Industry Q&A with Trisha de Guzman, Associate Editor at Farrar, Straus, Giroux BFYR

Please tell us about the most recent diverse book you published.

I’m still at the very early stages of building my list, but I was fortunate enough to edit two books with diverse characters recently:

The Fantastic Body is a nonfiction, illustrated guide to the human body for kids. Because the book would be so heavily illustrated, we wanted the children depicted to be multifaceted and diverse. The book is nonfiction and prescriptive, so the text doesn’t actually address race in a direct way. It’s important to address serious issues of race, culture, and identity in diverse books, but it’s also important to show that children are children, no matter their background, and that there are more things that unite them than divide them. I firmly believe in publishing books featuring diverse characters without making race the main issue, so I’m proud of that book.  

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I was also the developmental editor for a middle grade series of novels called Shred Girls. The first book, Lindsay’s Joyride, is about young girls who befriend each other through their shared love of BMX. What I loved about the book was how multifaceted every main character was. Lindsay likes comic books, but she also, it turned out, loves riding bikes. And she likes many other things: her new friends. Her Mexican grandmother’s cooking. The cute boy who rides at the same park. Kombucha. Mariana Pajón, Colombian cyclist and two-time Olympic gold medalist and BMX World Champion. No one thing defined her, nor any other character. While Lindsay is Latina and proud, her heritage informs the novel but isn’t its sole focus.

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In Conversation with Author JaNay Brown-Wood

By Julie Bliven

The first diversity question today is how do you self identify?

I am a black American woman.

How did your background influence your early reading and writing habits, if at all?

I grew up in a family where education was of utmost importance. Reading, writing, and all things academic were as normal and mandatory as breathing. I am thankful for how much my parents valued education. They read to us each night and exposed us to different texts ranging from poetry and children’s literature to newspapers and encyclopedias. I still remember when my dad ordered a collection of Encyclopedia Britannica that filled an entire bookshelf in our living room. I do admit that I initially didn’t like reading for fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing my own stories, poetry, and songs. Reading grew on me, and, to this day, both reading and writing are integral parts of my life.

Growing up, did you see and/or envision yourself in the stories you read?

I didn’t see myself in many stories that I read, but two do come to mind: Vera B. Williams’s Cherries and Cherry Pits and John Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. I don’t remember loving those books, but they do stick out in my mind—possibly because they had black girls in them. As a teenager I remember reading Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and while the protagonist was black, I didn’t feel like I connected to her that much. I think I insulated myself from not being represented in books because I wrote my own stories where I was the main character. I wrote a bunch of stories starring Detective JaNay Brown where I’d go on adventures and solve mysteries. I also remember writing stories with black girls that were similar to me, even if they didn’t have my name. So although I didn’t really feel myself connecting to published books, I definitely connected to my own work since I was the one solving all the problems!

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Industry  Q&A with Literary Agent Beth Phelan

When and where did you start working in publishing, and what was your entry-level position and title?

My very first start was as an intern at Levine Greenberg (Rostan) Literary Agency back in Fall 2010, but my first full-time position was as an Agency Assistant at Scott Waxman Literary (now called Waxman Leavell Literary Agency). I started there in March 2011.

How did you find your first job in publishing?

After I graduated from college, I was living in Brooklyn working as a bookkeeper for an army navy store and finishing up my part-time job at the student center. A friend of mine who worked in a totally separate industry (maybe tech or insurance or something like that, I don’t actually remember!) happened to share a floor in the same building as the Levine Greenberg Agency. He happened to hear about their internships during an elevator ride and encouraged me to apply. After a few months in, I started applying to full-time jobs (using publishersmarketplace.com, bookjobs.com, mediabistro.com, etc), including one with Waxman Agency. One of the LGLA agents was friendly with an agent at Waxman and put in a good word. I started right away!

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Industry Q & A with Alvina Ling

Alvina Ling is the Vice President, Editor-in-Chief at Hachette Book Group/Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

When and where did you start working in publishing, and what was your entry-level position and title?

I started here at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (when we were based in Boston) in August 1999 as an Editorial Assistant. I’ve been with this company ever since, now as Editor-in-Chief!

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Industry Q&A with Author Eugene Yelchin

Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it.

My latest MG novel The Haunting of Falcon House is set in the city I was born and raised in, St. Petersburg, Russia. The story takes place at the closure of the 19th century within a few years after  Russian slavery, or rather serfdom, was abolished in 1861. On the surface, the book has all of the tropes of the classic, gothic ghost story, but below the surface, the narrative—as in all of my MG novels—is about a personal choice one must make on the issue of equality and freedom for all.

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