Sunday, January 24, 2010

SCBWI TEAM BLOG - Exclusive! Interview with Editor Allyn Johnston

You guys, can you hardly stand it? The SCBWI Winter Conference is less than a week away. Have you registered? Do you have your fancy shoes packed? Have you decided on what breakout sessions to attend or are you still trying to pick?

WELL. Maybe I can help. Do you hear that hollering from La Jolla? It's none other than Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books giving SCBWI TEAM BLOG a sneak peek into her office and her world as a children's book editor.

Hi Allyn! Thanks so much for letting SCBWI TEAM BLOG interview you before the conference. First up, can you give us a hint of what we can look forward to in your NY breakout sessions?

Well, it’s going to be Picture-Books-a-Go-Go, with handouts—and required audience participation. I’m especially proud of the handouts because I made them all myself. By hand! As well, I’m going to have at least two Top Secret Special Guests (who will most definitely be contributing to the fun).

Oooo, I love top secret special guests.

Last summer we heard Beach Lane Books would be bringing out about 20 books a year. You are off to a great start with some beautiful picture books. Here's just a couple:

And of course, the newest Caldecott Honor winner: ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee.

Can you mention a perk and a challenge of publishing a list with mostly picture books?

Perk: Collaboration with authors, illustrators, and designers.
Challenge: Collaboration with authors, illustrators, and designers.

Oh, editors and their tricky trick answers.
What are some of the chapter books or novels we can look forward to from Beach Lane Books in 2010?

We have upcoming novels from, among others, M. T. Anderson, Edith Pattou, and Avi.

You are an SCBWI conference pro – what is your favorite thing about a conference?

I really like how preparing for and speaking at conferences gets me out of my day job and forces me to think about and articulate why I feel all this writing-and-illustrating-and-editing-and-designing-and-marketing-and-selling books for children is so important. And why it’s so important to approach the whole enterprise with rigor and intensity. Most importantly, though, I love how it makes me focus on the true goal of all this work we do together: a child, a story, and a deep and long-lasting connection between them.

That's lovely, Allyn, and I think you have summed up for all of us why we like going to conferences so much.

After approaching my own work with rigor and intensity I'm often really hungry... For all the conference attendees coming to New York, do you have a favorite cafe/bakery/restaurant/pizza place to recommend? Or a must visit place or shop?

I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask since I have spent most of my career based in gorgeous San Diego, California (where the best lattes can be found in La Jolla at Café MoJoe’s; terrific long lunches need to be had at Barbarella; and two yummy-and-affordable neighborhood dinner spots are Lupi and Beaumont’s).

But you asked about New York.

Keko Café has delicious lattes. Flatiron is a completely going-back-in-time spot to have a drink. Tabla and Taboon are restaurants worth a cab ride, and, for an amazing and unexpected tiny spot to shop for treasures to bring home, try Kyotoya at 23 West 19th Street.

Holy Mackerel, those all sound great. I am booking a flight to San Diego as I type. But for those who can't make it to Beach Lane Books HQ, Allyn has graciously provided us with a virtual tour:

First, the adorable front door and couch area

Sweet coat rack and friendly, old HARRY BY THE SEA

Awesome meeting table

Ooo, I have those IKEA drawers. Wonder what is on the inspiration board above the desk...

Cute chicken on back porch – maybe it is the Beach Lane resident mascot?

Happy corner office

Thanks, Allyn, and see you in a few days!

Don't forget to check out other great SCBWI TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference interviews:

Bookmark that SCBWI Conference Blog and look for #SCBWI10 (I think) on Twitter!


Lee Wind said...

Great interview (loved the tricky tricky editor answer!) and nice recommendations of places West and East! Thanks as well for the links to all the SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interviews!
You Rocked it, Jaime!
see you soon,
Namaste and a Hug,

CocoaStomp said...

Aw, thanks, Lee. If I 'Rock' it you BOULDER it, dude. Yes, those suggestions are making me hungry already!

Allyn mentioned that the cute chicken on the back porch is "a gift from the goddess of unearthing incredible folk art: Lois Ehlert."

rilla jaggia said...

What a fun interview, Jaime! And lovely photos of Allyn and her office. Have a great time in New York--full of inspiration, good eats, and great coffee.

Jennifer K. Mann said...

So glad to have the tour of that wonderful office. And really glad to have the recommendations for spots to find in NYC! See you there!!!

-karen ann. said...

thanks for the interview, jaime. it gives those of us who are not going at least a tiny taste of the kidlit smorgasbord awaiting conference attendees!

i hope you have a great trip, and i look forward to the play by play via team blog.

Deb Lund said...

Hey, sweet Jaime,
You captured Allyn perfectly! And her homey office looks just as friendly as Allyn herself. Thanks for letting me in on some vicarious conference anticipation! Eat, drink, and be merry...

CocoaStomp said...

Thanks, Rilla-my-Rilla! (Bet you get that a lot.)

See you soon, Jen!

I'll miss you Karen and Deb, but will try to put up eating/drinking/merrying posts. If only CocoaStomp had Smell-A-Vision...

Cuppa Jolie said...

What a fun interview!

And the pictures added a thousand words each. :)

holly cupala said...

Oh, what a lovely office. That's the kind of place that would have books organized by COLOR!

Kirby Larson said...

Jaime, go have a completely overpriced glass of wine/drink at the Algonquin Hotel -- the home of the infamous Round Table of wits, including E.B. White and Dorothy Parker.

Jodi Kendall said...

Great interview! I am so excited to be attending the conference this weekend.

Love the photos of the office, too - Thanks for sharing.

Jean Reidy said...

"I love how it makes me focus on the true goal of all this work we do together: a child, a story, and a deep and long-lasting connection between them." This quote is getting framed. Also loved the tour. Thanks for a great interview.

Amy Baskin said...

Great interview, Jaime. And please- do it up big in NYC. I'm living vicariously through all of you!