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Quick Questions: An Interview with Disney-Hyperion Senior Editor Rotem Moscovich

0In her role as Senior Editor at Disney-Hyperion, Rotem Moscovich feels lucky to work with so many talented picture book and middle grade novel creators, including Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, Brett Helquist, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, Greg Pizzoli, Kate Hannigan, John Hendrix, and Heidi Schulz. Rotem loves picturebooks with clever characters and inspired/ing art, and connects with middle grade novels that have transporting writing with creative use of language, and characters with inherent motivation and earned agency. She cares about every facet of bookmaking: from type to case cover art, and everything in between. Before her tenure at Disney-Hyperion, Rotem worked at Scholastic, where she edited books for kids ages 0-6. She has a master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her online at rotem.nyc.

And now to the questions!

What advice do you have for writers to improve their craft?

Read! Not so much to see trends or anything like that, but to notice which books you connect with, and then figure out why: what in the structure is working? How is the author layering themes or beads of text throughout? How is the dialogue handled? The more you read with a writer’s eye, the more you can become aware of the tools in the writer’s toolbox that resonate with you most—and then, how to use them. So after you read a lot, write a lot!

What’s the best part and worst part of the editorial process for you?

There are so many best parts! I love the moment of excitement when I first read something incredible and feel the need to tell everybody at the office about it. I love the puzzle of a story and making the pieces fit together to help the reader get the full narrative and emotional picture, whether that’s making chapter-by-chapter flow charts for novels or literally cutting and taping picturebook spreads. I love working with so many incredibly talented, passionate people. I love choosing specs, and working with illustrators to make special case covers and ultimately, the feel of the book in my hands when it comes from the printer. The worst part is the guilt: not finishing that editorial letter yet, taking forever reading submissions, you get the picture.

What did you read when you were a kid? Does it stand up to the test of time? If it were sent to you now, would you publish it?

Books that I remember reading and really striking me at the time: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh—gah, that moment when they find her notebook; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor—I was so unsettled by the injustice; The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder—I’ve reread this at least ten times, and am surprised and delighted every time. Everything by E. L. Konigsburg, because she never talked down to her readers. These all stood the test of time for me, and I will continue to press them into other people’s hands for the rest of my life. I hope I get to publish books like these in my career!

Taking the need to make money out of the equation, if you could work at any job in the world, would you stay in publishing? If not, what would you do?

I would definitely still be a children’s book editor. Though I will say that my alternate-life dream job would have been to make muppets for Sesame Street.

What’s currently on your manuscript wish list?

At the moment, I’d most like to find a middle grade novel that will make me feel a spectrum of emotions and leave me with a happy cry. I recently read The Penderwicks in Spring and boy, does it do that well. And I’m always on the lookout for positively exceptional picturebooks that will become touchstones of the genre.

Thanks for participating, Rotem!

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Quick Questions: An Interview with Farrar, Straus, Giroux BFYR Editorial Director Joy Peskin

joy peskin photo march 2015As editorial director of Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, Joy Peskin manages a department of six editors and edits a range of books for children and teenagers. Books she has edited for FSG BYR include Brandon Stanton’s Little Humans, a New York Times Bestseller; Kristin Elizabeth Clark’s Freakboy, which garnered three starred reviews; Leila Sales’s This Song Will Save Your Life, which received two starred reviews; and Rachel Bright’s Love Monster, a #1 Publishers Weekly Bestseller. Ava Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead, which Joy edited, will be published in twenty-two languages around the world, and has been optioned for film by the production team responsible for The Fault in Our Stars.

Before joining Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers in February, 2012, Joy was the associate publisher of Viking Children’s Books and an editor at Scholastic. Her favorite type of books, both to read and to edit, are contemporary, literary, realistic stories about real people facing real challenges. Authors with whom she has worked include Laurie Halse Anderson, Aaron Starmer, and Emily Jenkins.

Joy has also taught writing to aspiring authors, homeless youth, incarcerated women, and teens in a juvenile detention center.

And now, to the questions!

What advice do you have for writers to improve their craft?

As they say, practice makes perfect. The more you do something, the better you get at doing that thing. I was recently at a novel writing retreat at Vermont College, and the wonderful author Kathi Appelt shared advice she had once received: Write for five minutes every day. I loved that advice, because five minutes seems so doable. I also really recommend that writers hone their craft by taking classes and participating in writing programs. I’m still kind of high off of the Vermont College Novel Writing retreat, which was all kinds of wonderful, so I definitely recommend that low-residency MFA program. But folks not in the MFA program there can still attend retreats like the one I just attended.

What’s the best part and worst part of the editorial process for you?

There are lots of best parts. I love finding a new manuscript I feel like I just have to have and rushing into my boss’s office to tell him all about it. And I love that first talk with an author when/if she and I are really connecting over the phone. I also really love digging into a manuscript and giving an author line notes, and writing the editorial letter. I do enjoying writing the editorial letter, because for me, that’s my chance to have a dialogue with the author—to tell her what parts of the story that are really working and what parts I think could be improved upon, and why. And then of course it’s awesome when you get that first finished copy of the book. It’s sort of like magic. Just a few months ago this was a stack of paper, and now it’s this beautiful object. There is exactly one part of the process I don’t like, and that is sharing covers with authors. I want the author to be happy, and I’m so nervous sharing covers that I always do it at the very end of the day, and then I dash from my desk and try not to check my Blackberry until I’m almost at my train. When I hear back right away that the author is pleased, I’m so relieved! And when the author isn’t pleased, well, we work very hard to adjust the cover to make her happy in the end.

What did you read when you were a kid? Does it stand up to the test of time? If it were sent to you now, would you publish it?

I had a few childhood favorites. My mother read me The Velveteen Rabbit many time she and I always cried at the end. I adored that book. I read it to my son when he was a baby and it totally stands the test of time. If it was sent to me now, I hope I would have the intelligence to publish it, even though it’s a bit of an odd format (short illustrated chapter book). Other childhood favorites were Charlotte’s Web, the All-of-a-Kind Family books, and A Cricket in Times Square (which happens to be an FSG backlist gem). I was also into a Scholastic series called The Girls of Camby Hall and then when I was a little older I was all over Flowers in the Attic. I read it again not so long ago and I’m not going to lie: It’s sort of awful, but I enjoyed every page of it.

Taking the need to make money out of the equation, if you could work at any job in the world, would you stay in publishing? If not, what would you do?

Good question! I love what I do. My only complaint about my job here at FSG is that the days are over too quickly. I always wish I had more time with the books and more time with my colleagues. So I would not pick any other field outside of publishing and within publishing, I would not pick any job other than one I have. If I could split into two people who had two different jobs, though, the other me would be a child psychologist.

What’s currently on your manuscript wish list? What’s definitely not on the list?

I’d be very happy to receive a smart and keenly observed MG or YA ms about a character with an eating disorder. As for what I’m not looking for, I’m usually not one for fantasy or science fiction. If the book has trolls or magical lands or talismans or some such, it’s likely not for me.

Thanks for participating, Joy!

Thank you, Linda! This was a lot of fun.

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Quick Questions: An Interview with Executive Editor Lisa Yoskowitz

Lisa YoskowitzLisa Yoskowitz is an Executive Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, where she edits middle grade and YA fiction from authors including Pseudonymous Bosch and Melissa Marr. She recently joined LBYR from Dutton Children’s Books and Disney-Hyperion, where she had the pleasure of working with New York Times bestselling authors Cinda Williams Chima, Victoria Laurie, and Elizabeth Wein; along with many fantastic debut authors, including Tamara Ireland Stone (Time Between Us), Michael Fry (The Odd Squad: Bully Bait), Tess Sharpe (Far From You), and Ami Polonsky (Gracefully Grayson). Drawn to voice- and character-driven stories, she has a soft spot for misfit, maverick, and mischief-making characters, and for books that can comfortably be called both literary and commercial. She is not able to consider unagented/unsolicited submissions.

And now to our questions!

What book has come out in the past year that you wish you’d been the editor on? Why?

I don’t know if it’s fair to say I wish I’d been the editor of El Deafo by Cece Bell (because surely the process of Cece and her editor working together contributed to the stellar finished product!), but it is definitely one of my favorite reads of the past year and a book I deeply admire for its originality, emotional honesty, brilliant storytelling, pitch-perfect voice, and powerful narrative.

What’s something you’d like to tell aspiring authors, that perhaps they haven’t yet heard from anyone?

I’m afraid that my advice for authors who hope to have their work published might not be original, but I do think it holds true: (a) write to your passions and be true to your characters and story—chasing trends or forcing yourself to write in a particular way because you think it will get you published often results in inorganic, unappealing storytelling; (b) when you finish your manuscript, put it in a drawer—metaphorical or literal—for a few days or weeks and read it with fresh eyes. Revise and repeat until you have the manuscript you love and feel is ready to submit to agents; (c) approach every critique, editor/agent meeting at conferences, and even rejection as a learning experience. Be open minded and truly listen to and synthesize feedback and writing/publishing advice from those in the field and/or whose opinions you respect.

If you could travel back in time for one day, where would you go, what would you do, who would you hang out with?

I’d visit Krakatoa right before it erupted in 1883, to spend a day with Professor William Waterman Sherman, his diamond-discovering friends, and their houses of wonders. Wait, The Twenty-One Balloons was nonfiction, right? 🙂

If you won 50 million dollars, what would you do? Would you still work in publishing?

I’d like to think that I’d give a bunch to charity, buy a modest place in the City, save whatever is left, and stay in publishing (I do love my job a lot!), but I wouldn’t mind finding out for sure…

What’s currently on your manuscript wish list? What’s definitely not on the list?

I’m open to any manuscript with a voice and characters that grab you and don’t let go. That said, I’m not looking to acquire new picture books at the moment, and am especially on the lookout for a pitch-perfect middle grade puzzle book in the spirit of The Westing Game and epic middle grade fantasy that feels fresh.

 Thanks for participating, Lisa!

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