Friday, July 29, 2016

Editors' Panel: Three Books I Loved Publishing and Why - Sara Sargent & Reka Simonsen

Reka Simonsen, executive editor
at Atheneum Books for Young Readers

ENCHANTED AIR by Margarita Engle - This book shows how Engle became a writer and how she reconciled both sides of her cultural background to feel whole. "The writing is just gorgeous. It's moving. It makes me feel something. But it's very accessible and it's honest." Rena found Margarita in the slush pile years ago, and loved seeing how her writing developed.

"The best historical fiction feels relevant now." I think Jillian is really one of the best. She tells from both sides a story about colonialism and indigenous culture, and blends light and dark. The lightness in the book gives a way out of the darkness and she creates strong, well-drawn characters who are believable and understandable, even if you don't always like them. "Her writing just blows me away. She's another one of those people who's so smart you almost can't have a conversation with her without feeling a little overwhelmed."

GLASS SLIPPER GOLD SANDAL by Paul Fleischmann and Julie Paschkis
This has two things I love in one book: It's a multicultural approach to something familiar, and takes an incredible job with a story everyone knows, but also personalizes it for each culture. It shows readers there is more than one side of each story, and more than one way to tell a story. You can look at the world in many different ways. It also created amazing illustration opportunities.

Sara Sargent, executive editor at HarperCollins Children's Books

CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge - a mashup of Beauty and the Beast with classical mythology. The world is complex and Sara and Rosamund had different ideas about resolving these things. "Where we ended up was such the perfect marriage of my editorial guidance ... and staying true to what she really wanted to do with the book." 

She felt like it added something new to the canon of Beauty & the Beast retellings. 

"There are a lot of reasons people become YA editors... I really love romance." This book made Sara feel understood like no other book had. That's a key reason people read YA. "There was something about this book that I absolutely couldn't pass up." 

She had to pass on the book. She was a new editor in her first job, and she couldn't get the rest of the team behind it. Two years later, she was at a new job and asked the agent, John Cusack, to send the manuscript again. They loved it, and the book became a huge lead title on the Simon Pulse list. (The process was agony for the author.) 

"If you touch us in some way or inspire us, we don't forget about it, and we are the most die-hard champions of the things you write." 

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