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.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive Interview with Art Director Lily Malcom

Huzzah! Another fun faculty member to profile, this time Executive Art Director and Associate Publisher at Penguin's Dial Books for Young Readers, Lily Malcom. Lily is on Twitter

She has only ever had three "L"s in her name! In 2003 we were both at a SCBWI conference and happened to both be outside where the smokers were taking a smoke break but both Lily and I were instead eating bananas which I would like us to call a monkey break! And that's all I know off the top of my head.

Here are some of the people/books Lily has worked with/on:

Jaime: Hi Lily! 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 2013/January 2014?

Lily: Hmm, a lot of covers have grabbed me lately. Here are a handful:

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Locomotive by Brian Floca

Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Jane, the Fox & Me illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

The Tortoise & The Hare by Jerry Pinkney

The Mighty Lalouche Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Stardines Swim High Across the Sky illustrated by Carin Berger

Ok, that’s more than a handful. Too hard! The basic thread in all of the above is a balance of art and type. You can tell that the designer and artist worked together in blocking out the space and finding the right fit.

Jaime: Lily, you have award-winner-finding eyeballs! Here's a much easier question: Kill, kiss or marry: Helvetica, Baskerville or Comic Sans?
Kill= Comic Sans (a given)
Kiss= Baskerville
Marry= Helvetica

Jaime: Aww, Helvetica gets all the ladies. Favorite Pantone color?

Lily: I picked two… Orange Pantone 151 Uncoated, Slate Grey Pantone 431 Uncoated.

Jaime: Ooo, I love those colors together even! Let's get down to the really important questions: What does a Dialer such as yourself snack on during the day? Does Jacques Torres run a hot chocolate hose directly into your department? Are there any not-to-be-missed snacks in Manhattan you recommend our conference goers seek out?

Lily: Well, having Jacques Torres across the street is a blessing and a curse. If I could mainline the hot chocolate I would but since I am a sensible person, I'll stick with the chocolate covered cornflakes. They're like scooby snacks. 

Not to miss snacks: Doughnuts from the Doughnut Plant, brisket from Mile End, Porchetta Sandwich from Porchetta, and a nice hot bowl of ramen to keep you warm while you visit.

Jaime: I've never been to Mile End but am excited to get my brisket on, thank you! Can you give us a hint of what you're working on this week?

Lily: This week I’m working on Catch That Cookie with David Small. The cookie is being feisty but David and I are determined to win.

Jaime: Oh, man! SCBWI loves David Small! And Catch That Cookie is written by Hallie Durand which is the pen name of agent Holly McGhee who is also on the Winter Conference faculty, so cool. Final question, are you willing to share some snapshots of your office?

Lily: Of course! Here are a few pics of the office… It needs to be weeded. 

Jaime: Thank you, thank you, Lily, for answering these goofy questions. Folks, be sure you say howdy to Lily at the conference, but if you miss seeing her and happen to have brought her a bunch of chocolate covered cornflakes, I'll be at the blog table at the back of the conference room and I am more than happy to collect all your gift treats... in my belly.

So looking forward to the Winter Conference! Thanks always to SCBWI HQ for putting on such a smashing event!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive Interview with Children's Book Editor Peter Brown

To get you in the conference mood, Team Blog has happily asked a few of the faculty to do some pre-conference interviews. Peter Brown's work recently caught my eye for this gorgeous Publishers Weekly cover he did for a recent issue.

Awesome cover image by Peter Brown

Jaime: Hi Peter! You're an editor at not one, but two Harper Collins imprints, Walden Press and Balzer & Bray, and yet you found time to do such a beautiful piece for Publishers Weekly. The limited colors are lovely, lots of atmosphere, kid-friendly, and for a standalone image it's really sparking some narrative ideas—tell me—have you ever thought of not just editing, but illustrating children's books?

Children's book editor Peter Brown

Peter: I think you have me confused with the children’s book editor, Jordan Brown. He’s like a smarter, handsomer, more youthful version of me. Thanks for bringing him up.

Apparently this is Peter Brown

Jaime: Oh! Gosh, sorry for the mix up. So you write AND illustrate? That must be fun. Let's see, all of my other questions concerned what it's like to work with Jon Scieszka... Is there anything you'd like to talk about? Your latest book about lions looks really lovely, can you tell me a little about that? 

Apparently Peter's latest book, who knew?

Peter: For the record, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is about a tiger, not a lion. You’re not the first person to make that mistake. Whatever the case, my latest book is about a very proper tiger who gradually becomes more and more wild, and eventually takes off his clothes and runs out to the wilderness. It’s my most autobiographical book to date, except that I’m not a tiger, and I’m not a nudist, but I have been known to swim in fountains. Maybe it’s not so autobiographical, after all. It’s probably best if you just watch this video that we made about how and why I made the book:

Jaime: Oh my god, I know that office! I've even worked in that office! You're my friend, Peter! I just always thought your name was Peter Raw Umber! Hey, man. 

Peter: Hey.

Guys, this is Peter Brown!
Jaime: I borrowed your computer once in that very office to work on a book deadline while you recovered from a book tour. You spent the entire day binge watching the final season of Breaking Bad and ordering burrito deliveries. Every few hours you would come into said office to visit me and do some armpit farts. Is there a chance you'll be doing some armpit farting on your conference panel?

Peter: I always reserve the right to rip some epic armpit farts, but I’ll probably just focus on the panel discussion. It’s the Sunday morning keynote panel, moderated by Arthur Levine and the panelists include Shadra Strickland, Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, Oliver Jeffers and me. With a lineup like that, who needs faux farts?!

Jaime: Oh, man, Jeffers is coming? He owes me some pony money. He's good with picking the paint palettes, but not with picking the horses, know what I mean?

Peter: Typical Jeffers. 

Typical Jeffers

Jaime: Oh, I remember something important I wanted to ask a talent of your caliber about, how do you feel about Viking River Cruises? Or does that ad not play before and after every masterpiece PBS show in NY? Those ads have brainwashed me into wanting a Euro river cruise.

Peter: I like to make fun of the voiceover guy in those commercials. But yeah, it actually looks pretty cool. I bet those ships are crawling with octogenarians looking to party…

Jaime: Peter, I have to run, got a poker game starting with Karen Cushman and Kirby Larson in a few minutes, but before we say goodbye, are there any museums or sights near Grand Central that you think conference goers should definitely check out if they can?

Peter: SCBWI attendees should definitely stroll down to the NY Public Library on 5th Avenue. Besides being a beautiful, historical library, it also has a great children’s book exhibit called “The ABC of it: Why Children’s Books Matter,” curated by Leonard Marcus. Not to be missed!

Great idear, Pete!
Jaime: Thanks, sir.

Peter Brown is one of my favorite persons on the planet and I'm honored to call him my friend. We are all so impressed with the care and attention he puts into writing and illustrating every book, and fingers crossed Mr. Tiger gets some ALA award love this coming week, right? But it's already garnered a lot of kid love, which is a shinier feeling than any medal can bestow and the biggest award of all. 

Not that I don't have some Teamsters on my payroll, not that they aren't working the ALA MidWinter Conference in Philly, not that said Teamsters aren't aware of what to do to the Caldecott Committee come Monday morning if my top award picks don't get picked...

Be sure to watch Peter's process video above, and check out some interviews that are actually good:

And my favorite book trailer of all time remains: