Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 2 weeks 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 gradefiction that is truly unique and special to middle grade fiction is thatit's very much about a young person's experience of exploring the world andfinding his or her or their place in that world. Yeah, yeah. Welcome to the friends and fictionwriter's Block podcast for new york times, bestselling authors, one rockstar librarian and endless stories joined mary Kay andrews, Kristin,Harmel, Kristy Woodson, harvey and Patti Callahan Henry. Along with Ronblock as novelists, we are four long time friends with 70 books between usand I am Ron block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews andinsider. Talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and arecurious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome toanother episode of friends and fiction podcast. Today our conversation is whatis middle grade fiction? I'm mary Alice Monroe and today I'm delighted tointroduce to you two important players in middle grade fiction as well as twopeople dear to my heart. My agent and my editor for my own middle gradefiction book, The Islanders Allison Heller is senior editor at AladdinBooks at Simon and Schuster Allison acquires picture books chapter books,middle grade but her heart is in contemporary middle grade Aliparticularly loves books with strong female protagonists and is activelylooking for nonfiction projects as well for her list. Faye Bender is a partnerat the book group Agency Faye represents fiction for readers aged 8to adult. Her authors have won numerous awards and honors have been finalistsfor the national book award and have been number one new york timesbestsellers, new york Times book review notable books and selected for books ofthe year. So pretty important players as I said in this business. So let'sbegin today's discussion by digging into what exactly is middle gradefiction. There's still a lot of confusion in the industry as well asamong parents who buy books and they're the gatekeepers. So we want them tounderstand 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 editorAlison, So hello for you buddy, thank you for having me on here. I think oneof the ways that I like to always view middle grade is exactly how a characterviews his or her or their world. So for example, one thing that I like to sayis if you walk into a restaurant, maybe a middle grade character will noticethey're really delicious sweets at the counter rather than maybe the cute boyor girl sitting at the counter. And I think just a few points of how Onelooks at that lens of the world is certainly one way that we categorizemiddle grade on a more pragmatic, I guess a specification scale. Usuallythe 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 atabout 13 and of course, you know the way that the themes that we're tryingto get across are certainly maybe more accessible. We don't go as matureperhaps in language or how things are actually viewed on the page. Not to saythat Tough things can't be exploring...

...what, you know, we're going to get intoa little bit later. But again, it's just how all of those are broughttogether on the page for our readers, there's up till 13 year old. How aboutyou? What would you like to add? What is middle grade fiction? Well, I wouldadd first, thank you for having me on here to do this with you both. I thinkthat one aspect of middle grade fiction that is truly unique and special tomiddle grade fiction is that it's very much about a young person's experienceof 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 inthat world. And it can be a little bit less interior. It can be a little bitless those deeply felt initial steps into the world, interesting. Theinterior versus my place in the general exterior world. That's interesting.Well then let's discuss the difference between writing for an adult audienceand younger readers and that common misconception that writing for kids iseasier, just a simpler story with simpler language, but obviously that'snot the case and I think middle grade readers are some of the most discerningout their fake and you start talking about that a little bit. Absolutely. Ithink 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'resimpler, there's less complex interaction, they're cleaner there, youknow, rated PG or below. But those are, that's not accurate at all. And I thinkthat as you said, middle grade readers are about the most discerning out thereand they, if there is a flaw or a loop hole or a gap in you know, context orlogic, they will find it, they will find those holes and they will pokethrough them and they will be very, very frustrating and disappointing tothem. And the other thing I think middle grade readers are so attuned toIs an author's voice and so the great middle grade books, like the Islandershave a voice in the narration feels like it's being told by a characterwho's 11 or 12 or 13. Um, and not by an author and I think when middle gradereaders feel that authority will presence, it really bothers them andthey have this sort of ear to, to hear that in a way that I think no otherreaders do. And what about you, what would you liketo add to that alley? Yeah, I mean, I think one of the Sopa and I'm sure allthree of us can agree, you know, whatever I hear like, oh, so you don'twork on like real books. It's a real book to me. You know, I got yes, thatis like what are you going to like, you know, move up to adult books andobviously no disrespect because obviously the adult world has someamazing 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. Maybesometimes if you're looking even at picture book to try to stay a lot withonly maybe 200 words, um, which I think is a real testament to someone's boardplay and ability to story tell, to be a storyteller. So I think themisconception that, you know, books for a younger reader can't be as impactfulis definitely a false statement and certainly is so blocks. I think we canall stand on proudly and say we disagree with the real book. Yeah, it'sa real book, a real book, Excuse me, I...

...have to say as someone who has writtenthem all. I've written picture books too. It is such another world and, andI really worked hard to try to not only study middle grade to dive into it, butto try and have an authentic voice and it took time to move from an older toneto that young boy. Right? Exactly. Exactly. That's, that's what I wastrying to say. I think there mary Alice, you have a lens, you view the world asmary Alice as an adult who's had a lot of experiences. But when you're writinga book like the Islanders you're writing from and through the lens of acharacter like Megan or levy, where are jake where you know, their 12 year oldkids who have a very different experience of the world and you have acompletely different way of synthesizing the stimulus around them.And I think there's a unique innocence and at the same time savvy and couragewith middle grade kids, they, like you said, they can sniff things out, youknow? But even when you're writing them and what they want to say, they arebrave with to a point where they sometimes don't understand all thedangers that are out there, right? And so they get into trouble. But on theother hand that um, that confidence is so beautiful to read and to write andto get it right. So, um, I'd like to challenge anybody who says that it'seasy to write, to go ahead and try and do it because it is, I have to say Igot let down, you know, and I'm back in writing another one and I have to saythat once you do it as an author with the Islanders and this and thereception, you are so grateful that you made it. You know, and especially whena 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 writingfor these kids, what excites you as an editor? Allie So when a middle book, amiddle grade book crosses your desk and you get a lot some are what turns youoff and what turns you on. Yeah, I mean, I feel like like anything art and theway the forms aren't so subjective, but I think for me, I really look at thevoice first if it's a character that I can really get stuck in with and youknow, that's why I think I love The Islanders so much is that you createdthree characters, you felt so authentic and so real and it's like I felt suchempathy for all three of them in very different ways. Um I think thatconnection, that immediate connection is something that really can sustainthrough the whole editing process and why I want to spend, you know, whatwill be years, multiple years with these characters and in their storiesand that for me is number one because I think, you know, everything else mostof the time you can edit or work through, you know, if it's a plot holeor issue or even some bringing out a couple of characterizations, that'scertainly something you can fix. But I think that immediate connection to thevoice, that's something that you can't really edit away. You know, I thinkthat's just something that comes through organically. Um and that'swhere I think for myself and I'm sure for fe as well for, you know, it's likethat's how we get excited about about our books. And you know, faye you yousee the manuscript before ali does so ali you're getting the ones that reallyrude. You see that. Thank you, tell us, because at your level you're seeing itall. So, again, uh, faye at your level when they first come in and people whothink they can write for kids or whatever, what do you see that isthere's your alarms go off where the...

...heart beats goes faster for me there. Imean, one of the things about your books, Mariel is both the adult and themiddle grade that really speak to me so clearly is your sense of place. I thinkthe the geographical, the setting, the way the sand feels, the way the whenthe breeze is the critters that are crawling around on the ground, that thefood that people are eating, it just everything about it is so tactile andso real. And I think that's something that comes through so clearly andimmediately uh really appeals to me. So I think there's some degree uh um 22control over the narrative that I can feel in a way in books that come acrossmy desk that I that I feel compelled to work on and represent. Um And then, youknow, in tandem with that, I think an ability to tell a story that feelsfresh and different and unique and you know, nobody's writing a story thatnobody's read before, right? I mean these have all and some someincarnation they've all been out there. Uh but there's a degree of freshnesswhere the you know, whether it's the emotional tureen covered or the theinteraction between the characters or the setting something that feels newwhen 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 ofeditorial work that needs to be done even before it gets to ali's death. Umyou know, it's there, it's there. And what are the alarms when you when yousee something you go, oh no, I think the alarm, the biggest alarm for mewith middle grade is truthfully, when authors who are who are typicallywriting for adults decide they want to write. I mean this goes back to what wejust talked about, but they decide they want to write for kids because theyhave Children, they have grandchildren, nieces, nephews or somebody in theirlives who inspires them to want to try this and they do it without enoughresearch, they do it without enough reading of, you know, what's out on themarket now. Books that are published now are wildly different than booksthat were published. You know, I'm 47 the books that I read as a middleschool kid are very different than the books that are published now for me. SoI think, you know, it just feels it feels pretty clear and transparent whenit's a writer who hasn't put in the time to really assess the landscape nowand think of how to tell the story in a way that makes it clear they trusttheir reader. Because I think adult writers for adults sometimes feel likethey have to um spell everything out and leave no stone unturned and makeevery point with a very fine pen, right? Thinking like, well, they're kids, howare they going to know the subject? How are they, how are they going to figureout what's unset? But I think part of what's so magical about middle gradebooks lies in what's unset? Yes. Oh, I think that's that's I'm gonna brighteron a pillow because that's trust that's so true. It's true for adults, but forkids so much is unsaid, How are you fine? You're not fine. Right? There'sso much more Well, that's this is a great segue. Let's talk for some of thelisteners out there will be hopefully wanting to write a book and they'recurious about what you all have to say. So, let's talk about the process, abook goes through from submission to...

...publication. So obviously we're gonnastart with fe on this one. Can you talk about that first step the agent authorprocess? What does someone do, who has a book that they're interested inselling? Yeah. And we can make this kind of hypothetical and about anauthor who's previously unpublished. So, you know, your situation Marian, youknow, our situation will be different. Um but you know, the first step if theavenue that the author wants to pursue its traditional publishing with thebigger publishers who are mostly in new york city um, is to find an agent andthere are lots of agents who are very different in, you know, what our tasteis, where expertise lies, what are, you know, philosophy is about what the jobentails. 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 areagents of big shiny agencies that, you know, are fancy their agents and likelittle boutique spaces that are clunky there. You know, there's just a wholerange and there's a ton of information out there about agents and interviewswith agents and profiles of agents and, you know, websites for the agencieswith client lists and um there's a great um It's a paid website calledPublishers Marketplace, which is relatively affordable, I think it's $25a button and it's incredibly valuable and useful because I think people canjoin just for a month or two and then probably cancel their memberships. Soit's a relatively minimal investment up front. But on that there's a tremendousamount of research that can be done into different agents which you knowwhat kinds of books they've done recently can search under middle gradeyounger young adult, you can search under non fiction, you can you know anyany category and kind of put together a list of agents. So Um 11 and findingthe right one and it really is it's a little bit like a marriage. I mean thereality we've you know you know my kids names and I know yours and dogs. Andthere's just there's a real intimacy to the relationship. So it's important tochoose for authors to choose wisely. Um And then I you know I do a ton ofeditorial work with authors on those rough cuts and try to help them getbefore you get to that step. They have to submit. They have to submit a queryto write. And then you decide whether or not you'll even entertain looking atthe manuscript because I'm sure thousands cross your desk. Yes that ishard and um it's a terrible system. I don't know what the fixes but it makesit very there's a real barrier to entry which is frustrating. There are somereally great things like um you know D. V. Pet, there are these things these umthese things that happen on twitter which I'm not on so I can't speak verymuch. But but where you you know authors canprovide a pitch for their book and agents and agents find right sort of goand look and read through and they're short pitches and agents are hungry forthere have been incredible voices that have come out of that. Yeah. Yeah justvery briefly to FAA. Like usually what they'll do is they'll go through causethere's usually hashtag specific hashtag so it's easy for both thewriters and agents to go through. I know if you mentioned devi Pit which isgreat. There's so many beautiful debuts that have come out of that pitchcontest. And now I've seen some specifically for graphic novelist. Somespecifically for like an illustrator day um certainly sci fi fantasy I'veseen Pit Mad. There is quite a bit out there that that's new for me. Yeah it'sand it's great because it levels the...

...playing field a little bit where agentsare there to look at. You know so going in you know that it's an agent who islooking for a new client, a new client and so it's a little bit easier maybeto make a connection that way than just sending cold queries which can be hardbecause there's no way of knowing effect. It's looking for new clients ornot then to continue on they you find someone who you're interested in, Theysubmit. And so you are now looking at this thinking what, who descended to oris 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 myinternal barometers for whether I might be a good agent for that particularauthor and book. As I'm reading, a couple of things happen, I often getsort of like the tingly palm feeling where like, you know, it's a realphysical manifestation of excitement. And so that happens. And um, editorsstart to pop into my head unbidden. I'm not sort of thinking to myself, whowould I send this to? They just kind of pop into my head, which is also a verygood 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 helpthat path things. Um that I could also do editorially before the book getssent 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 nextstep, which is a personal kind of simpatico, right, where you feel likewe can enter this professional marriage, we can be partners to each other, Wecan take care of each other, We can communicate honestly and openly. We cankind 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 onI do that editorial work and it can take, you know, it can be one roundthat's relatively light. If the book is in good shape it can be, you know, I'vedone as many as five or six rounds before sending something out. Um andthen I put together a submission list. I come up with editors like Allie andthat 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 personalrelationships. So if I'm sending something out and it's about sistersand I know oh this editor is really close with her sister and she'll she'sgonna she's gonna love this, those little things that make becauseresponses to reading to fiction in particular are entirely subjective. Andso any little Piece that can of the puzzle that can be kind of slotted intoplace helps and can lead to the positive reaction that we all want fromeditor. So then once I have a list of editors to submit to, and it'stypically, you know, anywhere between 12 and 15 editors simultaneously. Isend them, I call everybody and I pitch it and I share my excitement, myenthusiasm and trying to get everybody as excited as they can be and then sendit over, which is much easier in the modern day with female than it used tobe 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 wantto take over and then you get this much improved manuscript? I just, when Ifirst started, I remember we would get, I think it was Curtis from. Maybe theywould sound like a box. Yeah, yeah. Yes, yes, literally a box which is now, it'sjust email, which is fine. But I still remember those boxes of manuscripts. Soyeah, I feel like similar, similar to the face, you know, I think our lens ofhow we're looking at it is also...

...marketplace in terms of where can itfit? I think it also goes almost micro to macro for me. So it's, it'ssomething that I personally connect with first um, and then where does itfit on the overall imprint list and then also in the overall widermarketplace. So for example, this is a very rough example, but you know latelywe have been getting a lot of graphic novel submissions, which is great. Ithink Raphael's are wonderful. But because of that obviously we want to becareful in how we balance both my list, the Aladdin list and then what's comingout in the marketplace because you don't want to also over saturate, youwant to give each book. It's a moment to breathe. So I think for me, inaddition to his face and she gets the tingling feelings and the fingers, Iget 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 excitedabout it. Would I be able to make sure we can pitch it and differentiatedenough from all the other kind of books like this coming out when we would liketo publish it. Um, and then just looking at the overall list that wehave within the imprint, like, you know, if we have, which we don't, which isgreat. 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 knowthat 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 asyou're certainly have been submissions that I've really liked and loved, butknow 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, itwouldn't serve the author of book ultimately. So it's hard, it's hard tosay no, I think because we all love books and authors and I think we're allchampions 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 Ithink we all wish we could just control certain parts of it. So I think at thegate for both, they and as if we want to we have to give it the best possibleshot immediately because there's so many other factors that are unknown. Umthat's how we kind of try to come at least on the editorial side to adecision on whether or not to take on a book for the list and once you makethat decision, I do love this book and everyone is going to take it then, eventhough it might have been edited with agent now it's your turn, so you haveyour view. So there's a lot of editing and then your relationship with yourwith your author. Yeah, mary as you know, you and I have gone back andforth quite a bit, even though I know you have done a couple of roundspreviously, both fe and then the previous editor on the books. Fiona, Iknow we still had a bunch of back and forth to really polish in china and Ithink that's the part that I really do love and enjoy like getting in andthat's another thing that I think about when I'm trying to acquire is do I do Ilove 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 manytimes and you know when I know it's no like I love reading every draft of yourbook. It's like oh that's great. Like that's when, you know that's the bookfor you and you know what's done. Um but yes, you know after I acquire it, Ithink 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 mybook, 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 andshine and make sure really come out a bit more maybe. But at the end of theday my suggestions to an author are always just that because if there's aroad map in a better way that you can get to the solutions. I'm always forthat. So I think once we, once I...

...acquire and we dig in, I'd like to gothrough a couple of rounds and really make sure that any of the previous workfoundation that you've done really just comes up to the top. I think we alwayslike to use the house analogy of like we all know when they come to our deskand 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 wantship lap in there, it's all there. So you know, that's, that's our job toreally get it. That's a better analogy. I always use the body like we have aclose it a little less, but you know, it does work. It does make me thinkthat when you're putting together the house or the body, whatever part ofmiddle grade and I'm just, I don't know if it's even in young adult is theartwork 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 Ijust say so just right. But let's, let's talk about the art when, howimportant is it in middle grade is it even in young adult and let's startthere. I'll follow up with other questions later. But let's talk aboutart in middle grade books. Yeah, I mean, I think for asthma Allison for, forIslanders, we just thought it was natural because jake has his journaland you know, he takes his cues from that and he's, you know, kind ofconnecting with his dad in that way. So it's special in a lot of levels, whichis why I think jen jennifer brookings, art brings so much to it, not just thecover 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 gradethat 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, whichis heavily illustrated. We have things like Islanders where you'll have whatwe call more spots are or were not necessarily showing the full ofillustrations because at that age, I think art can also be more of acompliment to maybe more emerging readers or reluctant readers where thathelps kind of guide them in their reading experience. Um, so I think asyou get a little older, not that not everyone can appreciate her, butcertainly the age, I think also plays into it what kind of target audienceand what kind of message that might sell to a buyer to the reader whenyou're actually going to market. I think we see a lot more, you know, as Imentioned, like graphic novels coming in, which is different kind ofillustration process, very different as we've seen more of that. Um, but inmiddle 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 fullyillustrative are for me is more picture book, chapter book. Maybe sometimes ifyou have a on the cusp of chapter in early middle grade, there will be someheavier, 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 andemerging reader, it really can help break up text or just really complementand help help people visualize kind of weather reading and bring them to thatplace. Um, and kind of and again in the case of your book and with jake justseeing what he's really thinking in his mind like bringing the interior to theexterior page. I think just to add to that, I think that was a book like theIslanders that's so rooted in a place. A fair number of its readers won't haveany real familiarity with it does the Willis the spot aren't really goes sucha long way in bringing that to life in a way that I think is so it's just sowonderful. So in addition to sort of seeing what's in Jake's mind, um, Ithink it gives readers a real window in to a place that is wild and wonderfuland 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 Ithink is really important is that middle grade champions really toughsubjects. 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 racialdiversity, 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 bigtopics that are covered in middle grade, especially what's emerging today andmaybe even name a couple books that you think are good examples. I mean, Idon't know if this is I'm in the right company to say this, but I had, when Ifirst started working on books for young adult readers and middle gradereaders, I had this great lunch meeting with um, sadly now the late David galewho was Simon and Schuster and he was so lovely and kind and generous andwilling to kind of teach me. And uh, we had this very funny lunch where I askedhim that question where I said, what's off the table, what, you know, whattopics are, are too heavy or too dark for these categories. And he said, youknow, other than bestiality and necrophilia. It's all fine. I that'spretty broad, very David, right. Larry David. I points well taken. I reallythink that they're I mean, there's very little that middle school readers areunable to process that. I think they're exposed to so much in their day to daylives. I think they are aware of, you know, the world on fire around us. AndI think any fiction that doesn't explore that to a certain degree is hasa level of dishonesty. Um and I think readers of in those ages and thosecategories which are obviously very different. Young adult is different.And what's going to happen in a young adult novel is going to be verydifferent than what happened on the page in middle grade. But I think thatthat really most all topics are on the table. And I think that when treatedwith integrity and grace and care, authors can really kind of go wherethey need to go with a particular story and with the experiences of thecharacters 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 doinga librarian preview a few years ago and one of the librarians mentioned thatshe felt like middle school is like the new high school in terms of where kidswere, how young they were, you know, not even experiencing things, butreally not opening up and being able to talk about things that maybe in thepast 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 muchmore open about talking about. Um feel like they're more accepted by thegatekeepers more than they were maybe in like seven, you know, just it feelslike we've come a little bit further along in that way and insane. And Ithink 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 likethese kids are certainly dealing with a lot, it's just how they deal with itmay be that we have to do it a little bit differently, but I've certainlyedited books where parents are dealing with drug addiction, a kid is dealingwith, you know, a brother who has depression and has attempted toattempted suicide, kids who are, you know, even dealing with kind offriendship makeup or breakup, which...

...really at that age can feel like in a ya equivalent of a romantic partnership breakup. So I think there's a lot ofthings that are being overturned in that middle grade world where wecertainly shouldn't be scared to talk about it and as his face that as longas they're dealt with with integrity and grace and in a very authentic waywhere it doesn't feel like we're giving kids like the handbook of like here'show you're not going to do X. Y. Z. Um you know I think those messages andthose themes have been really I've seen really embraced and really can sparkedso many I think important conversations as the author to I have to say that thekey for me when I read books and also what I'm sensitive to when I write themis that even though these kids are aware and there brave, there's also anelement of unsure nous and fear of the unknown and I think being sensitive toits wonder for the wonderful things and a little hesitancy when they're goinginto dark territory and this is all new for them. So I think it's not that theycan't face it, it's how they approach it. And as the author you have to besensitive to, they're not going to be smart and aware, they're going to bemore tender footed and maybe tender is the right word there. Alright before weclose I'm curious why kids tell me what got you involved in Children'sliterature 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 originallyactually want to go into adult publishing. I started, I had appliedfor the Associates program that Simon and Schuster which is a rotationalprogram where you can kind of go into different departments to see where youmight want to land and publishing and when I went in there, there are, youknow, I had said like my preference was to be an adult publishing and the HRperson 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. Sosure, yes, let's go for Children and honesty and it's so funny becauseobviously growing up I had somebody like beloved books and but I just Idon't know if maybe I played into the whole awful stereotype that I loathenow of, you know, adult publishing feel shiny and exciting. And so I landed inChildren and I'm so happy that I landed there because I feel like again withall respect, because I think adult books can also change last. But Ireally do feel like the right book with the right kid can really change a kid'slife and their trajectory. And I think when the going gets tough because ourbusiness is both a beauty and a piece. I think in many ways that's what keepsme going is knowing that these books truly can have such an impact. I mean Iget 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 Iactually saw myself in a book and I didn't feel like I was the only onegoing 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 onthis call are truly changing lives as kind of grand as that sounds. I reallydo believe in that. And that's why I love working in Children's publishingso much. Oh, that's beautiful. I had a heart moment there. I know that wasthat's a good answer. How about you say, well you do kids and adults, but what Ido, I do, I work in both. I love both. I find that I can very easily channelthe yeah, you know, 17 year old, 15 year old, 12 year old, 10 year old meand I can remember what I like to read then and I can remember, you know, maryAlice what you were saying earlier, the kind of confidence and open heartednessand optimism that comes with being younger and I think there's somethingso special about that that cannot be...

...replicated as an adult or for adults ina way and I find too that there's a wonderful connection between reader andauthor on the Children's side that doesn't happen outside, which is partlyI 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 anylevel to do a deeper dive and find the author social media and send him or heror them a note or you know, ask for further information about the book. Butnow I think kids really do that and they send, you know, I'll happy toemails for authors I represent that are like, hey, I have a book report due onTuesday 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 havethat connection both to the books they read and the authors who write them andit's a joy to be a part of that. I have to say for the Islanders to I've beenreceiving a number of letters. I didn't know you wanted the letters, you willbe getting the letters from people who say they think they are and they'reeither 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 ofground. 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 andFaye Bender from the book group and today we talked about what is middlegrade 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 thebooks by every Friends and fiction writer's Block podcast. Guest, past andpresent in the Friends and fiction bookshop dot org. Shop. All sales placethere helped to fund Friends in fiction. And a portion of each and every salegoes straight into the pockets of indie booksellers nationwide. Since itsinception, bookshop dot org has raised more than 16 million for indiebookstores, shops, small shop local from the convenience of your screenwith bookshop dot org and tell them Friends and fiction sent you. Thank youfor tuning in to the Friends and fiction Writer's Block podcast. Pleasebe sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform, tunein every friday for another episode. And you can also join us every week onfacebook or Youtube where our live Friends and fiction Show airs at sevenp. M. Eastern Standard time, We're so glad you're here.

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