Friday, August 1, 2014

Editors' Panel: Mary Lee Donovan & Julie Strauss-Gabel

Mary Lee Donovan
Mary Lee Donovan is editorial director at Candlewick Press, where she's worked for 23 wonderful years, following a 7-year stint at Houghton Mifflin as well as time as a bookseller at The Children's Bookshop when she was getting her MA in Children's Literature from Simmons College in Boston.

Julie Strauss-Gabel
Her titles include the Newbery Award-winning GOOD MASTERS, SWEET LADIES by Laura Amy Schlitz, Megan McDonald's Judy Moody and Stink series, and the Caldecott honor book JOURNEY by Aaron Becker. They publish everything from picture books up, and have a relationship with Walker Books in the UK.

Julie Strauss-Gabel is the vice president and publisher of Dutton Children's Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. She publishes about 9 or 10 middle grade and young adult titles each year. She just acquired her fourth memoir and is looking for those, as well. Before coming to Dutton in 2002, she worked at Hyperon Books for Children and Clarion Books. Her authors include Ally Condie, Adam Gitdwitz, John Green, Stephanie Perkins, Lauren Myracle, John Grisham, Andrew Smith, and more.

The topic of the editors' panel was titled "3+3: Three Things Your Book Should Include and Three Things to Avoid." Lin Oliver moderated, and questions in bold are hers.

What's on good thing to see in a manuscript?

Mary Lee Donovan:
"I remember hearing voice. What do they mean by that? Voice is something you bring to your manuscript automatically. You want to make sure you are writing as you. Don't try to imitate, or echo another writer or style. If you are writing authentically, you are writing in your voice."

When you get something fresh or exciting, it's like meeting a new person who enchants or astonishes you, she said.  

She recommends writers take their time when it comes to deciding which editors to send a book to. The Internet has a lot of information on editors and their lists that are very useful.

Julie Strauss-Gabel: "Voice is the No. 1 thing I have written down. That you have heard that across the whole table is an extraordinarily significant piece of information. I'm also very attentive to fit, for my imprint and for myself as an editor. I can look at a manuscript and very quickly know if it's good and if it's a good fit for me."

She is looking for something that she can fall in love with and champion for many, many years. She recommends writers read editors' lists, not looking at just the surface things. It's important to remember that you can't please all the people all the time, which is why you shouldn't write to a general audience.

What grieves you when a manuscript comes in?

Julie Strauss-Gabel: "If I don't get engaged, if I don't see the voice, if it's very pedestrian, I'm out."

Mary Lee Donovan: "Don't impart wisdom." 


  1. I've just written my first children's book, my brother is going to illustrate it. How do I get it published? do I need more than one book in the works before someone will look at me?

  2. Hi Janderson - generally, authors who want to be traditionally published don't have their work illustrated prior to submission. It's usually the editor who chooses the illustrator for a picture book. Check out the resources at - especially their invaluable "The Book" for a better sense of how the industry works. Enjoy the adventure ahead!