Cover Reveal & Interview: Author Ellen Leventhal and Associate Publisher Peggy Schaefer
I’m excited to interview my writing friend and thoughtful author, Ellen Leventhal. Plus, I have the pleasure of welcoming Peggy Schaefer, Associate Publisher at WorthyKids (a Hachette Book Group imprint). Peggy acquired and edited Ellen’s newest picture book, A Flood of Kindness, which will be released on April 13, 2021.
For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win a signed copy of
A Flood of Kindness. To WIN this special prize, follow the directions
at the end of this post.
But first, I'm thrilled to reveal the cover of A Flood of Kindness,
which was tenderly illustrated by Blythe Russo.
Hi Ellen! Congratulations on your new picture book, A Flood of Kindness.
Please share how your manuscript found its way to Peggy Schaefer’s desk.
As far as submitting to WorthyKids, I entered A Flood of Kindness in the 2019 “Picture Book Party” contest. (hosted by Michelle Hauck and Mindy Alyse Weiss). The wonderful agent, Mary Cummings of Betsy Amster Literary, showed some interest and asked if I’d be willing to change a few minor things. Of course, I did, and she signed me for that book. Six months later, Mary sold my manuscript to Peggy. A Flood of Kindness will be released exactly two years from the day I signed with Mary. I can’t wait!
Hi Peggy! Why did Ellen’s manuscript appeal to you? Please explain the acquisition process at WorthyKids.
The first line of Ellen’s manuscript grabbed me. “The night the river jumped its banks, everything changed.” As I read the story, I found myself pulled in by Ellen’s spare, almost lyrical use of language. I also appreciated that, while viewed through a singular lens (Charlotte’s experience), the story speaks to the universal themes of loss and grief—something every child experiences in some way—and advocates for kindness and compassion in the face of these things.
In regard to the acquisitions process, agents submit proposals to one of our acquiring editors. If the editor is interested, the proposal is first presented to the editorial team. If the reception there is positive, it is then presented to the larger acquisitions team, which includes editorial, sales, marketing, and finance.
Ellen, after your Flood manuscript was accepted by WorthyKids, were further edits requested?
Yes, Peggy did request some changes, and of course, I was happy to do them! Each tweak made the book stronger, and I totally trusted Peggy at each step. It’s funny, as PB writers, we’re so consumed with keeping word count low, but Peggy asked me to add a little more context, and It does flow better. I love the collaborative nature of working with people I trust and who have the same goal and vision for a book.
Peggy, please take us through the editorial process at WorthyKids.
At WorthyKids, generally the acquiring editor manages the book from start to finish. That includes editing the manuscript, working with the art team in selecting an artist, weighing in on cover and interior design, even working with production to determine book specs and set schedules. The editor is really invested in the final product at every step.
In regard to the process specific to the manuscript, the editor works back and forth with the author. Depending on the level and types of changes, this may be a memo asking for global changes or rewrites, or it may be requests for smaller changes to specific lines within the manuscript. It’s important to get this accomplished early on, because the manuscript and art/design are so closely intertwined in picture books. It’s definitely a partnership between author and editor to get to the final manuscript.
Ellen, did you have any say on the illustrator or illustrations?
The art team at WorthyKids chose the illustrator, and I couldn’t be happier with their choice of Blythe Russo. She is wonderful. They did ask me some questions about authenticity since I had been through a flood experience, and I really appreciated that. I know that doesn’t always happen. I sent them a few photographs, they sent me the rough drawings, and I cannot wait for everyone to see the finished illustrations.
Peggy, what makes a manuscript the right fit for the WorthyKids list?
First and foremost, the book needs to fit within the genres, formats, and age groups we publish into. Once that hurdle is passed, then it is sometimes about filling a need in our list, but always about finding that manuscript that speaks to an editor. I get most excited when I see an author approach a subject or theme from a completely new and unexpected perspective.
Thanks very much, Ellen and Peggy!
Ellen Leventhal is an educator and writer in Houston, TX. Ellen is the co-author of Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets (Clear Fork Publishing/Spork 2017) the author of Lola Can’t Leap, (Clear Fork Publishing/Spork 2018) and the upcoming A Flood of Kindness, which releases in April 13, 2021 from WorthyKids. She has been published in magazines and newspapers, as well as in poetry and short story anthologies. Ellen loves school visits (in person or virtual)! When visiting schools, she coordinates with and supports literacy programs as well as diversity and anti-bullying programs. Ellen’s best days are when she can interact directly with the students and spread her love of literacy and kindness. To find out more about Ellen’s books and writing projects, please go to -www.Ellenleventhal.com
Peggy Schaefer is Associate Publisher at WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group, where she oversees the children’s publishing program. In addition to children’s books, her background includes working in travel, gift, and non-fiction publishing. But she’s always been drawn back to children’s, where she gets to work alongside talented authors and illustrators on a daily basis.
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