Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Meet Alix Reid! [Part 2]

Alix Reid, the new editorial director of Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab, is back on the blog to answer more questions, this time talking about her favorite books, hobbies, and what she'd be if she wasn't an editor. (In case you missed it, you can find the first round of Q&A here.)

1. What were your favorite books as a kid? What are some favorite books you’ve read recently?

I was (and still am) an avid re-reader and some of the books that I read over and over again as a kid included Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L’Engle, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Homecoming by Cynthia Voight, and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aitken. And, of course, the Anne of Green Gables and Little House books.

I have so many recent favorites! Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Clariel by Garth Nix, The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (I came late to this amazing series), The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal, and Ricky Yancy’s Monstrumologist series. My favorite adult book right now is Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. As I’ve grown older, as might be clear from this list, I’ve been gravitating toward science fiction and fantasy.

2. Say you’re trapped on a desert island—what 5 books would you want with you?

I’ve never read The Inferno, though I’ve started it about fifteen times, so this would be a great opportunity to finally settle down with it. Jane Eyre would definitely be on my list; I read it about once a year. Maybe the Complete Oxford English Dictionary; that probably sounds pretentious, but in graduate school I studied Anglo-Saxon and Italian, as well as Chaucer, and I love seeing how languages evolve over time and cross over into each other. I think I’d have to put Cynthia Voight’s Homecoming on the list, because it is one of the most beautiful and satisfying books of all time. For my last book, I might pick The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, but I’m not entirely sure about that.

3. Tell us about Chicago. What draws you to the city?

I never thought I’d leave Manhattan, where I grew up, but when my husband got a job in Chicago he couldn’t turn down, and we were in the process of adopting our wonderful daughter, it was an opportunity we had to take. I love the friendliness of the city—strangers actually say hello to each other, which took some getting used to. The lake is beautiful, and the sculptures and architecture are breathtaking. Although we live in Oak Park now (home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and replete with original Wright houses), we love going into the city to visit the museums and try out the many new restaurants.

4. If you weren’t an editor, you’d be a…

When I went to graduate school, I was planning to become a professor of English literature. I did teach some graduate level courses in creative writing and the history of publishing, but found I really didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I’d expected. However, I’ve been working one-on-one with second graders in my daughter’s class, helping them write stories and edit them, so I could see tutoring children as an alternative career. But I love being an editor, so it’s hard to imagine doing anything else!

5. Speaking of things other than editing, what are your hobbies?

Spending time with my daughter and husband, of course. I also have a big, energetic golden retriever who loves long walks. I enjoy knitting scarves, although I’m running out of people to give them to, and I’ve recently started doing barre classes. And I like to obsess about the Game of Thrones TV series.

Hoss, Alix's golden retriever: "He's a goofball."

Thanks, Alix!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meet Alix Reid! [Part 1]

We'd like to introduce the new Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab editorial director, Alix Reid! She officially started last week and was kind enough to agree to answer some questions for us. We're posting part 1 (about her editing experience and background) today; part two (about her favorite books, hobbies, and life in Chicago) will go up next week.

1.      First, give us a bio!

From the moment I could read, I always had my head in a book, and imagined I would be the next E. B. White or E. L. Konigsburg. But after earning an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Williams College, I started working as a children’s book editor at Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) and realized this was my true calling. I began my career as an editorial assistant, and during fourteen years at Harper worked my way up to become editorial director and vice president. I’ve also earned graduate degrees from Michigan and Harvard, and worked as a freelance children’s book editor while raising my daughter in Chicago.

2.      How did you get into editing?

After I graduated, I opened up the newspaper to look for a job in editing. There were dozens of jobs but my eye immediately gravitated to the editorial assistant job at Harper. Through my late teens and twenties, my secret passion was to read middle grade and young adult novels, and I couldn’t believe there was actually a job where I could edit these books! I thought I bombed the interview—I was so nervous I had to take the typing test twice—but I must have done something right, since I was offered the job the next day. I started working first for the legendary Marilyn Kriney, and then for Kate Morgan Jackson, who has been the editor-in-chief for over a decade.

3.      Name some notable books that you’ve edited.

My very first acquisition was Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I loved the novel from the first, and remember running into Kate’s office saying we had to acquire the book right away. It went on to win the Newbery Honor and remains one of my favorite books of all time. I also edited Louise Rennison’s hilarious Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging series about the irrepressible Georgia Nicolson; the first book in the series won a Michael Printz Honor Award. That said, there are so many books I worked on that hold a special place in my heart: Julianna Baggott’s The Anybodies (written under the name N. E. Bode), Cynthia Rylant’s God Went to Beauty School, and A. M. Jenkins’s Out of Order and Damage. What I love about all the books I’ve edited is not only that they’re wonderfully written, but that they feel fresh and different, and have something important to say to their audience.

4.      What have been some of your favorite projects?

During my tenure at HarperCollins, I took on the role of director of foreign acquisitions. This meant I got to read the wonderful books being published in the UK (and elsewhere, but mostly the UK) and introduce them to a US audience. It was so exciting to meet my UK counterparts and I’m particularly proud of having acquired the Molly Moon series by Georgia Byng and The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver.

5.      What else would you like Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab readers to know?

One of the things I’m so excited about in joining the Carolrhoda team is their commitment to publishing only the best books. They keep their list small and no book is considered “mid-list.” Each author is nurtured not only by his or her editor, but also by the design team, the publicity and marketing team, our foreign rights director—essentially, the whole company helps publish each book. In addition, Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab have embraced working with new authors and publishing books that break boundaries—no topic is off limits. This philosophy speaks deeply to me, and I look forward to growing the list and staying true to its mission.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hits the hard stuff; sees stars

My audience-versus-subject preposition obsession is well documented. “About not for 4eva,” and whatnot. So can you see why The Bunker Diary reviews fill me with such perverse delight?

“The Bunker Diary: why wish this book on a child?

“The winner of this year’s Carnegie Medal for an outstanding book for children is a vile and dangerous story. Kevin Brooks’s book contains heroin addiction, attempted rape, torture and murder[…]

“As Brooks revealed in his acceptance speech, he fought for 10 years to get this novel into print, and was repeatedly told that it wouldn’t work for children unless he changed the plot to allow for the possibility of hope. He won the day and, as it stands, his novel is a uniquely sickening read.”

The Telegraph

“Brooks’ latest is not an easy novel, but it’s one that begs for rereading to suss the intricacies of its construction of plot, character development and insight into the human condition.

“Not for everyone, this heady novel is worthy of study alongside existentialist works of the 20th century.”

—starred, Kirkus

It's not a title for everyone: some may be unsettled by the harsh realities the protagonist faces, while others will be fascinated by the simple complexity of Brooks's prose and truly effective storytelling. A unique choice that will get teens talking."

—starred, School Library Journal

"When this latest book from controversy-stirrer Brooks won the 2014 Carnegie Medal in the UK, up piped a familiar chorus of damnation from the frequently scandalized. It was too bleak, too dark, not for kids. The naysayers almost got it right: it is, rather,for everyone, playing just as well as can't-stop-reading entertainment as it does an allegorical passage into darkness.”

—starred, Booklist

Delightful. Just delightful. Keep ‘em coming. (Gratuitous Merle GIF for Carrie. Mr. Kraus of Booklist is welcome over for a drink anytime.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A chain of events

So I got this email a couple years ago.


And I followed Tess’s advice, and I bought the  manuscript, and Kate worked like crazy on it.

And for a while I thought this guy:

Was as imaginary as this guy:

Kate straightened me out eventually, and she still liked me enough that she told me about this stuff:

Which tastes way better than it photographs.

Eventually, we published this last spring:

And it went pretty well (⋆⋆⋆⋆, etc.).

And then today this happened.

Good year, eh?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Down from their towers

First, Margaret Willey has a tremendously interesting and very honest essay on L’Engle’s Camilla and the long history of YA girls at the Horn Book website right now, and you should read it. It’s a window into why she is a joy to edit and publish.

I remember a long-ago conversation with my sister while we were still young women, and before I had written a novel of adolescence. We swore that we would not forget, if and when we had our own daughters, the power of first love. And I did not so much forget it as I was uneasy writing about it — the mother in me perhaps. I did not want to encourage my readers to enter that place of obsession and treachery and, yes, sometimes ecstasy, without having a clear way out. And I did not know yet, as a writer and an adult woman, how to faithfully re-create the misery and confusion of my own early sexual experiences. For these reasons, I was very well-suited for the phase of young adult literature that I came up in, an era of sensitive and articulate girl narrators who wanted romlengle camilla Girls in Towersantic connection without the complications of having sexual intercourse. In love with love, yes. Sexually curious, perhaps. But sexually active, never.

The whole thing is here.

Now, though, for extra credit, I’d like to poke and prod at the girls-in-towers premise. I don’t think every 1950s teenage girl was up in a tower, and I do think the tower itself is a mark of certain kind of privilege and class. And I think those 1950s tower/penthouse dwellers looked out their windows, not only at the familiar and tidy streets of their own neighborhoods but at the alleys of the distant, unknown neighborhoods as well.  Here, for example, young Humbert and Annabel look down from their tower enviously in Lolita:

All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add, because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other's soul and flesh; but there we were, unable even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do so.

Sexual desire, opportunity, and experience are functions not only of biology and age but of class and race and many other other social factors. I understands Margaret’s fondness for a thread one finds less and less in today’s YA tapestry:

I could comfortably celebrate the innocence of these trysts. I could create girls, and also boys, who were longing for a partner, something beyond friendship, certainly, but also with the understanding that they were not ready for sex and did not need it.

But at the same time, I would argue the preeminence of that thread of innocence in the YA of ages past was also a flaw in that it became a constraining orthodoxy. If the YA of today is capturing that truth of adolescence more fully than the YA of times past because that orthodoxy is no more, then something good is happening—just so long as adolescent sexual precociousness and skill don’t take their turn in crowding out other experiences. 

In so many words, I want to see it all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Let us now praise school visitors

G. Neri visits Krasnoufimsk, Russia

I get to work with many authors and illustrators who have school-visit schedules that would make your head spin. John Coy, Nancy Carlson, and Greg Neri to name only three Nancy Carlson takes input from students on what should be included in her doodle of her popular character Harriet. Harriet is based loosely on many of the experiences in Carlson’s own life. Carlson showed step by step the process she uses for drawing her favorite character.rack up more miles and passport stamps than I care to contemplate. I consider myself a good traveler and something of a road warrior where car trips are concerned, but I’ve seen school visit schedules that would make me cut up my driver’s license and let my passport expire. And as taxing as this work is, I think this travel is also one of the most important things authors and illustrators do today.

Don’t take my word for it though. John Coy has written with characteristic eloquence on the matter.

“Like any school visit, once I’ve agreed to come, teachers and librarians start preparing students. Because of those efforts, I never cancel and am reluctant to postpone. That’s true with winter driving in Minnesota, and it’s true with unforeseen situations at international schools.”

 Read his whole piece here.

Author John Coy speaks to West Carroll eighth-graders Thursday. Oct. 7, 2010, at West Carroll Middle School.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


The trilogy, completed.


The brilliant Laura Rinne designed each of these jackets, and she rose to the occasion each time John delivered a new manuscript. The Conformity will hit NetGalley soon, if you can’t stand the waiting.