Friday, July 7, 2017

Editors' Panel: Nancy Paulsen, President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books

Nancy Paulsen is the President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers. The imprint publishes fifteen books a year and focuses on eye-opening, often funny picture books and middle grade fiction from diverse and distinct voices, especially stories that are inventive and emotionally satisfying. New York Times bestsellers she has edited include National Book Award and Newbery Honor Winner Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler. Other award-winning titles include Coretta Scott King Honor Winner Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis; Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman and Leaves by David Ezra Stein.

Rubin Pfeffer introduced the morning editors' panel as "the A-list of editors", made of of people talking about the future: books to be published in 2020; books for children not born yet. How do you plan relevant books about the present and history for kids of the future?

Hearing from Nancy Paulsen gave unique insight into the perspective of a president and publisher who has shaped her own distinct imprint: Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Random House.

When asked to describe how she recognizes an authentic voice, Nancy was inspired by Vanessa Brantley-Hughes' statement, "find your brand of happiness" and reflected:

  • Diverse voices are authentic, relevant to kids, and always will be. "Diverse voices are not a fad. I've been publishing diverse books for years."
  • "Your story matters. Great minds don't think alike." -- on striving to be unique and tapping into your own authenticity to create memorable experiences for readers like those in Brown Girl Dreaming.
  • "Writing comes from a miraculous and true place that requires you go out in the world; have a sense of wonder; be open to new experiences; keep reading" -- books and blogs, both.
Nancy suggests compelling non-fiction begins with finding the right story to bring to life. "The nuggets of [compelling non-fiction] are uncovered through research." -- that curiosity about history, she says, can reveal memorable stories worth bringing to life. I took this to mean the stories of the past that resonate with us today may be relevant forever.

In her approach to tone, she acknowledges the formative role of middle grade fiction on the minds of kids and wanting young readers to walk away feeling they got something positive out of the experience of reading. I loved this quote:

"Life can be a bitch, but there is still beauty in it."

Thank you to Nancy and all the editors of the editors' panel for their insight! Catch more of the conference highlights this year through blog posts tagged #LA17SCBWI or as-it-happens on Twitter.

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