Sunday, July 26, 2015

SCBWI Pre-conference interview with editor Rotem Moscovich

There will be a new face at this year's summer conference, and I am SO STOKED for us.

Rotem Moscovich is a senior editor at Disney-Hyperion primarily editing middle grade novels (Hook’s Revenge and its forthcoming sequel by Heidi Schulz, Smek for President by Adam Rex) and picture books (Templeton Gets His Wish by Greg Pizzoli, Tommy Can’t Stop! by Tim Federle and illustrated by Mark Fearing) (and my picture book that comes out next summer, Alice and Lucy Will Work for Bunk Beds(!!!)). Rotem was nice enough to answer a few questions in between conferences.

Jaime: Rotemmers, I think this might be your first SCBWI summer conference?! And we are so lucky to have you! Who are you excited to hear speak?
Rotem: It is, indeed! I’ve never been to LA. There are many people I’m excited to hear speak, but especially Adam Rex: it’s always enlightening for me to see the process from the perspective of authors/illustrators that I work with. It helps me be a better editor, and not just for that particular creator.
Photo of Adam Rex. Adam thought he was going to jury duty selection,
but it was actually the premiere of his movie, HOME
Jaime: Oh, yeah! Adam! I suppose he'll do. Rotem, I thought publishing took the summer off, but I'm not sure you got that memo, what are you working on this week?

 Rotem: This week, I’m editing catalog copy for Summer 2016, reading submissions on the subway, answering emails (emails emails!), getting notes to an author-illustrator on a picture book, and beginning to edit the third novel in a chapter book series. And hopefully looking at mechanicals for several picture books that have to go out to the printer for F&Gs! It’s a short week for me, because I’m going up to Boston for Simmons College’s Summer Institute in Children’s Literature that runs Thursday eve through Sunday.

Jaime: Jeez, Rotem, it is summer! Are you at least snacking appropriately for summer? I know first-hand you are a gelato connoisseur, what's a latest favorite flavor?

 Rotem: Hmm, I recently had arugula gelato at L’albero Dei Gelati in Brooklyn. I’m not a huge fan of salads, so I felt pretty good about that! Kidding—but it was really good, both in flavor intensity and texture.

Jaime: Dear god, you weren't kidding, there really is arugula gelato, I think I would eat it, but would need a backup scoop of chocolate or something waiting in the wings. Speaking of wings: 
What are you planning on doing on your plane ride from east to west coast? Are you catching up on sleep? Watching a pirated copy of Magic Mike 2? Working?

Rotem: Probably a combination of editing a novel and writing the ceremony for my friend’s wedding in August, which I am officiating. I get pretty wistful on plane rides, so wish me luck!

Jaime: Aww, well, I hope you at least have a good, non-arugula based plane snack to look forward to. Here's a question from our illustrator conference goers: Do you like receiving illustrator promo postcards? And if so, are you looking for anything particular these days? Otters? Bankers? Banking otters?

Rotem: I do—it feels pretty analog, but I still have my folders of potential illustrators, and I also like seeing how far an artist has come over the years. I told Lauren Castillo recently that I still have one of her postcards from 2005! If I get a manuscript in and don’t instantly have an idea of who I think would be perfect to illustrate it, I absolutely delve into the folders to try on different styles in my mind. I don’t have a particular animal or activity in mind, but I like for the image to have a sense of narrative. I want to wonder about the story behind that chicken, girl on a bicycle, or ethereal land.
Jaime: So you can neither confirm nor deny that banking otters are going to be hot in picture books?

Rotem: ...

Jaime: Venture capitalist pigs?

Rotem: ...

Jaime: I'll take your silences as maybes. What is your favorite summer read so far?

Rotem: Does spring count? I absolutely loved (and cried over) The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall. Everyone should read it –she’s such a master at family dynamics. I’m looking forward to reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates during my vacation in August.

Jaime: Ooooo, I do love the Penderwicks. Okeedokee, final question, if you weren't an editor, what is another vocation you'd consider?

Rotem: My alternate-reality dream job would be to make muppets for Sesame Street. Or maybe I’d be an acupuncturist.

 Thank you, Rotem!! I think I will join you in this alternate reality of muppetmaking!

So excited for the conference next week and hope to see you all there. If I don't see you all there, remember SCBWI Team Blog is blogging from the conference blog all weekend.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

SCBWI Pre-conference Interview with Agent Jenny Bent

Jenny in a somber moment
Jenny Bent is the supreme high commander of the amazing Bent Agency and a smart and lovely lady. She's interested in middle grade and YA, you SCBWIers-looking-for-agents, so be sure you check out her session on query letters on Friday, her bits and bobs on the agent panel on Saturday, as well as her career advice session Saturday. Also, Jenny likes TERRIBLE coffee, like, blueberry-flavored coffee, so if you have any old candy or beverage samples that you've thought sounded too weird to try yourself but didn't want to throw away, feel free to give them to Jenny when you see her in LA. Jenny was nice enough to answer a few questions for us to get us pumped for the 44th annual SCBWI Summer Conference.

Jaime: Jenny Benders! You are one of my favorite people to see at the LA conference, what are YOUR favorite parts of the LA conference experience? 

Jenny: Honestly, I love meeting the writers. 

Jaime: And?

Jenny: I love their energy, excitement and enthusiasm.  

Jaime: AND?

Jenny: ...

Jaime ANNNNNNND???!!!

Jenny: And seeing YOU of course.  That’s the other best part.   

Jaime: Aw, Jenny, you're embarrassing me. What's your latest book submission wish? Like, "I wish someone would send me a manuscript that's Gone Girl, but with anthropomorphic teen rabbits”?

Jenny: I would love an amazing magical MG that reminds me of the classics by E. Nesbit and Edward Eager.  In YA, I would love a contemporary with a strong sense of place and a kick ass heroine like Anne of Green Gables.  I also want a modern-day Pippi Longstocking.  Have you read that recently?  It is FABULOUS. 

Jaime: I've never read Pippi! I'll fix that. On board with the rest, though! It sounds like maybe you want The Girl with the Green Gable Tattoo, I would totally read that. You seem to love social media, and it seems to love you back. Whose Twitter account do you routinely find is enjoyable to read for whatever reason?

Jenny: Hmmmm….Elizabeth Craig is great just because she tweets so many wonderful, useful links. And Matt Ringler at Scholastic is just always hilarious and entertaining. Oh, and Jen Klonsky at Harper is super funny, too, as is Josh Bank from Alloy.

Jaime: Useful and funny! What are you planning on doing on your plane ride from east to west coast? Are you catching up on sleep? Watching a pirated copy of Magic Mike 2? Working? 

Jenny: Do you want the truth? I’m sure I will be finishing my critiques.  

Jaime: I think most conference critiques are done on westbound planes, Jenny, you agents and editors are crazy busy. Last question, if you weren't agenting, what is another vocation you'd consider?

Jenny: No clue.  I’d be f*cked. (Can I say that on this blog?)

Jaime: I'm only sad there was only one f bomb.

Merci, to Jenny! And folks! Below are links to the other fantastico pre-conference blog interviews from SCBWI TEAM BLOG. Remember, we'll be blogging and tweeting for you during the entire LA Conference.

Jolie interviewed Mem Fox!
Don interviewed Joe Cepeda! And Dan Santat!
Lee interviewed Adam Rex! And Miranda Paul!
Martha interviewed Mike Curato!  And Shannon Hale!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive: Barry Goldblatt!!!

There's never a dull moment when Barry Goldblatt is on the scene. He's been agenting for 14 years and besides being ├╝bertalented (check out his amazing client list!), he is a real kick in the pants. Barry was kind enough to answer some questions for SCBWI Team Blog:

Jaime: Hi BarBar! Do you mind if I call you BarBar?

BarBar: ...

Jaime: BarBar, I'm all about the visuals and interested to hear what catches your eye in a bookstore—do you have any favorite covers (not from your client list) for 2014/January 2015?

BarBar: I love the cover for Nova Ren Suma's THE WALLS AROUND US, 

and Kat Yeh's THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE is also adorable and eyecatching. 
Oh, and Adam Silvera's MORE HAPPY THAN NOT is definitely a cover that demands attention!

Jaime: Those are all so striking! Speaking of striking... Kill, kiss or marry: Beatrix Potter, Randolph Caldecott, Margaret Wise Brown?

BarBar: Kill Margaret Wise Brown, kiss Randolph Caldecott, marry Beatrix Potter. 

Jaime: I appreciate that you don't feel the need to expand upon your reasoning behind these choices, I will assume it's for reasons related to these issues, and that you're not universally anti-Margaret. Here's a question I know all New Yorkers wax eloquent about: Favorite Pizza?

BarBar: Ooh, this is a question that can cause fisticuffs!! I love Franny's and Keste, and Marta is a fantastic new option, but I probably have to go with a Brooklyn classic, Lucali. 

Jaime: Holy hell, we have got a lock on Lucali as top spot! I smell a Brooklyn pilgrimage for a few of our conference goers.  How about non-pizza meals. What does a Goldblatter such as yourself snack on during the day? Does Talde deliver or have you moved on to a new Top Chef? When you do venture into Manhattan, are there any not-to-be-missed snacks there you recommend our conference goers seek out?

The Bluebarry Goldblatt
BarBar: I actually try really hard not to snack throughout the day; working from home can lead to temptation and bad habits. If I need a quick fix, I'll grab a handful of roasted almonds. If there's chocolate nearby, though, I'm doomed.

Talde does now deliver, though I haven't tried doing it yet. I'm in my house enough, and would much rather go out if I can! They won't deliver all the way to Manhattan though, so hop on that train to Park Slope!

As many know, I am a doughnut freak, and there are some amazing doughnut places in Manhattan these days. My favorite is Dough, but Doughnut Plant is a close second! 

Jaime: Doh! Will definitely check out Dough! #NY15SCBWI conference pals, DOUGH has a Flat Iron location that opens at 7 am on the weekends. BarBar, what are you working on this week?

BarBar: I'm doing the final prep work on a couple of submissions for two new clients, Theodora Goss and Myke Bartlett, but those are both adult novels. I do have a few children's projects in negotiation, and am patiently awaiting new manuscripts from a few folks.
Holly Black's latest, THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST, just went on sale this week; Jo Knowle's READ BETWEEN THE LINES is due out in March, as is Ellen Oh's KING, and a wonderful first picture book, SUCH A LITTLE MOUSE, illustrated by Stephanie Yue, also out in March.

Jaime: Awesome! BarBar, you're almost done, how about a snapshot of your office?

BarBar: Let's see if I can get this to work right. It's my very messy desk.

Jaime: W├╝nderBarBar! Thank you so much! Folks, you can catch Barry on the Agent Panel Sunday midmorning. If all 1200 attendees feel the need to bring Barry a donut that day, as Barry's agent, I get 15% of said donuts.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive: Elizabeth Parisi!!!

Elizabeth (R) with pals (R to L) Arthur, Lisa, and FanDango
(photo stolen from Dan's website, thanks, Danders
You guys know the ever effervescent Elizabeth Parisi? She's a creative director at Scholastic and oversees 150+ book titles per year! Holy Hell. Elizabeth's got amazing covers down pat: the little known Hunger Games Trilogy, which she did with her husband, Tim O'Brien as illustrator; Gorgeous, by Paul Rudnick; the Gregor the Overlander series, by Suzanne Collins; Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse, and What I Saw and How I Lied, by National Book Award winner, Judy Blundell. In addition to being an incredibly talented designer, she's also a swell dame who's generous with her time. Below, Elizabeth answered a few questions for Team Blog:

Jaime: Hiya, Elizabeth. I'm always interested to hear what catches an art director's eye in a bookstore—do you have any favorite covers (not from your publishing house) for 2014/January 2015? 

Elizabeth: Brown Girl Dreaming, of course. So simple, so evocative. They say silhouetted figures are over used, but it looks lovely.

Jaime: Lovely! I do adore a good silhouette. That's probably a fun exercise for making practice covers, figuring out strong silhouettes. The other important element on a cover is the type. Let's talk fonts. Kill, kiss or marry: Helvetica, Baskerville or Comic Sans?  

Elizabeth: Kill Comic Sans, for sure. Ugly, goofy, over used. Kiss Helvetica, because it’s sexy, versatile, a 'renaissance font,' like a Renaissance Man. Marry Baskerville, because it’s loyal, consistent, reliable, classy, intelligent.

Jaime: Oh man, can you give Helvetica my number? Baskerville sounds alright, but a bit like my dog, minus the intelligent and classy parts. I love how your covers always have amazing palettes, Elizabeth. What's your Favorite Pantone Color of 2015? 

Elizabeth: 318 or 325, lovely aqua colors that are such a bear to match on press!

Jaime: I am an aqua fan for sure, they both look like they could be turned into sour lollipop flavors. Speaking of lollies, let's get down to the really important questions: What does a Scholastickler such as yourself snack on during the day? Does Rice To Riches run a pudding pipe directly into your department? Are there any not-to-be-missed snacks in Manhattan you recommend our conference goers seek out? 

Elizabeth: That’s tricky, I barely leave the office during the day. But if I was an out of towner, I would try to take a quick trip down to Chinatown and have Vietnamese food. It’s fresh, vibrant, cheap. Maybe Pho Bang, on Mott street. Expand the palette horizons.

Jaime: Ooh, pho! Gouda idea, Elizabeth! Can you give us a hint of what books you're working on this week? Or a few of the titles that you've worked on that are just coming out in stores? 

Elizabeth: Really excited about The Ways to Stay in Destiny, by Augusta Scattergood. A sweet, classic story, and the cover was so fun to work on with Sara Wood, the illustrator. 

And Woof, by Spencer Quinn, another great read, with the most adorable lead character, named Bowser.

Jaime: Thanks so much, Elizabeth! Final question, are you willing to share some snapshots of your office?

Making her fishbowl window less fishy

Postcards from illustrators, recognize yours?

One of these is a present from Lisa Yee!
Love that Parisi! Catch Elizabeth at the Winter Conference and hear her talk on cover creation! You might bump into her at the portfolio show, too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive: Justin Chanda!!!


Did you see that the deadline for the Early Bird Rate has been extended? YES! You have until Friday to register for the SCBWI Winter Conference. It's this coming February in New York, it's without fail, one of my favorite weekends of the year, and if you attend there's a 98% chance of a Justin Chanda Sighting.

You may know that Justin is the vice president and publisher of three flagship children's imprints at Simon & SchusterS&S Books for Young ReadersMcElderry Books and Atheneum.  That he oversees the publication of two hundred and fifty titles per year ranging from the youngest picture book to the edgiest YA. That Justin has worked with Jon Scieszka, Loren Long, Kenneth Oppel, Patricia MacLachlan, Peter Brown, Michael Ian Black, Karma Wilson, Dan Krall, Morgan Matson, Mike Lupica, and Debbie Ohi (whom he discovered through SCBWI).  

You may also know that Justin is an adjunct instructor for the NYU Graduate Publishing Program and that he recently added publisher of SAGA press, a newly minted adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy imprint, to his resume. You may also, also know that he's on Twitter @jpchanda.

BUT DID YOU KNOW that JUSTIN CHANDA would consider letting MARGARET WISE BROWN take a long walk off a very short pier? Check out why in my short interview below where I asked Justin a few q's, and his a's are pretty g:

Jaime: Justin! I'm all about the visuals and interested to hear what catches your eye in a bookstore—do you have any favorite covers (not from your publishing house) for 2014/January 2015?

Justin: I love the covers for...

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Rain Reign by Ann Martin

Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato

Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond

Jaime: Lovely! Kill, kiss or marry: Beatrix Potter, Randolph Caldecott, Margaret Wise

You have to marry Caldecott (dividends with that one). 
Kill Brown for making me read Goodnight Moon so many times.
Kiss Potter (I’d never pass up a kiss from a Beatrix!)

Jaime: The above makes perfect sense. Easy question for you: Favorite pizza in New York?

Justin: Easy. And this is after EXTENSIVE tours and tastings. Trust me.  Lucali in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.  Get there. Drop everything. Go.

Jaime:  I knew that would be easy for you! Lucali is delicious Let's get down to the really important questions: What does a SimonSchusterer such as yourself snack on during the day? Does Rockefeller Center pipe Jacques Torres drinking chocolate directly into your department? Are there any not-to-be-missed snacks in Manhattan you recommend our conference goers seek out?

Justin: And by “snacks” you mean “drinks," right?  Wink! Wink! Clink! Clink! Because, well, I’m going to assume that this was a coded message to find out where the best BARS are.  In Midtown the only respectable bar is the bar at Ma Peche.  Downtown east is the best bar in NYC, Death & Company. But Cienfuegos is also absolutely worth checking out. If your are Downtown West you have to go to Employees Only.

Jaime: How come you have only ever taken me to an Olive Garden?

Justin: ...

Jaime: JUSTIN! What if your liver needs to take a break, do you eat solid food snacks?

Justin: Oh. You meant what I snack on (for real) during the day? Oh! Um. Yeah. Every single person on my editorial staff BAKES LIKE A PROFESSIONAL.  And they are so generous with their baking.  And they share.  All of it.  Almost every day.  Especially during the winter.  So if you ever wonder why my belly is constantly expanding… well…

Jaime: Some of your staff are real cookie monsters...
S&Ser Laurent Linn

Justin. Can you give us a hint of what books you're working on this week? Or a few of the titles that you've worked on that are just coming out in stores?

Justin: This week I’m working on (on the editorial side of stuff) books by ER FRANK, Mike Lupica, Ken Oppel and Nathan Lane. Its a fun week.

The next book which I have edited that is hitting the shelves soon is THE ONLY GAME by Mike Lupica.  Then comes SICK SIMON by Dan Krall. Then there’s some really cool stuff in the summer and fall (including a collaboration between Ken Oppel and Jon Klassen).

Jaime: Wowzers! Final question, are you willing to share some snapshots of your office?

Justin: Sure.  

Thank you so very much, Justin! Hope to see all of you at the SCBWI Winter Conference!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jaime Does Like Contracts!

So excited to report I'll be illustrating Eric Ode's BIGFOOT DOES NOT LIKE BIRTHDAY PARTIES for Sasquatch Books! The remarkable Tegan Tigani, who you may run into at an independent bookstore near you, is editing.

The whole Sasquatch experience has been wonderful so far, I'm thrilled to be working with a publisher that is only about eight blocks away from me. If we could train a carrier pigeon to ride a fixie, we could totally send feedback via bike messenger.

Friday, February 14, 2014

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive: Marla Frazee Love Fest!

Just in time for Valentine's Day I present to you a Marla Frazee Love Fest!

Winter Conference attendees are in a for a fabulous treat, one of our faculty members is the one and only Marla Frazee.

To me, Marla will always be one of the first children's book illustrators who gave me tough but tender career advice, the stuff you really need to hear to get your work up to snuff and noticed by art directors and editors. I spent a week in her class at the Haystack conference in Oregon and she taught me to see children's books and my budding career in entirely new ways. I loved her class so much I considered moving to Pasadena just to be one of her pupils at Art Center.

But don't take it from me, take it from some people that know Marla pretty darn well and are titans of our industry. First, her longtime friend and editor, Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher of Beach Lane Books:

Here are Allyn's Five Important Things about Marla:

1.       She makes one of the best hummuses around, and her secret ingredient is the fresh pomegranate seed garnish.
2.       She has a crazy-but-wonderful-but-crazy young dog named Toaster who looks like a coyote and with whom she hikes in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains most every morning.

3.       She collects vintage ceramic shoes, probably because as a child she adored this tiny chipped vintage blue ceramic shoe that belonged to Fattie, her beloved Lebanese grandmother’s sister.

4.       On a related topic, probably her most prized possession is this stove, which belonged to Fudgie, that same beloved grandmother. (It is also Marla’s cat’s very favorite spot to nap—and who could blame him, because the pilot light is always on!)

5.       And don’t ever offer her dark chocolate if you can help it. With Marla, it’s excellent milk chocolate all the way. In fact, she always has a secret stash of Lake Champlain Organic Milk Sea Salt & Almonds Chocolate Bars hidden away in her 1926 Spanish bungalow in Pasadena, California. But don’t ask her where she hides it, because she won’t tell you.

Some of Allyn's favorite Marla illustrations:
From GOD GOT A DOG by Cynthia Rylant

Last page of ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon

Next up is Grand Poobah of San Diego and Marla's super Writers House super agent Steven Malk:

Things Steve loves about Marla:

1) She takes her work so seriously: I've known very few people who approach their work with as much passion, honesty, and dedication as Marla.  If she has to do 25 sketch dummies to nail the right approach to a book, she'll do that.  If she has to redo a final painting 50 times to get it right, she'll do it.  You always know that when Marla's done with a book, she's given it every last piece of energy, will, and creativity that she has.  She's left it all on the page.

2) She doesn't take herself seriously: Marla has a great sense of humor and she'll be the first one to make fun of herself.  She's also not precious about her work and appreciates complete honesty.

Some of Steve's favorite Marla illustrations:

Two from the amazing MRS. BIDDLEBOX by Linda Smith
3) She's intellectually curious: I've always been struck by the fact that Marla is always curious to learn and discover new things, whether that's in terms of books, illustration, writing, music, movies, politics, food, or just about anything else.  She's one of the best listeners I've come across and you get the feeling that she's always trying to pick things up, process them, and use them in interesting ways.

From the #1 Christmas book, SANTA CLAUS, WORLD'S #1 TOY EXPERT
4) She lets each project lead her but also thinks in terms of her body of work: Marla approaches each project from the point of view of whether it's exciting her creatively, whether she's the right person to tackle it, and if it's the right time to do it, or should be revisited later.  She shuts out all external factors during this process and if she has a true passion for the project and it feels right, she won't let anything stop her.  At the same time, I think she's very aware of the larger body of work that she's been building, and whether certain projects make sense within it.  It's a body of work that's incredibly diverse and far-reaching, but there's an organic nature to it all that I really admire.

5) She's a voracious reader: Marla is constantly at Vroman's looking at new picture books.  And old picture books.  And novels, and poetry, and just about everything else.  She approaches the business first and foremost as a reader and a fan. She told me recently that she was going to a reading and she sounded downright giddy to meet the author.  I think that's one of the key ingredients to her success: she's never lost that feeling of pure unadulterated joy that the right book can bring you.
From Woody Guthrie's NEW BABY TRAIN

And finally, Marla's fellow Haystack faculty member and all around mensch, Newbery Honor winner Kirby Larson:

Top Five Favorite Things About Marla:

1. We are both crazy about red shoes.
2. The fact that she has drawn Santa Claus — an anatomically correct Santa Claus.
3. Her sly, wry sense of humor.
4. The way she channels Coco Chanel, in dress and in dressing up a dorm room. 
5. Her heart, which is as big and bright as her smile.