Executive Editor, Scholastic Paperbacks / Scholastic Press Scholastic Inc
How long have you worked in children's publishing and what have been some of the highlights in your career so far?
I started at HarperCollins Children’s Books as an assistant in 2001, so it’s been sixteen years! My early days were spent working with Meg Cabot, editing YA novels by Mary Hogan and Catherine Clark and the middle grade series The Phantom Stallion by Terri Farley. In 2007 I moved to Scholastic, where I’ve had the joy of acquiring and editing the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland, as well as numerous paperback series and wonderful hardcovers in the chapter book, middle grade, and YA categories. I have a YA novel I’m very excited about, Girl in a Bad Place by Kaitlin Ward, and the first graphic novel on my list, The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag.
As Executive Editor Scholastic Paperbacks / Scholastic Press Scholastic Inc, what does your role broadly entail and how is the team structured?
My focus is on commercial fiction, primarily series. I’m part of the paperbacks group, which publishes Geronimo Stilton, Goosebumps, Rainbow Magic, and The Bad Guys – so when I have a new series, like Enchanted Pony Academy by Lisa Ann Scott, I have incredible guidance and support from my colleagues. Now that I’ve also branched out into graphic novels, the team at the Graphix imprint has been invaluable. Whatever the age level or format, though, I am focused on books that will engage a wide range of readers, including those who might be termed “reluctant.”
Tell us about some of the bestselling series you have worked on.
Wings of Fire is my most recent and most successful example – Book Ten immediately jumped to the top of the Times series list as well as the USA Today top 10. The story is a sprawling high fantasy from the perspective of young dragon characters, alternating POV each book. The author, Tui T. Sutherland, has a fabulously natural voice and her world-building is as strong as her dialogue and character development. And the switching POVs allows readers to really find themselves in the dragons. Fan engagement is incredible; one of my favorite things to do is Google Image search the series and marvel at the fan art – the self-described “FanWings” are devoted and enormously talented!
Middle grade fiction continues to boom. From an illustration perspective, what are some of the key ingredients for success in this market?
A strong, central image is always great on a cover – and a book with a strong sense of its own central themes will be easier to interpret into cover art.
Can you give a recent example of a 'boy-friendly' title you've edited?
I’ve always been troubled by how gender-specific children’s fiction can be – but I also see the value in kids expressing their identity early and often. Either way, I’m more attracted to books that can firmly live in a co-ed space. Taking Wings of Fire as an example – those books clearly appeal to a boy audience, but half of the main characters are female dragons and the world is ruled by queens. I’m also excited to bring The Witch Boy to the middle-grade graphic novel space, since it explores the limitations placed on boys within the realm of a magical family. As a commercial editor I feel like my job is very much to find books that appeal to everyone.
Describe your most challenging project.
I’ve had books that don’t fit neatly into an age category, and those are always tough. You want the reader to find the stories, but there are topics that fall somewhere between middle-grade and YA, and it’s not easy to find space for those on the shelf.
What portfolio advice would you offer Childrensillustrators.com members looking to appeal to Scholastic?
I’d say the same thing I say to aspiring authors: go to the stores, go to the libraries. Immerse yourself in the current world of children’s publishing as much as you can. Join the conversation that’s already in progress and really embrace what you can bring to the discussion. And then bring your voice to us!
Are there particular styles, themes or subject matters you're interested in at the moment?
In the graphic novel/comics world, I’m obviously a huge fan of Molly Knox Ostertag’s work; I love what’s been done in the Lumberjanes series; and artists like Mike Maihack (Cleopatra in Space) and Svetlana Chmakova (Awkward, Brave) are personal favorites. I like a bright palette and characters that are fully realized on every page.
Who have been some of your most influential mentors?
Associate publisher Abigail McAden has been my boss since 2001, at two different houses, and her talent for series publishing has informed my career every step of the way. She’s taught me nearly everything I know about working with authors, agents, covers, manuscripts … I don’t know where I’d be without her guidance!
Although she doesn’t work in children’s books, Devi Pillai, associate publisher at Tor, has been a friend since college and wise counsel throughout my publishing career. She’s brilliant, she has a sharp eye for commercial and genre fiction, and I’m convinced that she knows every agent in New York City.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
The continuation of the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland; and I'm helping to launch a new series by Lisa Ann Scott, The Wish Fairy, and the Class Pets series by Bruce Hale. I also have a new middle-grade novel by Lisa Schroeder, See You on a Starry Night, that I can’t wait to give to everyone I know. My desk is always a fun place to work, but the next year is going to be particularly exciting!