As the Assistant Regional Advisor for the Eastern NY SCBWI region, I chaired a novel master class retreat, titled Falling Leaves, last weekend. I was pleased to close out our weekend with 35 participants and have a waiting list - who would have guessed the weekend before Thanksgiving?
I asked each of the editors who attended to answer one question for me for Crowe's Nest - When did the editing bug bite? Please illuminate the path you took to becoming an editor.
Here are the responses:
Caroline Abbey (Bloomsbury): I decided I wanted to be a children's book writer in second grade. By college, it was still my dream and I was majoring in Creative Writing. But then, in workshops, I realized I was more interested (and better at) critiquing my classmate's work than working on my own. I got an internship at S&S in children's editorial and then I knew 110% that I wanted to be an editor!
Elizabeth Law (Egmont): I always loved to read, and in high school the children's librarian and I founded a children's book discussion group. So I knew I was crazy about children's books. In college, the legendary critic Zena Sutherland taught a children's literature course in which she told stories about editors she knew including Dick Jackson and Ursula Nordstrom. A lightbulb went off - editing was where I could really be in the middle of this industry - and art form- I liked best. So after graduation, I moved to NY and slept on a friend's sofa until I found an entry level job working for Deborah Brodie and Nancy Paulsen at Viking.
Alexandra Penfold (Paula Wiseman): I was an obsessive reader as a kid. I can probably attribute my living in New York today, at least in part to From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, Eloise by Kay Thompson, and The Babysitter's Club Super Special #6: New York, New York! While I did a lot of writing and editing related stuff in high school and college, I actually started at Simon & Schuster as a marketing intern and then got a full time job here in children’s publicity. After a couple years an opportunity opened up to move over to the editorial side and work on Paula Wiseman’s fantastic list. Books have always been a great love of mine and it’s exciting to work in an industry with other likeminded folks.
Sarah Shumway (Harper): I started as a reader - my parents will tell you that I rarely wanted to leave my room if it held a new (or an old favorite) book. Day-in-bed-with-a-book days were better than anything. Then, I read a book where one of the adult characters had a job where she read books all the time - reading, I think, to scout what books might make good movies, and I thought, "I could read for a living when I grow up?" It's pretty wonderful, though maybe not as great as Day-in-bed-with-a-book days.
Jennifer Yoon (Candlewick):I attribute the desire to be a children's book editor to an internship with Arthur Levine at Scholastic Press. For a summer I was a member of a tight-knit and collaborative group of editors who were committed to making high quality books across genres and categories. Their drive to create classics - books to be read and re-read - inspired me to be a part of that process. And that continues to this day.
I think we will all agree that we are certainly glad the editor bug did bite these thoughtful and insightful professionals! My thanks to all of them for a wonderful retreat!