Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 7 months ago

WB S1E24: Mary Alice Monroe with Alyson Heller and Faye Bender

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK: Mary Alice Monroe talks with publishing elite Alyson Heller and Faye Bender about writing for children.

I think that one aspect of middle grade fiction that is truly unique and special to middle grade fiction is that it's very much about a young person's experience of exploring the world and finding his or her or their place in that world. Yeah, yeah. Welcome to the friends and fiction writer's Block podcast for new york times, bestselling authors, one rock star librarian and endless stories joined mary Kay andrews, Kristin, Harmel, Kristy Woodson, harvey and Patti Callahan Henry. Along with Ron block as novelists, we are four long time friends with 70 books between us and I am Ron block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and insider. Talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to another episode of friends and fiction podcast. Today our conversation is what is middle grade fiction? I'm mary Alice Monroe and today I'm delighted to introduce to you two important players in middle grade fiction as well as two people dear to my heart. My agent and my editor for my own middle grade fiction book, The Islanders Allison Heller is senior editor at Aladdin Books at Simon and Schuster Allison acquires picture books chapter books, middle grade but her heart is in contemporary middle grade Ali particularly loves books with strong female protagonists and is actively looking for nonfiction projects as well for her list. Faye Bender is a partner at the book group Agency Faye represents fiction for readers aged 8 to adult. Her authors have won numerous awards and honors have been finalists for the national book award and have been number one new york times bestsellers, new york Times book review notable books and selected for books of the year. So pretty important players as I said in this business. So let's begin today's discussion by digging into what exactly is middle grade fiction. There's still a lot of confusion in the industry as well as among parents who buy books and they're the gatekeepers. So we want them to understand fully what is middle grade fiction? What is a middle grade book? And how do they differ from young adult books? Let's start with the editor Alison, So hello for you buddy, thank you for having me on here. I think one of the ways that I like to always view middle grade is exactly how a character views his or her or their world. So for example, one thing that I like to say is if you walk into a restaurant, maybe a middle grade character will notice they're really delicious sweets at the counter rather than maybe the cute boy or girl sitting at the counter. And I think just a few points of how One looks at that lens of the world is certainly one way that we categorize middle grade on a more pragmatic, I guess a specification scale. Usually the characters are either 8, 12, Usually that cut off point is about 13. I have seen a few sneaky 14s though, I will say. Um but usually we cap it at about 13 and of course, you know the way that the themes that we're trying to get across are certainly maybe more accessible. We don't go as mature perhaps in language or how things are actually viewed on the page. Not to say that Tough things can't be exploring...

...what, you know, we're going to get into a little bit later. But again, it's just how all of those are brought together on the page for our readers, there's up till 13 year old. How about you? What would you like to add? What is middle grade fiction? Well, I would add first, thank you for having me on here to do this with you both. I think that one aspect of middle grade fiction that is truly unique and special to middle grade fiction is that it's very much about a young person's experience of exploring the world and finding his or her or their place in that world. And I think in young adult, it's more about interacting with other people in that world. And it can be a little bit less interior. It can be a little bit less those deeply felt initial steps into the world, interesting. The interior versus my place in the general exterior world. That's interesting. Well then let's discuss the difference between writing for an adult audience and younger readers and that common misconception that writing for kids is easier, just a simpler story with simpler language, but obviously that's not the case and I think middle grade readers are some of the most discerning out their fake and you start talking about that a little bit. Absolutely. I think one of the great misconceptions is exactly what you just said, which is, you know, middle grade or even young adult books are shorter, they're simpler, there's less complex interaction, they're cleaner there, you know, rated PG or below. But those are, that's not accurate at all. And I think that as you said, middle grade readers are about the most discerning out there and they, if there is a flaw or a loop hole or a gap in you know, context or logic, they will find it, they will find those holes and they will poke through them and they will be very, very frustrating and disappointing to them. And the other thing I think middle grade readers are so attuned to Is an author's voice and so the great middle grade books, like the Islanders have a voice in the narration feels like it's being told by a character who's 11 or 12 or 13. Um, and not by an author and I think when middle grade readers feel that authority will presence, it really bothers them and they have this sort of ear to, to hear that in a way that I think no other readers do. And what about you, what would you like to add to that alley? Yeah, I mean, I think one of the Sopa and I'm sure all three of us can agree, you know, whatever I hear like, oh, so you don't work on like real books. It's a real book to me. You know, I got yes, that is like what are you going to like, you know, move up to adult books and obviously no disrespect because obviously the adult world has some amazing literature including all of yours mary Alice. But I think there is, it's hard in a different way because I think we're trying to say a lot. Maybe sometimes if you're looking even at picture book to try to stay a lot with only maybe 200 words, um, which I think is a real testament to someone's board play and ability to story tell, to be a storyteller. So I think the misconception that, you know, books for a younger reader can't be as impactful is definitely a false statement and certainly is so blocks. I think we can all stand on proudly and say we disagree with the real book. Yeah, it's a real book, a real book, Excuse me, I...

...have to say as someone who has written them all. I've written picture books too. It is such another world and, and I really worked hard to try to not only study middle grade to dive into it, but to try and have an authentic voice and it took time to move from an older tone to that young boy. Right? Exactly. Exactly. That's, that's what I was trying to say. I think there mary Alice, you have a lens, you view the world as mary Alice as an adult who's had a lot of experiences. But when you're writing a book like the Islanders you're writing from and through the lens of a character like Megan or levy, where are jake where you know, their 12 year old kids who have a very different experience of the world and you have a completely different way of synthesizing the stimulus around them. And I think there's a unique innocence and at the same time savvy and courage with middle grade kids, they, like you said, they can sniff things out, you know? But even when you're writing them and what they want to say, they are brave with to a point where they sometimes don't understand all the dangers that are out there, right? And so they get into trouble. But on the other hand that um, that confidence is so beautiful to read and to write and to get it right. So, um, I'd like to challenge anybody who says that it's easy to write, to go ahead and try and do it because it is, I have to say I got let down, you know, and I'm back in writing another one and I have to say that once you do it as an author with the Islanders and this and the reception, you are so grateful that you made it. You know, and especially when a kid says he likes the book. So she likes the book. That's high Cotton. That's a lot of praise because kids are honest. Alright, so speaking of writing for these kids, what excites you as an editor? Allie So when a middle book, a middle grade book crosses your desk and you get a lot some are what turns you off and what turns you on. Yeah, I mean, I feel like like anything art and the way the forms aren't so subjective, but I think for me, I really look at the voice first if it's a character that I can really get stuck in with and you know, that's why I think I love The Islanders so much is that you created three characters, you felt so authentic and so real and it's like I felt such empathy for all three of them in very different ways. Um I think that connection, that immediate connection is something that really can sustain through the whole editing process and why I want to spend, you know, what will be years, multiple years with these characters and in their stories and that for me is number one because I think, you know, everything else most of the time you can edit or work through, you know, if it's a plot hole or issue or even some bringing out a couple of characterizations, that's certainly something you can fix. But I think that immediate connection to the voice, that's something that you can't really edit away. You know, I think that's just something that comes through organically. Um and that's where I think for myself and I'm sure for fe as well for, you know, it's like that's how we get excited about about our books. And you know, faye you you see the manuscript before ali does so ali you're getting the ones that really rude. You see that. Thank you, tell us, because at your level you're seeing it all. So, again, uh, faye at your level when they first come in and people who think they can write for kids or whatever, what do you see that is there's your alarms go off where the...

...heart beats goes faster for me there. I mean, one of the things about your books, Mariel is both the adult and the middle grade that really speak to me so clearly is your sense of place. I think the the geographical, the setting, the way the sand feels, the way the when the breeze is the critters that are crawling around on the ground, that the food that people are eating, it just everything about it is so tactile and so real. And I think that's something that comes through so clearly and immediately uh really appeals to me. So I think there's some degree uh um 22 control over the narrative that I can feel in a way in books that come across my desk that I that I feel compelled to work on and represent. Um And then, you know, in tandem with that, I think an ability to tell a story that feels fresh and different and unique and you know, nobody's writing a story that nobody's read before, right? I mean these have all and some some incarnation they've all been out there. Uh but there's a degree of freshness where the you know, whether it's the emotional tureen covered or the the interaction between the characters or the setting something that feels new when transformative. So for me that's something that's very deep in the D. N. A. Of a book. And even though it can be a rough cut and there can be a lot of editorial work that needs to be done even before it gets to ali's death. Um you know, it's there, it's there. And what are the alarms when you when you see something you go, oh no, I think the alarm, the biggest alarm for me with middle grade is truthfully, when authors who are who are typically writing for adults decide they want to write. I mean this goes back to what we just talked about, but they decide they want to write for kids because they have Children, they have grandchildren, nieces, nephews or somebody in their lives who inspires them to want to try this and they do it without enough research, they do it without enough reading of, you know, what's out on the market now. Books that are published now are wildly different than books that were published. You know, I'm 47 the books that I read as a middle school kid are very different than the books that are published now for me. So I think, you know, it just feels it feels pretty clear and transparent when it's a writer who hasn't put in the time to really assess the landscape now and think of how to tell the story in a way that makes it clear they trust their reader. Because I think adult writers for adults sometimes feel like they have to um spell everything out and leave no stone unturned and make every point with a very fine pen, right? Thinking like, well, they're kids, how are they going to know the subject? How are they, how are they going to figure out what's unset? But I think part of what's so magical about middle grade books lies in what's unset? Yes. Oh, I think that's that's I'm gonna brighter on a pillow because that's trust that's so true. It's true for adults, but for kids so much is unsaid, How are you fine? You're not fine. Right? There's so much more Well, that's this is a great segue. Let's talk for some of the listeners out there will be hopefully wanting to write a book and they're curious about what you all have to say. So, let's talk about the process, a book goes through from submission to...

...publication. So obviously we're gonna start with fe on this one. Can you talk about that first step the agent author process? What does someone do, who has a book that they're interested in selling? Yeah. And we can make this kind of hypothetical and about an author who's previously unpublished. So, you know, your situation Marian, you know, our situation will be different. Um but you know, the first step if the avenue that the author wants to pursue its traditional publishing with the bigger publishers who are mostly in new york city um, is to find an agent and there are lots of agents who are very different in, you know, what our taste is, where expertise lies, what are, you know, philosophy is about what the job entails. There are agents who just really are around to make the deals. There are agents who are around for every step in the process. There are agents of big shiny agencies that, you know, are fancy their agents and like little boutique spaces that are clunky there. You know, there's just a whole range and there's a ton of information out there about agents and interviews with agents and profiles of agents and, you know, websites for the agencies with client lists and um there's a great um It's a paid website called Publishers Marketplace, which is relatively affordable, I think it's $25 a button and it's incredibly valuable and useful because I think people can join just for a month or two and then probably cancel their memberships. So it's a relatively minimal investment up front. But on that there's a tremendous amount of research that can be done into different agents which you know what kinds of books they've done recently can search under middle grade younger young adult, you can search under non fiction, you can you know any any category and kind of put together a list of agents. So Um 11 and finding the right one and it really is it's a little bit like a marriage. I mean the reality we've you know you know my kids names and I know yours and dogs. And there's just there's a real intimacy to the relationship. So it's important to choose for authors to choose wisely. Um And then I you know I do a ton of editorial work with authors on those rough cuts and try to help them get before you get to that step. They have to submit. They have to submit a query to write. And then you decide whether or not you'll even entertain looking at the manuscript because I'm sure thousands cross your desk. Yes that is hard and um it's a terrible system. I don't know what the fixes but it makes it very there's a real barrier to entry which is frustrating. There are some really great things like um you know D. V. Pet, there are these things these um these things that happen on twitter which I'm not on so I can't speak very much. But but where you you know authors can provide a pitch for their book and agents and agents find right sort of go and look and read through and they're short pitches and agents are hungry for there have been incredible voices that have come out of that. Yeah. Yeah just very briefly to FAA. Like usually what they'll do is they'll go through cause there's usually hashtag specific hashtag so it's easy for both the writers and agents to go through. I know if you mentioned devi Pit which is great. There's so many beautiful debuts that have come out of that pitch contest. And now I've seen some specifically for graphic novelist. Some specifically for like an illustrator day um certainly sci fi fantasy I've seen Pit Mad. There is quite a bit out there that that's new for me. Yeah it's and it's great because it levels the...

...playing field a little bit where agents are there to look at. You know so going in you know that it's an agent who is looking for a new client, a new client and so it's a little bit easier maybe to make a connection that way than just sending cold queries which can be hard because there's no way of knowing effect. It's looking for new clients or not then to continue on they you find someone who you're interested in, They submit. And so you are now looking at this thinking what, who descended to or is it ready? Like do you have a editors in mind who might like this book? Well, that's always it's interesting that you say that that's always one of my internal barometers for whether I might be a good agent for that particular author and book. As I'm reading, a couple of things happen, I often get sort of like the tingly palm feeling where like, you know, it's a real physical manifestation of excitement. And so that happens. And um, editors start to pop into my head unbidden. I'm not sort of thinking to myself, who would I send this to? They just kind of pop into my head, which is also a very good indicator and then feeling like I really have a vision for how it could, you know, make its way and the marketplace things, I could do to help that path things. Um that I could also do editorially before the book gets sent out on submission. And, you know, if all of those things align. Um then, you know, I connect with the author and then they're also has to be that next step, which is a personal kind of simpatico, right, where you feel like we can enter this professional marriage, we can be partners to each other, We can take care of each other, We can communicate honestly and openly. We can kind of give each other what we need for this to be productive relationship. So all of those steps happen. And then, you know, if I end up taking author on I do that editorial work and it can take, you know, it can be one round that's relatively light. If the book is in good shape it can be, you know, I've done as many as five or six rounds before sending something out. Um and then I put together a submission list. I come up with editors like Allie and that is based on one of the things about publishing that so antiquated, but also so lovely is that it's so much a person of business and personal relationships. So if I'm sending something out and it's about sisters and I know oh this editor is really close with her sister and she'll she's gonna she's gonna love this, those little things that make because responses to reading to fiction in particular are entirely subjective. And so any little Piece that can of the puzzle that can be kind of slotted into place helps and can lead to the positive reaction that we all want from editor. So then once I have a list of editors to submit to, and it's typically, you know, anywhere between 12 and 15 editors simultaneously. I send them, I call everybody and I pitch it and I share my excitement, my enthusiasm and trying to get everybody as excited as they can be and then send it over, which is much easier in the modern day with female than it used to be when I started. And we had to send a photo, photo copies made by Messenger, everyone. Yes. Um, and I send it to editors like Ali and Ali, do you want to take over and then you get this much improved manuscript? I just, when I first started, I remember we would get, I think it was Curtis from. Maybe they would sound like a box. Yeah, yeah. Yes, yes, literally a box which is now, it's just email, which is fine. But I still remember those boxes of manuscripts. So yeah, I feel like similar, similar to the face, you know, I think our lens of how we're looking at it is also...

...marketplace in terms of where can it fit? I think it also goes almost micro to macro for me. So it's, it's something that I personally connect with first um, and then where does it fit on the overall imprint list and then also in the overall wider marketplace. So for example, this is a very rough example, but you know lately we have been getting a lot of graphic novel submissions, which is great. I think Raphael's are wonderful. But because of that obviously we want to be careful in how we balance both my list, the Aladdin list and then what's coming out in the marketplace because you don't want to also over saturate, you want to give each book. It's a moment to breathe. So I think for me, in addition to his face and she gets the tingling feelings and the fingers, I get that feeling in the stomach, I'm like, do I just get that little, like, I feel like this is gonna be really good, you know, like instinct of it? Um, and then it goes to more of the quote unquote business end of things. Okay, But what could I can I actually get my sales and marketing team really excited about it. Would I be able to make sure we can pitch it and differentiated enough from all the other kind of books like this coming out when we would like to publish it. Um, and then just looking at the overall list that we have within the imprint, like, you know, if we have, which we don't, which is great. Um, if we have a lot of books about turtles coming out in one summer, um, you know, if I get in like the eighth turtle book, like, I don't know that maybe that's the best fit. Even if I love the voice. I think it's always, you always want to serve the book and the author first, even as much as you're certainly have been submissions that I've really liked and loved, but know that for whatever reason, maybe I'm not the best fit or maybe, you know, just from whatever, you know, whatever we have coming out on the client list, it might not be the best fit at the time and that wouldn't eventually, it wouldn't serve the author of book ultimately. So it's hard, it's hard to say no, I think because we all love books and authors and I think we're all champions of our books that we want to give them the best possible success. And so much of publishing, it's not something we can control, even though I think we all wish we could just control certain parts of it. So I think at the gate for both, they and as if we want to we have to give it the best possible shot immediately because there's so many other factors that are unknown. Um that's how we kind of try to come at least on the editorial side to a decision on whether or not to take on a book for the list and once you make that decision, I do love this book and everyone is going to take it then, even though it might have been edited with agent now it's your turn, so you have your view. So there's a lot of editing and then your relationship with your with your author. Yeah, mary as you know, you and I have gone back and forth quite a bit, even though I know you have done a couple of rounds previously, both fe and then the previous editor on the books. Fiona, I know we still had a bunch of back and forth to really polish in china and I think that's the part that I really do love and enjoy like getting in and that's another thing that I think about when I'm trying to acquire is do I do I love it enough to want to spend like potentially 34 multiple drafts, multiple iterations of it. Well I get sick of it after reading it so many times and you know when I know it's no like I love reading every draft of your book. It's like oh that's great. Like that's when, you know that's the book for you and you know what's done. Um but yes, you know after I acquire it, I think I like to talk to the author about what's the vision of it. You know, my job is not, we're collaborative partners, you know, because it's not my book, Ultimately my job is to make the book the best that it can be for sure. And of course we're going to have things that I'd like to polish and shine and make sure really come out a bit more maybe. But at the end of the day my suggestions to an author are always just that because if there's a road map in a better way that you can get to the solutions. I'm always for that. So I think once we, once I...

...acquire and we dig in, I'd like to go through a couple of rounds and really make sure that any of the previous work foundation that you've done really just comes up to the top. I think we always like to use the house analogy of like we all know when they come to our desk and when we acquire there's already a really strong foundation and then it's, you know, making sure the details are right. Although you know, if you want ship lap in there, it's all there. So you know, that's, that's our job to really get it. That's a better analogy. I always use the body like we have a close it a little less, but you know, it does work. It does make me think that when you're putting together the house or the body, whatever part of middle grade and I'm just, I don't know if it's even in young adult is the artwork and I know, I think that's more important. Some are middle grade books, have a lot of art like kid, we got more art and by the way, nailed it. Can I just say so just right. But let's, let's talk about the art when, how important is it in middle grade is it even in young adult and let's start there. I'll follow up with other questions later. But let's talk about art in middle grade books. Yeah, I mean, I think for asthma Allison for, for Islanders, we just thought it was natural because jake has his journal and you know, he takes his cues from that and he's, you know, kind of connecting with his dad in that way. So it's special in a lot of levels, which is why I think jen jennifer brookings, art brings so much to it, not just the cover of the jacket are, but all the sketches that she did on the interior. And I think we definitely go case by case. I think most of the middle grade that I tend to require is not really illustrated is more straight prose. Certainly I've seen, like you said, there was like a dork, diaries, diary, wimpy kid model where it is heavily illustrated, not a graphic novel, which is heavily illustrated. We have things like Islanders where you'll have what we call more spots are or were not necessarily showing the full of illustrations because at that age, I think art can also be more of a compliment to maybe more emerging readers or reluctant readers where that helps kind of guide them in their reading experience. Um, so I think as you get a little older, not that not everyone can appreciate her, but certainly the age, I think also plays into it what kind of target audience and what kind of message that might sell to a buyer to the reader when you're actually going to market. I think we see a lot more, you know, as I mentioned, like graphic novels coming in, which is different kind of illustration process, very different as we've seen more of that. Um, but in middle grade, I feel like I tend to really just see the straight prose. Sometimes we have, like I said like the spot illustrations, but the more fully illustrative are for me is more picture book, chapter book. Maybe sometimes if you have a on the cusp of chapter in early middle grade, there will be some heavier, more like spot and full page illustrations. But I certainly love, you know, as well. I love seeing that. I think it again for reluctant and emerging reader, it really can help break up text or just really complement and help help people visualize kind of weather reading and bring them to that place. Um, and kind of and again in the case of your book and with jake just seeing what he's really thinking in his mind like bringing the interior to the exterior page. I think just to add to that, I think that was a book like the Islanders that's so rooted in a place. A fair number of its readers won't have any real familiarity with it does the Willis the spot aren't really goes such a long way in bringing that to life in a way that I think is so it's just so wonderful. So in addition to sort of seeing what's in Jake's mind, um, I think it gives readers a real window in to a place that is wild and wonderful and very remote for so many. So it is a case by case basis is what I'm hearing. That makes sense. Um, moving on to...

...another area of middle grade that I think is really important is that middle grade champions really tough subjects. It goes back to our original comment about it's not just a sweet, easier story and in the case of the Islanders, you know, we had racial diversity, we have illness, depression, financial insecurity, and shame. So, um, who wants to jump in first? What can you talk about? Um, some of the big topics that are covered in middle grade, especially what's emerging today and maybe even name a couple books that you think are good examples. I mean, I don't know if this is I'm in the right company to say this, but I had, when I first started working on books for young adult readers and middle grade readers, I had this great lunch meeting with um, sadly now the late David gale who was Simon and Schuster and he was so lovely and kind and generous and willing to kind of teach me. And uh, we had this very funny lunch where I asked him that question where I said, what's off the table, what, you know, what topics are, are too heavy or too dark for these categories. And he said, you know, other than bestiality and necrophilia. It's all fine. I that's pretty broad, very David, right. Larry David. I points well taken. I really think that they're I mean, there's very little that middle school readers are unable to process that. I think they're exposed to so much in their day to day lives. I think they are aware of, you know, the world on fire around us. And I think any fiction that doesn't explore that to a certain degree is has a level of dishonesty. Um and I think readers of in those ages and those categories which are obviously very different. Young adult is different. And what's going to happen in a young adult novel is going to be very different than what happened on the page in middle grade. But I think that that really most all topics are on the table. And I think that when treated with integrity and grace and care, authors can really kind of go where they need to go with a particular story and with the experiences of the characters in that story are having. Yeah. And do you find that true as well? And yeah, I just I mean, some of the day, I feel like, you know, I was doing a librarian preview a few years ago and one of the librarians mentioned that she felt like middle school is like the new high school in terms of where kids were, how young they were, you know, not even experiencing things, but really not opening up and being able to talk about things that maybe in the past were a bit tougher. You know, I do remember, you know, even within mike, we're still at S and S for some topics that I feel like now that we are much more open about talking about. Um feel like they're more accepted by the gatekeepers more than they were maybe in like seven, you know, just it feels like we've come a little bit further along in that way and insane. And I think that Kids are not stupid, they are. It's funny, it's like, you know, tough stuff doesn't just start at the magical age of 14 or 15. It's like these kids are certainly dealing with a lot, it's just how they deal with it may be that we have to do it a little bit differently, but I've certainly edited books where parents are dealing with drug addiction, a kid is dealing with, you know, a brother who has depression and has attempted to attempted suicide, kids who are, you know, even dealing with kind of friendship makeup or breakup, which...

...really at that age can feel like in a y a equivalent of a romantic partnership breakup. So I think there's a lot of things that are being overturned in that middle grade world where we certainly shouldn't be scared to talk about it and as his face that as long as they're dealt with with integrity and grace and in a very authentic way where it doesn't feel like we're giving kids like the handbook of like here's how you're not going to do X. Y. Z. Um you know I think those messages and those themes have been really I've seen really embraced and really can sparked so many I think important conversations as the author to I have to say that the key for me when I read books and also what I'm sensitive to when I write them is that even though these kids are aware and there brave, there's also an element of unsure nous and fear of the unknown and I think being sensitive to its wonder for the wonderful things and a little hesitancy when they're going into dark territory and this is all new for them. So I think it's not that they can't face it, it's how they approach it. And as the author you have to be sensitive to, they're not going to be smart and aware, they're going to be more tender footed and maybe tender is the right word there. Alright before we close I'm curious why kids tell me what got you involved in Children's literature in the first place. Let's start olly let's Olly and then chamber. So I have to it's kind of a little shameful secret of like I originally actually want to go into adult publishing. I started, I had applied for the Associates program that Simon and Schuster which is a rotational program where you can kind of go into different departments to see where you might want to land and publishing and when I went in there, there are, you know, I had said like my preference was to be an adult publishing and the HR person like actually, you know, we don't have anything right now at all. But would you be open to Children? And I was like, I just would like a job. So sure, yes, let's go for Children and honesty and it's so funny because obviously growing up I had somebody like beloved books and but I just I don't know if maybe I played into the whole awful stereotype that I loathe now of, you know, adult publishing feel shiny and exciting. And so I landed in Children and I'm so happy that I landed there because I feel like again with all respect, because I think adult books can also change last. But I really do feel like the right book with the right kid can really change a kid's life and their trajectory. And I think when the going gets tough because our business is both a beauty and a piece. I think in many ways that's what keeps me going is knowing that these books truly can have such an impact. I mean I get through my beautiful authors, they send notes from readers that say how, you know, all this book made me feel less alone or for the first time I actually saw myself in a book and I didn't feel like I was the only one going through X. Y. Z truly for me like make such an impact and like, oh yeah, it's something where again, like I think we are truly, all of us here on this call are truly changing lives as kind of grand as that sounds. I really do believe in that. And that's why I love working in Children's publishing so much. Oh, that's beautiful. I had a heart moment there. I know that was that's a good answer. How about you say, well you do kids and adults, but what I do, I do, I work in both. I love both. I find that I can very easily channel the yeah, you know, 17 year old, 15 year old, 12 year old, 10 year old me and I can remember what I like to read then and I can remember, you know, mary Alice what you were saying earlier, the kind of confidence and open heartedness and optimism that comes with being younger and I think there's something so special about that that cannot be...

...replicated as an adult or for adults in a way and I find too that there's a wonderful connection between reader and author on the Children's side that doesn't happen outside, which is partly I mean that might change as as you know, kids now get older, but there's a real, you know, if I read a book that I love, it doesn't occur to me really at any level to do a deeper dive and find the author social media and send him or her or them a note or you know, ask for further information about the book. But now I think kids really do that and they send, you know, I'll happy to emails for authors I represent that are like, hey, I have a book report due on Tuesday and I have these 17 questions that I'd really like answers too. They're just wonderful. I mean it's just a wonderful thing that kids have that connection both to the books they read and the authors who write them and it's a joy to be a part of that. I have to say for the Islanders to I've been receiving a number of letters. I didn't know you wanted the letters, you will be getting the letters from people who say they think they are and they're either loving or they're jake convinced I told there's wonderful and that is, it's like it's a freshness. Well, I am so delighted. We covered a lot of ground. He could talk for another hour and maybe we'll have to do this again. But I want to thank Allison Heller from Aladdin Books at Simon and Schuster and Faye Bender from the book group and today we talked about what is middle grade fiction and why is it so wonderful. Thank you both so much. Thank you for having us bye father. Remember you can always find all the books by every Friends and fiction writer's Block podcast. Guest, past and present in the Friends and fiction bookshop dot org. Shop. All sales place there helped to fund Friends in fiction. And a portion of each and every sale goes straight into the pockets of indie booksellers nationwide. Since its inception, bookshop dot org has raised more than 16 million for indie bookstores, shops, small shop local from the convenience of your screen with bookshop dot org and tell them Friends and fiction sent you. Thank you for tuning in to the Friends and fiction Writer's Block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform, tune in every friday for another episode. And you can also join us every week on facebook or Youtube where our live Friends and fiction Show airs at seven p. M. Eastern Standard time, We're so glad you're here.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (194)