Thursday, July 31, 2014

It Takes a Village: Why Books Are Like Children

The editorial department at Lerner has a company-wide reputation for producing lots of babies. A little more than a year ago, when I transitioned from an internship in the marketing department to my shiny new job as an editor, I was warned not to drink the water on the third floor, as there seemed to be no other explanation for all the babies happening over there. Lately we'e had a lull in baby arrivals (in other words, we have a lot of parents of toddlers with very intense caffeine preferences), and the other day someone joked that, for those of us who don't have kids, "Our books are our children."

So ignore the angle from which that sounds creepy/unhealthy, and focus on what an apt comparison it can actually be.
This book began life
as a Microsoft Word document.
Seems like only yesterday.
Look how far it's come!
Books are like children. They need care and nourishment and understanding, and they need guidance to become the best possible versions of themselves. Much like the raising of children, this process is a tricky one.

In this scenario, of course, authors are the parental figures. They've created something unique and precious that they want to protect and nurture...and hey, Honor Roll and varsity (*cough* starred review *cough* award with prize money *cough*) would be nice too. If I were allowed to give authors only one piece of advice that they were required to take to heart, it would be this: It's not about you, it's about the book.The worst authors are those who think first of themselves--their own feelings and expectations and wishes--rather than of what's really best for their books. A good author understands that a book is its own entity, existing separately from its creator despite the shared DNA. The things that help the book are not necessarily the things that help the author's ego. But when everything comes together, an author has every right to be proud.

It's a dangerous world out there
for a book.
Only the strong survive.
If authors are the parents of books, editors are the godparents. We're there to help authors raise good books. A good editor recognizes that her job is not to showcase her own cleverness but simply to make sure the book is living up to its full potential. (As my colleague Sara Hoffmann once brilliantly put it, good editing is invisible.) Illustrators, designers, production editors, photo editors, and the rest of the publishing team also play crucial roles, acting as the teachers, coaches, mentors, babysitters, and neighbors-willing-to-pay-for-lawn-mowing who've helped that gangly manuscript become the book it is today.

So while I'm not an actual parent (normal amounts of caffeine for me!), I am a proud godparent of many books and hope to have the privilege, along with the rest of the Lerner village, of ushering many more of them into the world. 

We take good care of our books here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The pleasures of pagination

There are few pleasures in bookmaking greater than that moment when you're paginating a picture book text, and suddenly it all clicks.


I have no idea how others do it, but I make a 40 page Word document (so I can include ends—hence the “[pasted down endsheet]” tag shown above). Then, I dump in the manuscript  and work backward from the key spreads and page turns.

I find the manuscript’s dramatic high points really reveal themselves in this process, especially when you put in the page turns.

And sometimes, like the one I worked on last night, the thing just calls for one of my favorite parts:


Now I get six months or so of anticipating what the illustrator will do with this blank space. Delicious.

This is Vaunda Micheaux Nelson picture book, by the way. To be illustrated by the marvelous Elizabeth Zunon and designed by @carkneetoe. It’s becoming very clear in my imagination. You’re going to love it.

In case you missed the frosting and sprinkles.

Questions were asked; answers were given. A good time was had by all.


Monday, July 28, 2014

International School Technology Expo

Lerner Digital had another strong showing at this year's ISTE conference in Atlanta. We spoke to a lot of teachers, media specialists, tech professionals, and administrators. We introduced many people to our Lerner Digital family of products, including our brand new product, which I'll happily share with you next week (though if you look closely at the pictures below, you may figure it out). Here's a hint: our promotional item at the show was a nifty pair of retractable ear buds.

We took some pictures of the booth and our Lerner Digital demonstrations. Enjoy!
The Lerner Digtial booth just minutes after the show floor opened.
Everyone is excited to learn about our products!
Fully engaged in the awesomeness 
Who is that handsome presenter?
So many people enjoyed learning about building literacy skills and digital stamina!
Definitely no new products shown on the monitor in this picture!

Surprised by Poetry

I was flipping through a J.Crew catalog this weekend and was startled to find this:

You Are Here sweatshirt

It may be hard to see in this photo, but the model’s sweatshirt says, “YOU ARE HERE.” This phrase immediately made me think of the opening poem in Dear Wandering Wildebeest, a poetry collection by Irene Latham coming in September.

Here’s the full poem. At the end, I’ve included an image of the poem in the book so that you can admire Anna Wadham’s wonderful illusration for it as well.

To All the Beasts Who Enter Here
Abandon now the crusted path
that resembles a human palm:
Welcome wildebeest
and beetle,
oxpecker and lion.
This water hole is yours.
It offers you oasis
beside its shrinking shores.
Drink, parched beasts.
Refresh and clean.
Discover this vital place
where earth and sky convene.