Working with my editor Nancy Conescu on the text of Duck Sock Hop was a wonderful experience. She made clear suggestions that made the text stronger, was easy to have a positive back and forth with, had a great overall vision for the book, and has been very supportive of the book post-publication as well. She agreed to answer some questions here:
1. What qualities make you love a picture book manuscript when you receive it for consideration? What qualities do you look for in an illustrator's work that makes you want to work with him or her?
When I’m considering picture book manuscripts it’s the voice and read-aloud quality that I’m drawn to immediately. I look for stories that I think will inspire repeated readings and characters I think have breakout potential. (I’ll confess that I tend to favor well-intentioned but ill-behaved characters--the Pig Won’t’s of the world!) I also look for humor and consider the illustration potential a manuscript has. Oftentimes we’ll receive strong texts that seem more targeted to parents than to kids, and those are never for me. I like books with genuine kid-appeal. As for seeking out illustrators, I look for artists with unique styles, memorable characters, kid- appeal, and the ability to convey movement and expression.
2. Do you ever have to turn down manuscripts you want? If so, why?
I do sometimes have to turn down manuscripts that I wish I could pursue, and it’s always a little heartbreaking. It takes a whole team to publish a book successfully though, and if there’s not enough collective enthusiasm for a project, I feel I’d be doing the author a disservice if I took on his or her work. That doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing to me and to the author though.
3. What drew you to Duck Sock Hop when you first saw the text?
Duck Sock Hop is the kind of text you can’t possibly read without smiling. It’s very Sandra Boynton-esque in its read-aloud quality, and I felt that kids and parents would truly enjoy reading it and sharing it. I also imagined it with Jane Porter’s illustrations. I felt that her bright colors and bold lines would be a perfect match for Jane Kohuth’s joyful text, and indeed it turned out to be a wonderful pairing.
4. What kinds of books do you like to read for pleasure? What are some of your favorites?
I always wish I had more time to read for pleasure, but a great deal of my reading time is devoted to submissions. I did just finish Jenny Lawson’s memoir Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, which I absolutely loved, and I’m in the midst of an adult non-fiction book right now. I sometimes find adult memoirs and non-fiction to be an interesting change of pace, but more often than not, my reading for pleasure is focused on middle-grade and YA. I recently read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and I have Trent Stewart’s latest Mysterious Benedict book and Kelly Barnhill’s The Iron Hearted Giant on my to-read list along with lots and lots of other books I’ve stacked up at home and at work.
5. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I feel very lucky to have a job that I love so much and that gives me the opportunity to work with so many inspiring people. It’s incredibly gratifying to help authors and illustrators execute their vision, deliver their best work, and ultimately see the books that results from the process. I realize how much trust it requires authors and artists to put in me and in us, and I’m beyond grateful for their willingness to share their work.
6. What would your perfect day be like?
Hmmm….my perfect day? I’m not sure there’s just one kind. I love finding new manuscripts and new artists, but I also love the moment when an author delivers a revision or an artist delivers their sketches or final art. Then, of course, there’s the moment when finished books arrive, which never loses its magic. And, on a more basic level, it’s always really rewarding when an author or artist connects with the notes you’ve sent and is excited and inspired to revise. So, I guess it’s nice to have so many different things that can make my day. That’s not to say that every day is perfect—we work very hard—but I think that when you’re passionate about what you do, you’re able to appreciate a great deal of the process.