Saturday, February 10, 2024

Panel: The Outlook for Children's Publishing 2024 - Alvina Ling & Susan Ven Metre

Alvina Ling is VP and Editor-in-Chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers where she has worked since 1999. She edits children's books for all ages, including Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Troublemaker by John Cho, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. She co-hosts the podcast Book Friends Forever with author Grace Lin. Alvina lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two cats.

Alvina is celebrating her 25th anniversary at Little, Brown. She works on picture books, middle grade, and YA. She has a soft place in her heart for middle grade. Books on the LB list tend to straddle both literary and commercial. 

TeMika :What are you reading?

Alvina: LUNAR NEW YEAR LOVE STORY by Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham 
She just finished reading BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert

TeMika: What makes you fall in love to a manuscript? 

Alvina loves books that remind her of the books she loved as a child, books she loves right now, and books she wishes she had as a child. Being drawn in by voice is important, along with feeling like she wants to keep reading even when she's busy. 

TeMika: What is your editorial style? 

Alvina asks a lot of questions. She's not much of a line editor. She loves world building and asking a lot of questions about world building. She says it's collaborative, and more like a conversation. 

TeMika: Are there any things you consider when working with an author/illustrator rather than an author only?

If Alvina can picture what the book would look like from the text, that's important for a writer only. For an author illustrator it's a question of: Do I like the art style? 

TeMika: How do you find illustrators? 

Alvina echoes what the others have said about the importance of social media and websites. Little, Brown also has something they call picture book breakfast where the picture book editors and designers get together and share illustrators they've discovered

TeMika: Trends in picture books?
Alvina has a wish to shift back to more storytelling. 


Susan Van Metre is the Executive Editorial Director of Walker Books, a new division of Candlewick Press. Previously she was at Abrams, where she founded the Amulet imprint and edited EL DEAFO by Cece Bell, the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger, the Internet Girls series by Lauren Myracle, THEY SAY BLUE by Jillian Tamaki, and the Questioneers series by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Pete Fornatale, and their daughter and the ghost of their Lab mix.

Susan works on mostly fiction and graphic novels. She's also in love with those books for kids aged 8 to 12. Susan is CeCe Bell's editor, who just had a wonderful conversation with Sarah Baker on the stage. 

TeMika: What are you reading? 

Susan: Ever Since by Alena Bruzas

TeMika: What makes you fall in love to a manuscript? 

Susan: The recognition that there are high stakes for kids in the ordinary events of their lives, and how big those feel to a child's life. 

TeMika: Are there any things you consider when working with an author/illustrator rather than an author only. 

For Susan, it depends on the type of book. Susan does get excited when she has an author/illustrator for a graphic novel. But, with picture books there's something wonderful about the partnership between author and illustrator, however the timeline can often be longer. 

TeMika: How do you find illustrators? 

Instagram is important way to find illustrators, as well as having a good website. 

On a final note: As the the panel wraps up, all the panelist see SCBWI as an asset to writers and illustrators in terms of learning and growth, to have a better understanding of the business, and for the all-important community. 

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