventures).
Aster and the Accidental Magic, by Thom Pico and Karensac – when Aster’s parents move their family to a small rural town, she expects the worst; when she meets a magical trickster spirit, things only go downhill from there.
Witchlight, by Jessi Zabarsky – magic and loss permeate this graphic novel about a girl and a witch who go on a quest together – and gradually fall in love along the way.
And then coming up in the summer is an amazing autobiographically-inspired middle-grade graphic novel by Lucy Knisley, Stepping Stones!
Kids and YA graphic novels are a growing part of the children’s publishing market today. Publishers – and readers – are really enthusiastic about this format.
The first thing I always recommend to graphic novel artists is to read kids and YA graphic novels! There are so many amazing books out there – knowing what’s being published and what’s happening in the market is essential.
Next, draw comics! With the small press comics convention scene and the online webcomics community, comics are one of the easiest formats of books to find a community and share your work with to improve your skills.
Random House Graphic is a dedicated imprint at Random House Children’s Books; we publish exclusively graphic novels.
Our sister imprints at Random House Children’s Books publishe many amazing graphic novels as well – including Babymouse, The Cardboard Kingdom, 5 Worlds, and Hilo. We’re graphic novel publishing siblings – and in many cases, we’re right down the hall (or next door). We all work to support each other!
To get “a graphic novel on every bookshelf,” we want to appeal to all kinds of readers! That means we’re interested in books for different ages – from ages five up through YA – on all different genres, and both fiction and nonfiction. We’re looking for great stories with wonderful artwork.
Diversity is important in every part of our world today.
Any publishing for kids – including graphic novels – has the potential to make a vital impression on kids as they figure out who they want to be.
When all of the elements – writing, art, story, characters, design – come together perfectly, that’s a great graphic novel!
I set up Cicada after the birth of my daughter, Edith. I had been working as an editor for a small independent company but had handed in my notice when I got pregnant. I wanted a part time editorial job with another design-oriented independent but there was nothing available. I had had a couple successes at previous companies, so slightly foolishly assumed that it would be no big deal to set up my own company. It’s been a lot harder than I ever expected, and there have been a lot of ups and downs. But I’m still standing, and that makes me pretty proud.
The company has been through various stages. We started out making design/gift books for adults, then moved into activity books for children and finally into picture books.
The picture books are a new venture for me and I’m still bursting with enthusiasm, so it’s hard to pick a favourite. Sock Story is probably my most successful picture book to date. It’s about a pair of socks that get separated in the wash and then have to decide what it means to be a pair if one of you has changed. It’s got a philosophical touch and a lot of humour and it’s beautifully illustrated by Eleonora Marton. It’s printed in pantones with a die cut cover, so quite a wow factor. We had a great critical response, including a review in the New York Times, and it’s selling through really well.
I’m working on a couple non-fiction titles with two great illustrators. Sophie Williams is illustrating a book about natural disasters. She’s got a really warm style that is perfect for conveying information. I’m also working with Katie Brosnan on a book about the microbiome. Her style is very narrative and imaginative, which is unusual for non-fiction, but actually works really well – and makes a complex topic very accessible and inspiring.
After these books go to print it’s back to the picture books with a gorgeous book of Alice Bowsher’s about a dog called Scruff who hates being scruffy. I’ve also got one with Daniel Gray-Barnett called the Pocket Chaotic, about a kangaroo joey who’s mum is very messy. I love books that make me smile.
Wow. Where to begin? I’m an editor, not a business woman by nature, and it’s been a long hard journey getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of running a company. Many, many mistakes have been made along the way. My main challenge is making it all add up. Books have a low profit margin that seems to only get lower as paper prices increase and the value of the pound decreases. It’s a constant battle between the head and heart. What can I afford to do, how much can I afford to pay, how many copies will realistically sell, how commercial is the idea. I have to say, mostly the heart wins!
A typical workday is a balance between doing the stuff I love – writing and editing, communicating with illustrators, researching new projects, planning the future lists. And the other stuff: foreign language rights, shipping, production, checking on sales figures and stock levels… posting books out…. It’s certainly never dull!
I love the moment when you can feel a book in your head. You have the story, you’ve attached the right illustrator, you’ve discussed the visual approach and suddenly you see exactly how it’s going to look and you know exactly what you have to do to get there. Of course it’s a long road, but I know that if I have that clarity of vision at the beginning of the process, the end product will be a good ‘un!
I don’t really know. It’s hard for a small publisher to survive, but I think that’s true for any small business in a globalised world. I sometimes feel like the mainstream industry leaves it to the little guys to take all the risks and the risks that pay off are effectively stolen and commercialised, which can be very frustrating. But again, I think that’s true for a lot of industries, not just publishing.
It depends on the book, but I’m always looking for warmth and expression. For the picture books I want illustrators who can convey emotion in the faces of their characters, and also a sense of movement that can draw readers into the story. On the non-fiction side of things I’m looking for an illustrator who can convey information with a human touch.
On the non-fiction side of things I’m always on the lookout for science or geography topics that can be presented in a new way.
On the picture books, I’m looking for funny. I like books that make me smile and that have a touch of the subversive. Once they’re of school-age there’s a lot of pressure on kids to conform and I like books that challenge that either directly or indirectly.
Illustration styles – I’m open to anything really. I work with all sorts of illustrators working in any number of styles and mediums. I don’t know what exactly I look for, but I know what I like when I see it!
I love all Mo Willems books – Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie and Knuffle Bunny. You can’t beat him for the lol-factor.
I love the American I Can Read books from the 1980s, including Go Dog Go, the Best Nest and Hand Hand Fingers Thumb.
Jon Klassen is amazing. This is not My Hat and I Want My Hat Back are brilliant.
Lucy Cousins is a favourite – I love the Maisy books and Peck Peck Peck is a book I always buy for small children. The die cut holes are so clever. Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is a book I wish I had published.