Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What Makes My Perfect Book: Five Editors Break It Down...

Getting into the homestretch of the conference, SCBWI offered a panel of "esteemed female editors" (as Lin Oliver described them) talking about the perfect book. Panelists included Dinah Stevenson of Clarion Books, Emma Dryden of Margaret K. McElderry, Rachel Griffiths of Scholastic, Julie Strauss-Gabel of Dutton, and Allyn Johnson of Harcourt.

Here's my in-a-nutshell report of what they said:

Dinah Stevenson: She wants a book that's original, not derivative, in any genre. Not everyone who reads it will love it, but everyone will recognize it. The author has plenty of time for author appearances. The book wins the Newbery, the Caldecott, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize in literature; is publicized by Daniel Pinkwater and Oprah; and is number one on every bestseller list.

Emmy Dryden: What strikes her is continuity and consistency in text. A certain rhythm. Character. A sense of a wonderful unfolding layers of the story. A sense of spontaneity and a sense of planning. Picture book text with enough room for art. A story that allows for surprises to be revealed. Wordplay and use of the delicious words of our language. Humor doesn't hurt. The author makes smart choices. Opportunities in the text that can be played with.

Rachel Griffiths: She looks for honesty, passion, unique point of view. A manuscript from which the perception of a fascinated mind comes through.

Julie Strauss-Gabel: She talked about the perfect author rather than the perfect book. Her perfect author possesses playfulness and lack of ego. He or she is someone who wants to work on the process in a non-adversarial way, someone for whom the joy is in the process. Her perfect author writes active, engaged, original contemporary YA fiction for the older end of the YA spectrum; YA that's not coming-of-age but about the process of becoming a human; YA written with unique choices and unique decisions; YA that's ambitious.

Allyn Johnston: Allyn talked about picture books, saying she got into the business of children's publishing because of the picture books that were read to her as a child. She wants a book that casts a spell on those who are reading it and stays with them so much that they want to immediately read it all over again; books that adults take with them from their childhoods into their adult lives.

Tomorrow I'll wrap up my 2007 SCBWI conference coverage and start counting the days until next year...


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