Tag Archives: Joy Peskin

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.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Writers, Publishing Professionals, and Other Humans: How to Get the Job Done

Last night I attended an event at Wix Lounge, hosted by the New York chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, The Making of a Young Adult Bestseller: From Acquisition to Reader. The panel was stellar, including Susan Katz (President and Publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books), Joy Peskin (Editorial Director, Farrar Straus & Giroux Books for Young Readers), literary agent Jenny Bent (The Bent Agency), Marisa Russell (Publicity Manager, Penguin Young Readers Group), and the inimitable YA/MG author Hannah Moskowitz, all moderated by rock star librarian and blogger, Betsy Bird (I’m a total fangirl; I can’t help gushing!).

So, just to set the record straight, they did not answer the how-to question or hand out an algorithmic rulebook for writing a blockbuster YA bestseller. What there was though, was some smart and interesting discussion,  appropriate for both publishing professionals as well as writers. And as with most WNBA-NYC events, it was a great opportunity to meet other people in the industry, engage in intelligent discourse about books, and of course eat cheese and crackers. (So that’s called networking, by the way…)

Now I learned a couple of things about the publishing process, I was entertained, and I made some nice contacts. All good. But for me, the takeaway lesson was about something that anyone, trying to achieve anything, might do well to think about. After the panel, I introduced myself to Jenny Bent and we spoke a bit about agenting. She couldn’t have been kinder and more encouraging to me, still a newish agent. But one thing in particular about our conversation has stuck with me. She said, “People who persevere, succeed.” (That’s how I remember it, anyway…) But yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you for reminding me of that, Jenny! It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? I mean, if you quit something then what are your chances of succeeding at it? That’s right: zero. She also told me that having self-doubt may never stop, that she still has self-doubt, but that it shouldn’t actually influence my actions. Holy moly. Jenny Bent still experiences self-doubt?! Ok. I’ll get over myself. I guess I’m in good company!

Then, later in the evening (yes, we were up to the cocktails and yummy food part) Hannah Moskowitz said the most brilliant thing. (Yes you did, Hannah!) We were talking about publishing, ebooks, getting/keeping an agent, the submission process, etc…Now this is what I think she said, not necessarily what she actually said. It was something like, “If your manuscript isn’t selling, write another one.” Write another one! Now please people, pay close attention here. Hannah is 21 years old. She’s copped to writing about 15-20 novels in her life. She’s had 6 accepted for publication so far. There are 4 in bookstores already and another 2 in the tubes. Did you hear me?! SIX NOVELS. 21 YEARS OLD. Is Hannah a prodigy? Perhaps. But what she also is is tenacious, indefatigable, incredibly upbeat, and a poster girl for the word persevere. (Not that this is relevant, but she has nice teeth, too.)

Ok. So takeaway for the evening: keep at it. If you’re a writer, keep writing. Write another manuscript. And then another. And then after that, another. If you’re trying to get into publishing, keep trying. Try something new. Try something old. But keep trying. When you stop trying your chances for success will drop off considerably.

Do you give up?

27 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized