Menu

Publisher Interviews

I always knew I wanted to work in books—I was an avid reader and writer from childhood, and I couldn't imagine a better career! I double majored in English and philosophy/theology in college, and attended the Columbia Publishing Course postgrad, a six-week program that introduced me to the publishing industry and some of the amazing folks in it. I landed my job at FSG BYR through a connection I made at CPC, a lovely woman and amazing editor who was kind enough to keep me in mind when a position opened at Macmillan Children's; I'd been interviewing around for various publishing roles, across all age groups and departments, but in my heart of hearts, it was always children's editorial, getting up close with writers and creators, building those relationships and bringing stories to life. And here we are today!

Picture book: Sing, Aretha, Sing!: Aretha Franklin, "Respect," and the Civil Rights Movement was my first picture book acquisition some years ago, and it will finally publish in February 2022! After Aretha Franklin's death, I pursued the incredible Hanif Abdurraqib to tell her story for young readers, and he delivered beyond my wildest dreams. I paired him with illustrator Ashley Evans after seeing the most striking artwork of Aretha on her Instagram, and again, she delivered on the vision and then some. This was a labor of love and a really deep, thorough collaboration, and it's a real honor to see it into the world. 

Middle grade: I edited Sarah Allen's first two middle-grade novels, What Stars are Made Of (2020) and Breathing Underwater (2021), and those books have my whole heart. The voice in Stars is just unmissable, coming from the most lovable main character; and the difficult topics in Breathing hit really close to home for me in beautiful ways, as I imagine they will for many young readers. 

YA: I can't wait for One for All by Lillie Lainoff to hit shelves! This historical adventure centers a disabled girl fighting to avenge her father's mysterious murder, and along the way falls in love with her chosen family and herself. The buzz around this one is growing steadily, and I'm so excited for this unique perspective to find just the right readers. 

Graphic novel: I'm co-editing two middle-grade graphic novels by indie-pop music duo Tegan & Sara, narrativizing their story of growing up queer and in a band for kids today; it's illustrated by award-winning artist Tillie Walden. This trio of humans could not be more talented, easier to work with, or more creative in their approaches to this story, and I've learned so much from them. This one hits bookstores in 2023! 

Nonfiction: Phillip Hoose is truly one of the best there is—a thorough researcher, a thoughtful creative, and a committed advocate of the truth. Working with him is always an amazing exercise in telling untold stories, and his forthcoming book Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird is no exception. 

a) Variety is always good! We at FSG publish all styles of picture books, from board books to graphic novels, from the commercial to the literary, animals and humans and everything in between. The more sense you can provide of your stylistic range, the more likely we are to keep you in mind! 

b) To that point, I wouldn't say there's much to avoid if you want to appeal to us. We're certainly very selective about graphic novels, so no need to over-include that style; otherwise, I would say all systems go!
 

What a great question, and my answer truly changes every day! Okay, let me think about what today's answer might be... 

1) Northwind by Gary Paulsen (2022)—we at FSG were privileged to publish Gary's last three books before his death this past year, and this is his beautiful, stirring, adventurous swan song. 

2) A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena (2018)—a dark, sharp look at the complexities of womanhood and growing up.

3) Flo by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Jay Fleck (2018)—I fell in love with this goofy, spare picture book about being yourself and helping others from page 1!

That would have to be Dennis, from The Book of Rules by Brian Gehrlein and illustrated by Tom Knight. I ran all around my office showing my colleagues this character when sketches came in, and to this day I crack up to look at his goofy face and tell him, "Go wait in the margins!" 

For me, it's trust and vision. I want to know I can trust this story in your hands, that you have the stylistic range and the critical eye to bring it to life; this trust comes from looking at your other projects, poring over your portfolio or social media presence, and really getting a sense of your abilities. In terms of vision, I want to know that you're a willing collaborator, and that you're able to take instruction as well as be creative and independent in executing on a story. We determine if we're on the same page here through phone calls, emails, and overall frequent communication!

Can I say last night, when I was cooking dinner and thought my dish was missing something, and I realized that air-fried chickpeas were just the thing? :)

So many! I remember The Babysitters' Club series as one of my earliest entry points into books that I sought out and devoured; I loved the various perspectives, the friendships, and the ordinary adventures depicted. The first book that made me cry was Inkspell by Cornelia Funke, the second book in the Inkheart trilogy, and I adored her standalone The Thief Lord as well. I keep Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine on my shelf to this day; I had the privilege of meeting Gail at a conference some years ago, and got to tell her myself how that book inspired the characters I fall in love with and the plots that keep me turning pages. And Patricia Reilly Giff was a family friend and an immense talent, one of the first people I ever knew who made a career out of books, so I always return to Pictures of Hollis Woods, Nory Ryan's Song, and All the Way Home.

The FSG editorial team is absolutely unmatched—the level of collaboration, healthy criticism, brainstorming, laughter, and creativity I've experienced is really beyond anything I could expect from a professional environment. I can't imagine coming up under better instruction. I'm so grateful for colleagues that encourage me to pursue stories that matter to me, push me to ask bigger questions of my creators and of myself, remind me to take breaks and care for my mental health, and crack me up over GChat on the daily. I've also been so inspired by the camaraderie I've found in my industry peers; our group chats, happy hours, and hangouts have really made me the best version of my professional—and personal—self.

I'm really excited for This Book Will Get You to Sleep by Jory John, illustrated by Olivier Tallec; Jory's voice never fails to make me laugh, and Olivier's illustrations add so much extra humor on top of that! I'm also a big fan of The Hike to Home by Jess Rinker, whose star is totally on the rise in the middle grade space—I love this adventurous, heart-filled story. And keep an eye out around the holidays for The Christmas Book Flood, a stunning picture book written by Emily Kilgore and illustrated by Kitty Moss, about an Icelandic tradition where folks give each other books on Christmas Eve and spend the night reading together. A dream!

READ MORE

I was introduced to the publishing world as soon as I graduated SUNY New Paltz with a double major in English and Black Studies. I didn’t know editing books was an actual career before then. What I did I know was that I wanted to pursue a book related (or adjacent) career. After a rigorous search to put my degree to good use, I landed an internship at The New Press. After that, I interned at Simon & Schuster’s Simon Spotlight imprint. Then I found my home at HarperCollins Children’s Books working as an assistant for their flagship early reader imprint. 

Three things: everyone’s journey is different; be persistent and authentic; and do judge a book by its cover (books only, not people!). 

The first two lessons go hand-in-hand. I’ve met many people in my career and I I’ve learned a lot, and probably taught a lot to others, just by showing up and being myself, but also by being flexible and open. That’s what I love about publishing, and specifically editing, the most. The authors, illustrators, designers, marketing and publicity teams, readers, reviewers—everyone really—come together, something like a mosaic, to produce one book.   

Oh, and to the last point: publishers spend hours reviewing book covers. I’m talking, HOURS. There is so much that goes into a book’s final cover and its fascinating. Don’t let old clichés fool you. 
 

I love seeing kids point at pages in a book and say “they look like me,” or “me too!” That visibility and validation is super important to affirm a child’s identity, as well as increase children’s empathy for others. That’s really all it is about! More kids need to see themselves. 

I am particularly proud of Ashley Franklin and Ebony Glenn’s Not Quite Snow White (HarperCollins, 2019) and Better Together, Cinderella (HarperCollins, 2021). There are few mainstream fairytales featuring Black girls—especially in the world of books. Tameika is a special princess in that she’s a regular everyday girl who navigates a contemporary world, making her super relatable. 

The availability of diverse and inclusive content in children’s books has increased immensely but not enough. Remember: we are publishing against a long history of erasure and minimal visibility. So, to say we’ve increased the number of books about the LGBTQI+ community by such and such percent means very little when the original percentage was little to nothing. You know what I mean? What’s 1% (making this up!) to 4% but a sad statistic when we look at the number of front list titles that stick and backlist well. 

I can gift my niece books that are FUBU (for us, by us), as well as books by and about other marginalized groups. There are many to choose from. I can vouch for this because I am in the industry and in the know. But for the general population, many educators and parents are still subject to the classic canon which either left marginalized groups out…or “unintentionally” just got it wrong. 

I’m glad there are people in the industry working to make diverse books, books. Normalizing them. Publishing them widely yet intelligently. That’s the level of visibility I’d be most excited to see. We have a long way to go.
 

I love to edit picture books: funny picture books, inspiring picture books, poignant, charming, silly, sweet, powerful, character driven, any picture book. I know this answer scares most who submit to me because it’s such a broad category, but it’s the truth. I think it’s easier sometimes for me to say what I don’t like, but even then, there’s always a special outlier. 

In terms of board books, chapter books, middle grade novels, and graphic novels, I don’t tend to acquire these formats, but when I do, they are fun! Funny, silly, high stakes, etc.  

No teen for me…yet!
 

I have to give this one to Christy Mandin, the author-illustrator of Lucky (HarperCollins, 2022). I saw a quick sketch of the main character on her social media and when I asked her about it, Christy completely leaned into it and created an entire underwater world for this charming and hilarious pearl. It was magnificent to witness. 

Especially during the years of 2020 and 2021, the most creative and hardworking miracle workers of the industry had to be those who work in production and the bookstores/sellers. Production made sure there were printed books to fill the shelves of stores that faced insurmountable challenge. And once those books were placed, it was the booksellers and the stores that showed books love. Real love! Those folks are the real MVPs. Not just recently, but every year a new book is published. 

We love to see scenes and a variety of facial expression, body language, and movement for your characters. These two things are key. Also, a personal favorite of mine is when an artist works well with lighting and/or vibrant colors depending on their style. 

Shar Tuiasoa’s Punky Aloha (HarperCollins, 2022), much like Lucky, originated from an already-existing piece in Shar’s online portfolio. Shar had a story that she wanted to tell—one the reminded her of a kid version of herself and other kids in Hawaii—and wrapped it into the bubbly character that is Punky. We started with an illustrated character line up and a detailed plot synopsis. Then, Shar went ahead and wrote the text, we edited it a bit, and she sent colorized sketches a few months later. It was as if she had experience in illustrating picture books (this is Shar’s debut), because she went to final art soon after. The book taught me a lot (like how folks use the word ‘aloha’ and how they do not) and gives me warm memories of days at my own grandmother’s home. Good books do that do you…they are mirrors and bridges. 

Bandwidth. We are publishing more books, they are becoming more expensive to produce, and the competition is fierce. So, yeah, bandwidth is our biggest challenge. 

My Hair (HarperCollins, 2020) is another favorite of mine. Danielle Murrell Cox is passionate about Black representation for children and this upbeat board book is a celebration of everything Black hair. It rhymes and features kids of many different skin tones.

Lastly, I must shout out the nonfiction picture books I love. Ready to Fly by Lea Lyon, A. LaFaye, and Jessica Gibson (HarperCollins, 2020), and When the Schools Shut Down by Yolanda Gladden, Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, and Keisha Morris (HarperCollins, 2022) both shed light on unsung African American heroes.

READ MORE

My career in publishing began in 1992, shortly after I graduated from Smith College and then attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course (now known as the Columbia Publishing Course). I was an editorial assistant at Four Winds Press, a tiny imprint at Macmillan headed by Virginia Duncan. I had been an art major and writing minor in college, and so I was lucky to land in a job where I was allowed to assist the art director as well as the editor-in-chief. So in addition to writing reader reports and learning to edit, I was also able to help with cover type design, creating mechanicals, and creating book layouts in the early days of computer design. My love of hands-on design work has lasted and impacted every role I’ve had since then.

When Macmillan was purchased by Viacom, we were folded into Simon & Schuster, where I was an assistant and associate editor; I moved to Morrow Junior books to become an editor working for David Reuther, who eventually left to begin a new imprint at the independently-owned European company North-South Books. I joined him there as editor-in-chief, and starting a new imprint—SeaStar Books—completely from scratch was an incredible adventure!

After that company fell on hard times, I moved to Little Brown Books for Young Readers in 2003 where I’ve had numerous roles: Editorial Director of the whole imprint, to Editorial Director of James Patterson’s books for young readers, to my role now as Editorial Director of picture books. I feel like I’ve come full circle, focusing on what I love most—combining words, art, and graphic design into beautiful packages with lasting stories that can be enjoyed over and over again.

I’m tremendously proud of the fact that we recently had a stretch of winning ten Caldecott stickers (five Medals and five Honors) in ten years, creating an industry record with three gold medals three years in a row within a single imprint. What pleases me most is that there was no single artist or editor or art director driving that string of successes, but rather a team of people with similarly high standards and a collaborative way of working that we believe brings the best out of our artists. The books were all distinctive in art style; aside from the two by Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie and Hello, Lighthouse), no two books looked alike.

We look for artists with a true signature style, who have their own visual language and personal stamp. Most of these artists are quite exacting and demanding of themselves, and many of the books took the better part of a year (and some much longer) to create. Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe took five years, as he grappled with creating three-dimensional works of assemblage. Oge Mora, the artist for Thank You Omu, was on the verge of finishing her book just in the nick of time to be published in 2017, but decided that she needed to slow down and make sure she was getting it just right while not under pressure, so we postponed the book for a full year so that she could feel 100% confident in her execution.

So while of course there is no blanket formula for award-winning books, some of the key elements most of these LBYR stars shared was a very collaborative process, artists who pushed themselves to do their very best work, and the development of an art style that’s uniquely their own.

While I don’t want to pigeonhole what I’m looking for too narrowly—because we believe strongly in diversifying our portfolio with a wide range of content, tone, topics and styles—one thing I do need to put out the call for is more genuinely funny, clever, or even absurdist-style books. We have been overwhelmed with very serious and earnest content lately, and while these books are important, we need to balance out all of the heavy content with something that will make kids—and adults!—laugh. It’s a tough world out there, and parents and caregivers are craving to share more happy moments together during storytime at the end of a long day.

As mentioned earlier, I’m personally looking for art styles that are distinctive and singular, rather than trendy or generic animation-based styles. That is not meant to demean animators, who I have a high degree of respect for (and in fact we work with plenty of former animators whom we love!), but I love seeing how brilliant former animators like Molly Idle, Dan Santat, and Rhode Montijo have taken the great skills they’ve learned from the business and gone on to develop their own signature styles that I could identify as their very own across a room. I tend to work with artists who do traditional drawing and painting (Corinna Luyken, Diana Sudyka, Audrey Helen Weber), collage (Oge Mora), and mixed media (Rafael Lopez), as well as primarily digital artists (Dan Santat, Bob Shea, Elise Parsley) who have a bold and dynamic sense of humor.

You know that’s like asking a mother to describe their favorite child, right? The most wonderful thing about this job is that so many of them are genuinely exciting, and there’s always another one right around the corner!

Since I’ve worked on so many picture books in my career, I will admit that one of my favorite books that I’ve ever worked on was something quite different: a debut poetry collection called I’m Just No Good At Rhyming And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups, which is a collection of radically inventive and wildly witty poems that could best be summarized as “Shel Silverstein meets Jon Scieszka” in flavor. Not only is the poetry mind-blowingly funny and wickedly clever, but we were so lucky to work with the great Lane Smith and his amazing wife, designer Molly Leach, on a dynamic, completely distinctive artistic package.

And how lucky am I to have worked on a dozen books with the legendary artist Jerry Pinkney? Although each of his books was truly a career highlight, I think that collaborating on the nearly wordless The Lion and the Mouse, which won him the Caldecott gold at long, long last after multiple silver honors, is an experience that will be hard to top.

We are eager to see your range—of emotions, and places, and moods, and characters (different ages, diverse body types and races, people and animals). We also often need to find illustrators who can render settings and backgrounds well, who are good at adding rich detail, who are able to bring a layer of storytelling to the art that goes above and beyond what the text literally offers. Many portfolios often overlook the importance of that and focus on character interaction only. We tend to gravitate toward styles that are unique, layered, with depth and texture. On the flip side, sometimes it’s harder than you’d think to find boldly funny-but-not-necessarily-cartoony work that has its own non-generic flair, so if you can do humor, don’t be shy about including it in your portfolio!

CHEZ BOB written and illustrated by Bob Shea (released 9/21) is a funny book that is also one of our most acclaimed picture books this year, with four starred reviews and inclusion on several best-of lists. It’s a good example of humor that’s fresh but with depth and a strong takeway. I love this spread because of its fearlessly dramatic close-up cropping which makes the reader feel just a breath away from the Alligator’s big teeth. Bob’s devious expression combined with the absurd chef’s hat makes for delightfully humorous juxtaposition.

Working with a debut illustrator is often one of my favorite things to do. I imagine an artist remembers their first book like their first love—there’s only ever going to be one, and to be a part of that key moment in someone’s career is very special and I want it to be a good memory! On the artist’s end, I think there is sometimes an extra degree of energy, both nervous energy and excited energy, that can be channeled into really great work since there’s such an eagerness to please. On my end, it’s a responsibility I cherish, to make sure that people’s first experience in publishing is a great one, at least creatively. I don’t mind explaining the industry terminology (self-ended pagination! Blues! F&Gs!) as well as other esoteric aspects of making books, like why we need the final art to be delivered a year or more before the book’s release. I feel like laying the groundwork for a collaborative and intense-yet-hopefully-rewarding creative process that will set people on a positive path forward toward their next work is really a special role to have.

The greatest challenges of being and editor are usually parts of the process that authors and artists aren’t aware of. Negotiating and reviewing contracts and dealing with the legal and financial aspects of publishing are never going to be parts of the job that I consider to be fun—not surprising to hear from an art major!—but it comes with the territory. And as an editor who is the key liaison to the author, artist, and agent, there will always be days where it’s your job to deliver some bad news (a shipping delay, books out of stock, having to say “no” something an author really wants, etc.)

Most of all, juggling priorities and staying on top of the work never gets easier, even after almost 30 years of experience and having an assistant to help me. Editors are not only responsible for wading through hundreds of submissions to figure out what we want to acquire for the future, and preparing acquisitions materials and negotiating deals for those books; we’re also working on all creative aspects of books coming out in the next three years, plus navigating sales and marketing issues for books coming out soon or now, plus playing the role of “customer service rep” for backlist authors and miscellaneous issues that always pop up. It’s an endless flow of different kinds of tasks every day; we could easily be “touching” twenty different projects in a day, so it’s very difficult to find the quiet time to sink into simply reading and editing books in a focused way. It’s like we’re directing a dozen different movies at the same time!

Ironically, I don’t actually have one when it comes to picture books, and I really mean that. I’m an equal opportunity lover of picture books, a kid in a candy store who wants to buy everything and simply cannot ever just focus on one favorite bit of candy.

But as a child, I relished in a special way the very few picture books that I owned, poring over the pictures again and again; the one I best remember is Mitsumasa Anno’s Upside Downers, a book whose art could be seen/perceived in a completely different way when turned upside down. I guess to this day, I still love books that have a smart, inventively clever or thoughtful visual conceit like that one!

I have been fortunate to have three wonderful supervisors and role models in my career: Virginia Duncan, now the head of Greenwillow, who taught me much of what I know about editing. My second boss, David Reuther, taught me much of what I know about the business of publishing and about cultivating and maintaining strong author/artist relationships. And Megan Tingley, our publisher, has taught me how to be a manager, how to navigate complicated situations, and maybe most importantly how to believe in myself. I can hardly believe I’ve been entrusted with the many roles I’ve been given at Little, Brown, and I feel very lucky to have been working with Megan and the entire wonderful team at this company these 18 years!

THE GREAT WHIPPLETHORP BUG COLLECTION illustrated by Elizabeth Bergeland (released 5/21) is a story about a boy who is learning that what it means to be “great” is a lot deeper than just manly accomplishments! This spread cleverly shows his different ancestors evolving over time via the change in the style of picture frames as well as increasing the amount of color in each photo—and the last photo makes me laugh every time.

I’LL MEET YOU IN YOUR DREAMS illustrated by Rafael López (released 3/21) is about the evolving relationship of parents and children over time. The exquisite range of palette (with both warm and cool colors) in this spread always delights me, and I admire the combination of both literal things and abstractions (like the twisting lines—indicating our complicated emotional connections to our growing children as they leave “the nest”), which creates a warm, layered, emotional response.

READ MORE

I had a very roundabout path to becoming an art director in Publishing. I earned a degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in Graphic Design. The school's design program was very studio-centric, learning about designers like Lester Beal, Alexy Brodovich, William Golden, Bradbury Thompson, and Massimo Vigelli. These were the designers who ran their own studios and ultimately worked in all areas of design including: branding, magazine, book, environmental, etc. We were taught what life was like for a studio designer, not the life of a designer specializing in any of those areas. 
 
When I left RIT, I had no idea where I wanted to work, and going “freelance” or starting my own business scared the life out of me. So, I just worked as many jobs as I could, as long as there was some challenge behind it. When that challenge passed and I lost interest, I would move on. All in all, the first part of my career I worked in almost every facet of the graphic design industry except one: Book Publishing. 
 
I am VERY fortunate (and forever grateful) that my then Creative Director Gail Doobinin and the folks at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers hired me. It literally changed the course of my life. It's how I met my wife!! As soon as I finished my first project, I knew I found my home as a book designer. For the first time in my career, I found work where every new project was just as exciting as the first. I love the process. I love the product. 
 
Over the course of my career at Time Warner and Hachette Book Group, I was fortunate to work at a few different imprints: LBYR, Yen Press, Orbit, and Redhook. I was able to get my hands dirty doing Kid Lit, Manga/comics, Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Commercial Fiction. 
 
The next significant step in my career was at Scholastic. I was very lucky to work under Ken Geist who made me fall in love with my career even more. Ken gave me something special by elevating the working experience to a place I didn’t think it could go, through humor, passion, and a love for a beautiful book. There was such a collaborative camaraderie in Ken’s team. We all worked through challenges together, made amazing books, and had a great time doing it!
 
At one point during my tenure at Hachette, I had interviewed for a Senior Designer position at First Second. I wrote Mark Siegel an impassioned email indicating how working at First Second would be a dream job. I didn’t get it, but knowing what I know now, Mark made the right decision. First Second had hired Andrew Arnold who was the perfect designer for the job. But when Andrew left to start his own imprint at Harper, Mark reached out when I was at Scholastic, and the rest is history.
 

This is a hard one to answer, because I don’t like to play favorites with my projects. But I will say Dragon Hoops by Gene Yang was a special project because of the hand of cards it presented and the path it ultimately took. When I started at First Second, this project was already late. I needed to pick this project up very quickly and get something designed yesterday. We had a design in the running, which we thought was a solid direction. But after some distance and great feedback, we decided to start over.
 
I had to dig deep and eventually came up with the current design. This was a journey and a VERY collaborative project, which is a big part of publishing. Publishing is supposed to be collaborative because it’s a collection of people who are experts in their field. It forced me to tap into ideas that I wouldn’t have on my own.
 
Once we settled on the cover direction of the basketball theme design, I needed to figure out how we were going to actually print it. A big part of the concept was to give the book a very tactile experience. I wanted Dragon Hoops to look AND feel like a basketball when the reader is holding it. It was a really fun challenge to construct the jacket mechanical to replicate that feeling of a basketball. I felt like a carpenter.
 
In the end, Dragon Hoops was not only a creative challenge but a technical challenge as well, all done in a compressed schedule. It was really hard, and very rewarding.
 

I’m a big fan of cheesy phrases and I like to say, “I like to see art that not only goes out on a limb, but hovers next to the tree and laughs at it.” Nothing brings me more joy than when artists experiment, play, and have fun. You can tell they are enjoying the process when looking at their portfolio and the artwork feels natural and fluid. 
 
However, there’s a realistic side to the industry. Some art styles elicit a visceral response from the audience by being either dated or very niche. Being self-aware of your own art and knowing your style's place in the marketplace is important. Maybe your style is dated or very niche, but can you push it to make it work in some way? Can you figure out a way to elicit a new response through different character designs or color palettes? If so, that’s when artists are pushing the boundaries and creating cool stuff.
 

This Was Our Pact is pretty much up there as one of my favorite children’s graphic novel. This book taps into my childhood of riding bikes and exploring the woods behind our houses, new and growing friendships, and owning my own actions. The artwork in This Was Our Pact is so beautiful and whimsical…. I’ve read it about 6 or 7 times and it never gets old. 

An art director does more than make a pretty design. Art Directors are overseeing projects, collaborating with artists, and often managing teams. One needs to develop skills beyond just good design. Communication is key. How do you talk with creators and try to get the best work out of them? How do you manage your team so they grow and develop their own style and voice? Organization is important too. How do you navigate all of your projects so there’s enough structure for your colleagues yet providing your creators with flexibility to work the way they need to? How do you do all of this and manage your own projects?  
 
The art director also needs to be a resource for creators in every way imaginable. Especially in comics, because there are so many ways one can create comics these days. Between different types of traditional media, a wide range of software, and creative drives to push the comics medium. The art director really has to be available as a resource for the creator. It could be helping figure out glitches in software. It could be helping the creator push their ideas so they’re getting more impact in their book.
 
Nothing (and I mean nothing) feels better than when you, your team, and creators are catching a wave of working together, bouncing ideas off of each other, and pumping out great books! There’s never a straight line from start to finish, so when an art director can get everyone to enjoy the ride…. That’s when everyone enjoys the end destination the most!
 

Include style(s) that look and feel developed with multiple samples of each style. Please don’t include random one-off images… that doesn’t communicate to me that you can handle an entire book. Only include samples that you enjoy doing, because if I ask you to work on a book in a style, I want you, the artist, to be stoked to do an entire book that way.
 
Having multiple styles is great… Just curate your selection. We’re not looking for a set number of styles. We’re looking for quality. So if you can execute your work in multiple ways, all of them you do really well, and have fun doing…. Flaunt them!
 

To be willing to explore and play. On rare occasions, a solution presents itself right away. But many times, the best solutions require exploration. Opening up your brain to investigate and play is a skill set in of itself. Don’t lock yourself into a solution, because something extraordinary always presents itself after some searching. Remember, until we’re holding a book in our hands…. Nothing is set in stone. Use that time in the beginning to play and communicate what’s working and what’s not. Does that mean compromise? Yes, absolutely. But the best books come from artists who take the time to find that amazing solution.

The best products and books come out of collaboration. It’s important to remember that a balance needs to be had between the creator and the publisher. If a creator wants full control, they can always self publish. But if a publisher is fronting the capital to make an investment on your project, there are going to be expectations the publisher needs met. Working with the editor and designer/art director is important. Finding the best solution and communicating in an amicable/respectful way from all sides is key. Publishers need to remember that these projects are a creator's brain child and creators need to remember that publishers don’t work in a vacuum.

Easy, working at First Second. There is never a day that I don’t appreciate the incredible talent I get to work with every day. Not to mention, my colleagues are some of the most talented people in the industry who are genuine and have a heart of gold. As far as the comics industry goes, it’s filled with creators/contributors/readers who just love the medium. They love the craft of sequential art and are constantly pushing the art to new levels. Being a kid who grew up reading comics and dreaming of one day working in the industry, this job is very special to me. I’m very lucky.

As an art director, everything becomes inspiration. Everywhere I go, I’m looking at how different people use type, imagery, and what makes them tick. Depending on what kind of project it is and what that project is about, I need to understand how to best communicate that subject matter. That opens up the door for taking deep dives in different cultural worlds. It’s in those deep dives where you discover symbols and visual languages that you can use. Whether it’s New England folk art paintings to Basquiat, a film by Hayao Miyazaki to Bob’s Burgers, Blue Note album covers by Reid Miles to underground club fliers, watching The Great British Bake Off to Binging with Babish, watching a SpaceX launch to a crazy maker build with Mark Rober, listening to acapella by Pentatonix to thrash metal by Slayer. As an art director, the more culture you’re exposed to, the more you can understand what creators are communicating in their work. It's an endless pursuit, but one that never gets old!

Another project is A Map to the Sun by Sloan Leong. Sloan's artwork for this is just beautiful and perfect for the story. As soon as you experience the artwork, you're immediately transported to the hazy lifestyle of the west coast setting sun. There is this cinematic feel to her work that really plays into the tempo of the story as well. I can hear a soundtrack (haha... for me it was Ratatat and Kavinsky) with her pages as the story played out.

Sloan's colors are just bonkers. Her distinct palette sets the story perfectly in California and her use of color holds really propel the artwork into this otherworldly place. The palette changes throughout, not in a drastic way, as if you're watching a sunset. But because the colors of a sunset shift slowly, that subconscious association plays a role in the pacing of the story.

When we worked on the cover design of this project, I really wanted something that was going to echo the beauty of the interior and really convey the experience in an instant. After some back and forth to get an idea of where Sloan's head was at, we settled on the type driven cover where the type was integrated into the art. I could see the movement in this direction, as if it were opening credits to a film, and felt it was showing off the best parts of her art.

Lastly, The Well written by Jake Wyatt with art by Choo was an absolute blast to work on. I've been a fan of Choo's work whose style rides this fine line of complex with lots of information yet feeling simple and effortless. When you look at Choo's work, you notice they use gradients sparingly and color blocks to define the elements in the art. Their distinct style sucks you into the story, because you get lost in the details hoping to find easter eggs.

I worked in Sci Fi/Fantasy for many years and Choo's style is such a refreshing stylistic contribution to the genre. Their visuals are just so fluid and effortless, paired with Jake's story.... I would find myself halfway through the book in what felt like a blink of an eye.

When we got working on the cover this was another challenge where it was important to showcase Choo's distinct style along with Jake's big fantasy adventure in a blink of an eye. Taking the old ornate frame and picture window book design style, we built on that to make Lizzy, our main character, look as if she's about to jump INTO the book itself to go on her adventure, making eye contact with the reader and pulling them in too.

The colors, the pacing, character design….. It’s just a magical story! I got my son into the book too, and we both love to go on our own adventures when we go camping.

READ MORE

I've loved writing since I was a kid and I've always had a passion for early education and history. The idea for Honest History was born out of a desire to combine these areas of my life—and when I researched available options for kids, I was disappointed at the lack of history resources that were creative, fun and inspiring. I decided then to create a brand that would provide these missing elements to kids across different forms of media.

At the heart of our company is a notion that creativity and education can be combined to create compelling stories brought to life with original illustrations and great design. There are other titles on shelves that are creative and titles that lean more academic, but the way we combine these two elements creates a uniquely engaging magazine for kids. Our goal is to present a fact-based view of history that allows kids to make their own decisions on how they feel about the people, cultures, and events that shaped our world. Our magazine is meant to be a jumping-off point for kids, parents, and teachers to explore topics of interest and discover how history can be fun for everyone. 

That's a great question! Each issue of the magazine has its own style and feel, but we love hand-drawn or painted illustrations that use primary colors. We also love working with illustrators from a variety of backgrounds who have a connection to the topic we are covering in any given issue. 

Draw what you love! I have found that an artist's passion really comes through when they are drawing something that sparks joy. Draw in the style you love and draw the things that make you happy. We almost always choose illustrators whose personality comes through most in their work, regardless of whether they've drawn anything even closely related to the topic of an issue we're working on. 

We worked with illustrator Jordan Houston-Taylor for the feature story on Mansa Musa in Issue 13 (The Golden Rule) and I loved Jordan's enthusiasm. She was so willing to make changes and was really careful to represent Mansa Musa's image with historical accuracy. Jordan was great about asking clarifying questions and had terrific communication during the whole process, so it was a pleasure working with her and I can't wait to work with her in the future.   

This is such a tough one! I would say the Issue 7 (Into the Deep) cover by Cynthia Cliff is one of my favorites because it really shows what the magazine topic is about. Issue 9 (An Era of Exploration) is also very near and dear to my heart because it was hand-drawn by Nate Burbeck and it still amazes me every time I see it (there are so many tiny details he added that surprise me every time I look at it). The cover of issue Issue 11 (Journey Through the Jungle) is also a favorite of mine.  Daniela Galliski did such an amazing job on the cover and I think she really understood the look and feel we were hoping for. 

The whole team sends a list of ideas every few months and, using those lists, we collaborate and decide as a team which topics we are most excited about. The ideas usually are a mix of things our young historians have asked us to cover or topics that we feel need to be presented in a fun or different way. One of our most requested topics from young historians is to cover Native Americans and WWII, one of which, we will be coving for our spring issue in 2022.

There is so much important, yet overlooked history. In school, we all learn about the same big people or events and the same stories and images are used again and again. We believe that giving kids a wider lens to view history will not only spark their interest but will teach them about the world they live in today. History is for everyone because every topic has a history. By giving kids the tools to think about the past and make their own decisions on how they feel about past events, we believe we are equipping the next generation of critical thinkers who can go out and make a positive impact on the world.

My love for history really ebbs and flows depending on what I'm reading. At the moment, I'm very interested in ancient world history and have been particularly fascinated by ancient Greece. My all-time favorite is definitely the early 20th century. I have a particular soft spot for the changes in literature during the Great War and how the wars affected writing during that time. 

A while back, we had two kids write in and thank us for covering the history of espionage in Issue 6, A Secret Mission. The kids wrote us a letter with a list of questions about how they can join the CIA. I wrote them back and we actually had a short back and forth correspondence with the kids asking some really thoughtful questions. It was so great to hear that a topic resonated with these kids and that they found the idea of having a career with the CIA so fascinating.

READ MORE

We rebranded in 2019 and were very deliberate about the new name. “Margin” has an obvious literary reference, but it also evokes things that are not in the mainstream. This connotation evokes our mission of publishing underrepresented voices. We chose “West” to set ourselves apart from another idea of mainstream—that most well-known publishers are based on the east coast. Thus, “West” also signals that we do things differently in our company. It also refers to our physical location in Northern California.

Our children’s books have strong story arcs and high-quality artwork. We add an educational element whenever we can, in the form of back matter, sidebars, and book guides. We seek out underrepresented groups as much as possible—BIPOC, LGBTQia+, neuro-divergent, and more—both in the characters, collaborators, and freelancers. But above all, our children’s books are always fun.

The Zee Files is a fantastic series of books for tween readers. Written by bestselling author Tina Wells, the series revolves around a bi-racial girl named Zee who heads to London for boarding school.

Where Thuong Keeps Love by Thu Buu tells the story of a young Vietnamese girl who learns about love from her friends and family.

My Way West, written and illustrated by Elizabeth Goss, features stories from real kids who traveled the Oregon Trail on their way out west in the 1800s, accompanied by stunning papercut art.

Include a wide variety of samples so that our art director can get a sense of your skillset. If you work in different styles, be sure to include a range of examples.

This happens all the time! It’s so fun to see the ideas that illustrators bring to the table. The little unexpected details are the best.

Odin, Dog Hero of the Fires by Emma Bland Smith. This is the true story about a goat-herding dog who miraculously survived a giant brushfire and was discovered alive, still protecting the herd.

Why Worry, by bestselling author Eric Kimmel. Here, a cricket and a grasshopper work together to ease anxiety and find hope.

Lucy’s Blooms by Dawn Prochovnic. It’s a story of a young girl who learns about self-esteem, resilience, and love from her grandmother.

My current boss – he is more like a coach than a boss and he gives everyone on his team the credit they deserve. I can’t think of any explicit advice, but he has taught me to believe in myself and trust my decisions – I always know that he has my back.

Like most children’s book publishers, I read industry magazines and browse bookstores to see what is garnering reviews and generating sales. But I mostly rely on the moms on my team to tell me what their kids like. For me, it’s more about what our young readers enjoy rather than keeping up with the competition.

Recently, a young reader wrote a handwritten letter to author Tina Wells care of us. They told Tina that they read The Zee Files with their dad and that they can’t wait to read the next book in the series. It’s so wonderful to hear directly from kids that they are enjoying the books we publish. Another time, at a trade show, a youngster picked up a book from our display and refused to put it down. Her mother explained that she rarely sees books that portray characters with brown skin, like hers. It made me proud that children are able to see themselves in the books we publish.

READ MORE

I studied Language and Communication at the University of Amsterdam. During my studies, I developed my interest in the publishing industry. For this reason, I applied for the selective dual master Publisher/editor. After my internship at the lovely publishing house Querido children’s books, I found a job as an editor at Moon publishers. There, I learned all the basic skills of an editor and I had the opportunity to learn a lot from the publisher. When she moved to another job, the managing board asked me to become the new publisher. Me? With only 26 years old?! It had always been a dream of mine to become a publisher one day, but this was very soon. Nevertheless, I took my chance and learned a lot. After two years of working as a publisher for Moon, the director of Singel publishers asked me to start a new children’s book imprint: Volt. I moved to Volt and I am working there now for 2.5 years, building on the new list!

Being a small publishing house has a lot of advantages: shorter lines of contact, quicker communication, more personal relationships and less bureaucracy. On the other hand, some disadvantages are less employees for bigger projects and an even higher workload when somebody gets ill. But I’m very happy that Volt children’s books is part of the bigger group of Singel publishers. So we are not ‘alone’, but part of the bigger ‘family’. Other publishing houses here are, for example, Querido, Nijgh & Van Ditmar and De Geus.  

It’s a very small market. Everybody knows each other: the editors, the publishers, the writers, the illustrators, the booksellers, etc. Very intimate, but sometimes a bit oppressive. I think our level of illustrators is quite high: a modern and high quality (handmade!) style of illustrations and with a lot of humour. It’s very interesting to see that every country has its own illustration style and tradition.

My classic series: The Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Junglebook of Rudyard Kipling and Oliver Twist of Charles Dickens. Well-known Dutch authors (Tiny Fisscher and Daan Remmerts de Vries, resp.) retold the classic stories for a new generation. Not just a shorter and easier version, but an integral translation. The books stand out and receive a lot of positive attention because of the wonderful illustrations of Mark Janssen and Annette Fienieg respectively, who took the stories to a higher level.

Another favourite project of mine is to work with new talent. To scout, to give them a platform and to let them develop their unique style. At the moment, I’m working with young talented illustrators such as Djenné Fila (De Vuurvogel, Toen Rups een vlinder werd) and Liset Celie (Het lekkerste bed).

Furthermore, I’m very fortunate to publish the work of Fiep Westendorp (1916-2004), one of the most famous illustrators of the Netherlands. Generations of readers grew up with her work. Westendorp has left behind thousands of illustrations and together with the Fiep Westendorp Foundation we create new books with this heritage. Especially the cardboard books for the youngest generation are doing very well.

I like the interaction of more complex projects. Such as the collaboration between the neuroscientist Erik Scherder, the children’s book writer Fred Diks and the illustrator Mariëlla van de Beek. It has been a challenge to structure all their enthusiasm and input, but at the end they each added an indispensable part of the final result of Professor S. en de verslaafde koning. Like a puzzle of three important pieces falling perfectly together. I think readers recognized this chemistry of the trio; the book became a bestseller.

I experienced a quite similar collaboration with the book Tim de kleine boswachter, about a very enthusiastic forester here in the Netherlands: Tim. He really wanted to write the book by himself, but after trying for months I decided to search for a very good author to write it with Tim’s input. I asked the award-winning author Jan Paul Schutten – who loves nature and animals – and added illustrator Emanuel Wiemans to the project. Three men with the same love for nature and children. After months of waiting with the one person project, the book suddenly developed very soon with this trio.

Develop your own style; be original in order to stand out from the wide range of illustrators. I really prefer illustrators who still work manually, or who start with a pen or pencil and edit digitally. Illustrations made from scratch with the computer don’t have my preference (but could still be beautiful of course). When I’m receiving portfolios, it’s very helpful to see a lot of diversity: colour as well as black and white; people as well as animals etc. The chance to find suitable projects will be higher with a complete and diverse portfolio. I see a lot of illustrators struggling with drawing people, especially the faces. To bring the characters to life and to give them emotions is very difficult. But I’m very happy with the richness of illustrators in the Netherlands. A lot of their picture books are published in other countries.

a) What’s working very well for us?

Professor S. en de gestolen breinbril and Professor S. en de verslaafde koning

Two books about Zhé and her grandpa who is a professor. Adventurous stories with a lot of funny facts about the brain.

Snelle Sam – De Kartcup and Snelle Sam – De Grand Prix

A popular series about Formula 1 and the little boy Sam who really wants to race himself.


Het grote Fiep kijkboek

A big cardboard book with very diverse themes to learn words. Perfect present for hours of fun.

b) Recently sold internationally:

Fake

A non-fiction book for children about fake news, fact checking, fallacies and censorship. A very current and urgent theme in these times.

De kleine prins

The retelling of the famous The Little Prince for children, with amazing illustrations by the internationally loved Mark Janssen.

My former publisher at Moon, Marieke, where I started my career. She believed in me from the first day. She didn’t treat me as an intern or a starter, but as an equal sparring partner. From her, I learned the ‘tricks’ of publishing. 

Moreover, my current boss Paulien (even though she doesn’t like it when I call her ‘my boss’). She asked me to start the new imprint, which was a very special request. I am very grateful to her for the confidence and freedom she gives me.

So many! I loved Astrid Lindgren: the fearless Pippi Longstocking and the children of the Troublemaker Street. I also really enjoyed the funny stories of Ole Lund Kirkegaard from Denmark and the lovely Madelief books by the Dutch author Guus Kuijer.

A project that’s more than a book, with a bigger impact for young readers. A book is not just some sheets of paper and a cover. There is a bigger story behind it. I would love to make books which change the mind of children: make them laugh, make them wiser, happier and more inventive. My dream project would arise together with a creative team of e.g. a good illustrator and author, not just from my mind or bought as a license. The interaction between different creative minds is like 1+1=3. There are already so many books out there, I really hope I can add something to the children’s book market.

READ MORE

I began my career in educational publishing; I’ve always had a passion for curiosity and learning, and so I put that to use creating classroom materials. That led me to take on the dual roles of curriculum and digital editor for National Geographic Explorer Magazines, where I oversaw both the curricular strategy and also managed all of the digital elements, from managing the website, audio resources, and social media presence to ideating and developing the app version of the magazines. I loved putting my skills and creativity to use to figure out how best to translate printed magazines in to an authentic, engaging app experience. I loved that aspect of my work so much that I then decided to join the NGKids Books team, where I could further work to marry best practices of pedagogy with best practices of trade: making books that curious kids want to devour!

I think for too long there’s been a pretty clear line drawn between educational/non-fiction publishing and trade publishing. A successful book needs to have elements of both: all of the trade-book hook, buzz, and energy plus all of the deep knowledge about how to present complex information. Kids are so naturally curious about the world and they find joy in the simple act of discovering new information. As adults I think we sometimes forget that, so harnessing that excitement can sometimes be a challenge. But when the book team themselves is actively engaged—everyone from the author to editor to designer to the marketing manager—when everyone can read the book and say, “Whoa! That’s amazing,” you know you’ve got a winner. That goes for adult nonfiction, too!

I’m so excited to see so many traditional trade publishers dipping their toes into non-fiction publishing. There are so many fascinating things in the world—and beyond!—that the more different angles we can approach content with, the better. For every kid who loves to read historical narrative nonfiction there’s another kid who loves to dive into fact lists. One challenge that a lot of great bloggers have pointed out is that the book industry, being story people, really tends to focus on narrative nonfiction like picture-book biographies. There’s so much more out there, though, that readers really want to read about, and so many more formats that appeal to readers that it behooves the industry (reviewers and award committees, especially) to keep an open mind about what a successful non-fiction book looks like.

Animals are endlessly fascinating—there’s no shortage of amazing, unbelievable facts about them! I’m also personally really interested in how our understandings have changed over time. Paleontology and space science, for example, are rapidly changing fields. I’ve even had a few books where we had to make changes in printer proofs because new information had come to light between when we’d finished the book and then.

For National Geographic Kids, our Weird-But-True series is an absolute juggernaut. It’s not a surprise, really, given how incredibly surprising all of the facts are. We recently reissued the first 10 books in the series, adding 50 new facts per book, to celebrate its 10th anniversary. You’d think at some point we’d run out of new facts, but that’s the amazing thing about our world (and space)! Of course, our atlases and encyclopedias are perennial favorites, too, and our fact-based-fiction series have found legions of fans. What’s more fun that a high-octane adventure story that includes all kinds of real-life future gadgets (Explorer Academy) or a pet hamster who’s convinced that he’s the Greek god Zeus (Zeus the Mighty)?

I asked our VP of NGKids Visual Identity to weigh in on this one. Here’s what she said: Since photography plays such an important role in how we illustrate National Geographic non-fiction content, we don't often hire illustrators for our books. When we do, we focus on the editorial concept and what style will complement the story to drive the atmosphere of the book. We also look for illustrators that have experience using very specific scrap and reference materials to help visualize a historic character or a real place in a specific time period. We also look for illustration styles that have active line work and a vibrant color palette. 

Any project I walk away from having learned and been amazed myself is a rewarding experience for me. One such book is Welcome to Mars by Buzz Aldrin with Marianne Dyson. For that book, we set out to explore what it would take to settle on Mars. There are the expected needs, of course, like ways to get water and warmth, but then there’s also the “softer” aspects of building a settlement, such as the fact that a restaurant or communal dining hall would likely be one of the first businesses/structures built. Eating is such a social activity that communal eating would be an important way to build community on a new planet. 

Another really challenging but rewarding project was Code This. For that book, we set out to try to teach kids the fundamentals of coding in an offline, super-fun format. The idea was that if you can help kids understand the underlying concepts, then they’ll be able to build on that base no matter what new coding language comes along in their future. 

I keep coming back to it, but amazement is the key to everything. That extends to the book team, too. You can tell when you read a book that the author and whole team was really excited about—that eagerness to share what awesome thing you just learned absolutely shines through. Along with that, another method is keeping the text short and the visuals engaging. It can sometimes be difficult to find or create visuals that both accurately illustrate the content and also amaze and engage, but visuals are as much a part of the reading and content-delivery experience for nonfiction as the text is, so getting them right is really important.

One recent book I just did with the incomparable Melissa Stewart is Ick. This book is so chockfull of the grossest animal behaviors that no matter how many times I read it I’d always end up wonderfully disgusted. There are so, so many animal facts in this book that I had no idea about before working on it.

I also had the honor of working with NASA mathematician and “Hidden Figure” Katherine Johnson on her picture-book autobiography, One Step Further. We really wanted to dig into her life story in a way that hadn’t been done before, including weaving in her own daughters’ paths. At the heart of the story is a mother pushing gender and racial boundaries to make room for her children to push them even further. It’s incredibly inspiring.

Believe it or not, I actually loved reading the encyclopedia! We had a great children’s encyclopedia set in my house, and I would choose three entries within one letter volume to count as one “bedtime story” each night. I loved learning about all kinds of unrelated topics at once.

I absolutely loved working on Dining With Dinosaurs with paleocartoonist Hannah Bonner. I loved taking a look at dinos from a new angle, and Hannah’s humor in both her art and text is infectious and inviting.

I’m also currently working on our fact-based fiction series Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad, written by American Girl book series co-creator Valerie Tripp. This series stars an awesome girl gang of brainy, independent, authentically middle-school gals who “solve mysteries and reveal truths” (S.M.A.R.T., get it?) while dealing with all the challenges, anxieties, and excitements that come with starting sixth grade.

READ MORE

I sort of fell into publishing! But I guess I sort of fell into most chapters of my professional life, having done everything from comics to motion graphics to web design to animation to editorial cartoons to making fonts. Tundra was looking for an art director, and a friend forwarded me the job posting. I didn't come to the job with a ton of publishing experience, but I did come with an insatiable love of illustration, design, and books. Tundra publishes some of the best illustrators working today, and it's incredibly rewarding to do my part in helping shape and be a steward of their books. 

We're all working from home now, so my typical day looks a little different in 2020 than it did in previous years. But on any given day I might be laying out type and designing the elements of a picture book, scouring the Internet for illustrators to work with, meeting with editors (on the phone or online these days, of course), or reviewing proofs and printed samples, all from my home office.

Some of our earliest titles like the beloved Canadian classics The Hockey Sweater and Mordecai Richler's Jacob Two-Two are still in print. 

Some of our other titles include Ben Clanton's Narwhal & Jelly series...

The Darkest Dark by Astronaut Chris Hadfield and illustrated by the Fan Brothers...

Isabelle Arsenault's Mile End Kids series...

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Júlia Sardà...

This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad...

and Phoebe Wahl's Ezra Jack Keats Award-winning Sonya's Chickens....

King Mouse

I'm pretty proud of how the design of this picture book written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dena Seiferling turned out. Dena's illustrations are so lovely and timeless. This little king needed a royal treatment, with gold foil details like a crown stamped onto the faux-cloth case, and a shiny, regal bookplate.

Skinnamarink

I grew up listening to Sharon, Lois and Bram records, and watching them on TV, so it was a true delight to get to work on the picture book version of their signature song, even if it did take months to dislodge that particular earworm. I adore Qin Leng's work, and she was a delight to work with.

How to Promenade with a Python

This soon-to-be-released book from Rachel Poliquin was the perfect opportunity to work with illustrator Kathryn Durst. It's the first in a hilarious non-fiction series about predators in the animal kingdom. We wanted the book to be hand-lettered, but the complexity and logistics of making the book necessitated a font. Or in this case, several fonts. This was a fun opportunity to create three different fonts based on Kathryn's diverse lettering styles, each with multiple alternating characters to help keep everything from looking too mechanical or artificial.

Fight Like a Girl

In discussing this Sheena Kamal novel with the editor, she described wanting to see a loose, expressive illustrated figure on the cover. Sometimes the right synapses fire at the right time; I immediately thought of Lauren Tamaki's work, and didn't even have to source any other illustrators. The result is one of my favourite book covers of the last year.

How to Give Your Cat a Bath

Is it cheating to pick a book I illustrated? I was contracted to illustrate this book (written by Nicola Winstanley) for Tundra before I began working there as art director. So, in a strange twist, once I had the job, one of the first books I was art directing and designing was my own. I was very pleased when the book was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Awards.

There are some practical considerations when I look through portfolios. Typically I'm looking for images of people, kids, animals, and well-rendered backgrounds and environments. But those are just basic subjects that should be in a portfolio of anyone looking to work in children's publishing.

In terms of the style or quality of the art, every story has its own requirements for illustration, and more than anything I want a book's illustration to feel as if it is an inextricable part of the story. I think my advice to any illustrator, regardless of whether they are trying to appeal to Tundra, is to be themself and allow their portfolio to be the truest most authentic representation of the kind of art that they want to make. For the most part, it doesn't matter what their work looks like — if it's good, and it's authentic, I fully believe that the right opportunities to make more of that work will present themselves.

Of the books I've written, the three I am most proud of are the three books I've published with Koyama Press. It's sad to see Koyama Press no longer publishing books as of this year, but the good news is that all three of these — A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories, Burt's Way Home, and Evie and the Truth About Witches — have found a new home at Tundra. I'm grateful and excited for these books to have a second life with such a great team behind them. Tim and Evie will be published in Summer 2021, with Burt to follow.

Absolutely. My parents have always been my biggest champions. Both of them actively encouraged my artistic side, enrolling me in art camps and cartooning classes, or driving me to the library or the art store. The drawing table I use today is the same one my dad gave me when I was a kid — a vintage industrial drafting table that my dad rescued from being thrown out at the factory he worked at. I have great memories of sitting at this table for the first time, and how it made me feel like a real pro. Every little act of encouragement and reinforcement of my love of drawing pushed me further along the path of my eventual career.

I'm constantly absorbing art in some way. I have a pretty big library, most of which is related to picture-making in some way: illustration, comics, art, design, animation, advertising, picture books, typography, photography, etc. So, I'm never far from an endless source of images that excite me. And I'm grateful to have made many friends who are artists, all of whom inspire me constantly with the amazing work that they create.

I'm currently illustrating a book called Crocodile Hungry by author Eija Summer. It will be published by Tundra in Spring 2022. I think it'll be pretty fun!

I'd love to do make book in 3D — the kind with the red and blue glasses included. As a teenager I amassed a small collection of 3D comics, and learned how to draw my own 3D images with the right coloured pencils. It's such a low-tech old school gimmick, but I couldn't get enough of it back then, and I still love it.

READ MORE

Connect With Us