In 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!