Interview with Dana Carey, Assistant Editor, Wendy Lamb Books

Today we welcome Dana Carey, Assistant Editor at Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, to share an inside look at the book editing and publishing process. I had the pleasure of working with Dana on my middle grade novel, The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days.

Q: Welcome, Dana! So to start, what is your background? How did you arrive at Wendy Lamb Books?

A: I had a meandering journey to children’s publishing. After graduating college and doing trademark research for a year, I spent eight years in editorial at a professional nursing journal. Nurses are some fantastic and strong people! But I had this dream to work in children’s publishing that didn’t go away. So I took a big leap and went to school for an MS in Publishing at NYU. And I was extremely lucky to get an internship and then a position with Wendy Lamb Books.

tumblr_inline_mub7exSlaa1s70xgvQ: Tell us about a typical day.

A. What I love most about editorial is that there really isn’t a typical day! The many hats that you get to wear keeps an editor on his or her toes; it’s both exhilarating and challenging. A typical day for me could involve delving into a manuscript and writing notes (either for something under contract or a new submission), putting together jacket copy, researching comp (comparative or similar) titles during acquisition, pulling sales reports, starting a P&L (Profit and Loss) statement, writing copy for sales sheets, preparing for a presentation, sending out finished books or edited passes (drafts), talking with agents, authors, copy editing, design, subrights…just to name a few. Ha!

Q: Can you take us through the steps a book undergoes, from acquisitions to a final book?

A: When a manuscript is acquired it is usually assigned to a future span (a “span” is a book selling season in publishing-speak), which means the actual editing probably won’t start right away. When you do start editing, the author spends several months going back and forth with manuscript revisions using feedback from the editor in the form of a letter and marked manuscript pages and often a phone call to talk about the revisions. When that is done, the manuscript is sent on to copy editing. The author will review all of the copy editor’s changes and weigh in where appropriate. This is a helpful stage not only to clarify language and style if needed but also because the copy editor at this point has fresh eyes and can spot anything that was missed during editing.

Then the copy edited manuscript is sent to a compositor who will set the copy into the type of a book, which is very exciting because the manuscript is starting to look like an actual book! The proofreader will also provide a fresh set of eyes and pick up any small things that may have been missed previously. This is usually the last time an author will see the text before publication. But fear not, many people are still looking at these passes. And then finally you get a finished book.

Q: What grabs you in a manuscript when you’re reading? What tugs at your heart?

A: The first thing that grabs me in a manuscript is the voice. If the voice is unique, lyrical, authentic, and age-appropriate, you’ve caught my interest. The second thing that grabs me is the character. I love seeing a character who is basically a good kid and has this good quality challenged in some way, which often creates a deeper sense of tension and personal conflict.

IMG_5498The types of stories that pull me in are: heartwarming, funny, philosophical/psychological (what does it mean to be human, what does it mean to be a kid/teen now or at a point in history), adventure/journey stories…and who isn’t a sucker for a great Bildungsroman? I’m especially drawn to stories about kids who are struggling to belong, or are struggling with something they can’t change about themselves, such as race or sexuality. I’d also love to see more diversity in the traditional gender roles in children’s books.

Q: Is there a particular book you’ve worked on that you’re especially proud of?

A: This is a really tough question! I imagine it’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child! But if I had to choose, I’ve loved working with Wendy on our two series of illustrated chapter books: ZIGZAG KIDS by Patricia Reilly Giff, illustrated by Alastair Bright, and CALVIN COCONUT by Graham Salisbury, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers.

zig_zag_1Since there is less space as in a text-only middle grade book, the author has to be especially efficient at creating scenes and establishing characters. The process of the manuscript and art evolving independently and then coming together is a magical process.

More recently, I’ve loved working with Wendy on WE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES by Susin Nielsen, coming May 2015. It’s laugh-out-loud funny (really!). It’s told from two perspectives, a boy named Stewart who is a genius but socially awkward (but working on it!) and Ashley, a girl who is not a genius academically (and not working on it!) but is well aware of her high position on the social ladder at school. When their parents decide to move in together, what happens next is hilarious, tender, dramatic, and heartwarming.

Q: What are some common mistakes or faults you see in manuscripts?

A: I often see submissions from new writers with too much description, in particular too much detail of physical movements or of telling the reader rather than showing. The reader can infer a lot, not everything needs to be spelled out explicitly. Also, it’s common to see kid characters who sound too old or too young for their age. And sometimes new authors will focus on small conflicts rather than having an overarching theme or plot for the main character.

Q: What advice would you give to writers?

A: Keep reading. Read your favorites to remind yourself why you love children’s books. Read new books so you know the market. And read outside of children’s books sometimes, you never know where you may find inspiration.

Q: And finally, what do you like to do in your spare time, when you’re not hard at work editing the next bestseller?

A: My favorite things to do outside of work are walking my dog, Charlie, taking care of my cats, Willie and Gracie, and either attending or teaching a yoga class.

Thank you so much, Dana, for sharing your insights with us!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both middle grade novels from Wendy Lamb Books. Find her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

Graphic Novels for Middle Graders

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When my son came home from the library with A Wrinkle in Time, The Graphic Novel, my reaction was mixed. I was happy that Madeline L’Engle’s classic wouldt reach more readers now that it had been adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. But I also wondered if it would stop others – including my own children- from enjoying the original format.

Putting my emotional reaction aside, I figured it was time to start asking questions about graphic novels, a genre which has exploded in popularity in what literally feels like a wrinkle of time.

First of all, what’s the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book?

Essentially, graphic novels are book length narratives presented in comic book style. This differentiates them from comic strips without a central plot, like Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes. Graphic novels also tend to be longer and more complex than comic books that tell a story over many issues (usually covering a long period time) like superhero serials.

Read more about comics versus graphic novels at knowledge nuts  and wisegeek.

Are graphic novels good for reluctant readers?

According to the School Library Journal , graphic novels are ideal for attracting reluctant readers and introducing them to literature they might not encounter otherwise. They are also well suited to ESL students and provide scaffolding for struggling readers.

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But Good ok Bad, a blog which reviews graphic novels exclusively, cautions that the genre should not be treated as a gateway for getting kids to read “real books.” Instead parents and educators are encouraged to treat graphic novels as a distinctive art form that have their own things to say and their own way of saying it.

Reading graphic novels may push children into more literary pursuits. Or they may just give kids an appreciation for good comics. Either way, reading graphic novels challenge children (and adults) to grow in empathy, understanding, and knowledge.

Are graphic novels good for all middle grade readers?

Based on my review of the literature, yes! The Junior Library Guild praises the genre for fostering both visual and verbal comprehension skills while exposing readers to interesting dialogue and satire, as well as affirming diversity.

Wow1Get Graphic: The World in Words and Pictures, a resource for teachers provides the following summary. Reading graphic novels:

  • Engages reluctant readers & ESL students
  • Increases reading comprehension and vocabulary
  • Can serve as a bridge between low and high levels of reading
  • Provides an approach to reading that embraces the multimedia nature of today’s culture, as 2/3 of a story is conveyed visually
  • Provides scaffolding for struggling readers
  • Can serve as an intermediary step to more difficult disciplines and concepts
  • Presents complex material in readable text
  • Helps students understand global affairs
  • Helps to develop analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Offers another avenue through which students can experience art

Convinced? Here are some book lists to get you started on your graphic novel adventure.

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUND UP by the Mixed-Up Files

Let’s Get Graphic… novel! by the Mixed-Up Files

Top Ten Middle Grad Graphic Novel Series by the Nerdy Book Club

Best Graphic Novels for Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise (ages 3-16) by Pragmatic Mom

The Best Graphic Novels for Children divided by age group (K-2, 3-5, 6-8) by @your library

Slide Show of ten more recent middle grade novels from Kirkus Review

The Best Comics for your Classroom by The Graphic Classroom keeps an updated list broken down by age (including adults) and highly recommended vs. recommended, with a special list for reluctant readers

Great Graphic Novels for Kids by Good ok Bad provides a list, divided by age, and also ongoing reviews

Unleashing Readers provides list of nonfiction graphic novels

Gathering Books gives examples of non-fiction graphic novels that specifically deal with war and conflict (suitable for this time of year)

Have another suggestion? Please add it in the comment section below. Happy reading!

ID-100244202 Yolanda Ridge has enjoyed being part of the Mixed-Up Files. She will miss the group but is excited about following the new members and keeping in touch with the talented group of authors that make this blog possible.

 

Bad News and the MG reader

One of the things I love most about writing for MG readers is their fascination with the wide world around them. UnknownI want that wide world to be a kind and welcoming place, but this last stretch of three months has been awash in very difficult news from the wider world. Much as I’d like to shield young readers from the harsh realities of the events in Ferguson, MO, the activities of violent insurgents in the Middle East, natural disasters–a volcano in Japan, a blizzard in Nepal, it’s too late for that. MG readers also read or see or hear about the news all around them. This news has an impact on how they view the world.

So how to address disasters in the news with young readers who are not so young, and here I’m thinking kids under the age of 8 or so, that they can skip the it and learn later when they are better equipped to understand. 9-14 year olds are old enough to have a discussion about the news. 513lCzmWx3L._AA160_

I’ve found over the years that books are a great way to offer context on horrific events. Two mainstays of my household have been The Encyclopedic Atlas of the World and Children Just Like Me. They offer some context about where world events are happening and a few bite sized morsels about  what life is like there under not-tragic circumstances. I think it’s important for kids to see a country and culture not in crisis to counter the images they see in the news. A few minutes with Aseye, the Ghanian girl featured in Children Just Like Me, gives a useful counterpoint to frightening images from the region. Africa is more than Ebola.

51Slf5+HDOL._AA160_ 61W7Zg3ReIL._AA160_Sometimes a more general book about an issue in the news also helps a child put concerns in context. Understanding something about how disease transmission occurs is a good jumping off place for understanding any epidemic. Bill Nye the Science Guy and The Magic School Bus series both have titles about germs and how they interact with the human body. These are on the young side for MG readers but sometimes it’s not so bad to go back to non-fiction picture books as a starting point for conversation.

Once a child has a grasp of some of the basics about epidemics and how they function, and an understanding of their own risk and the wider risk to the world, it’s great to have a more in depth conversation about how people act during an epidemic and the larger issues of discriminations that occur because of them.

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Christopher Paul Curtis’s newest book, The Madman of Piney Woods includes the epidemic of Typhus that the grandmother endures on her immigration from Ireland to Canada. It has some some parallels to what is occurring now with our talk about who should travel to and from West Africa. It would be a great jumping off place for an in depth conversation.

And lastly I’d love to highlight some of the best biographies of people who have dedicated their lives to the eradication of disease. And here’s where I’d love to have some reader input. Have you got a favorite biography of Louis Pasture, Jonas Salk, or Marie Curie? What other heroes of micro-biology would you like young readers to know about? Please mention them in the comments and I’ll add the covers to this post in the next few days.