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Sarah Jane Abbott
Associate Editor, Simon & Schuster (specific imprints: Beach Lane Books and Paula Wiseman Books)
Sarah Jane Abbott is an associate editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books at Simon & Schuster. She started her career at S&S as a publicity assistant before joining Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books as editorial assistant in 2014. She is also on the editorial board of Simon & Schuster’s OfftheShelf.com. She has had the pleasure of working on books such as The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha M. Clark and Blue & Bertie by Kristyna Litten. She loves quirky, character driven picture books with a lot of heart; non-fiction picture books, especially about little-known, strong women; and unique, literary middle grade novels.
Publications worth a special mention:
Editor of The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha M. Clark, SCBWI RA and winner of the Crystal Kite Award
Advice to writers/illustrators:
Read as many recent books in the category you write (picture books, middle grade, etc.) as you can, paying special attention to the books that have been most successful in the market. Don’t give up! It’s a tough industry and persistence is key.
[Sarah Jane critiques picture books (fiction and non-fiction), picture book dummies from illustrators, middle grade
novels (any genre)]
Nicole de las Heras
Senior Art Director, Penguin Random House/Random House Children’s Books
Nicole de las Heras is a Senior Art Director at Random House Children’s Books, where she oversees board books, picture books, and early chapter books. She loves pairing the right artist with the right manuscript and collaborating with artist and editor to bring books to life.
Over the course of her career, Nicole has designed and art directed many different types of books that include New York Times bestsellers, and her work has been recognized at the New York Book Show.
Some of the many books she is proud to have worked on are The Wonderful Things You Will Be, Snow & Rose, and The Imaginaries by Emily Winfield Martin; Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton; No More Naps, written by Chris Grabenstein and illustrated by Leo Espinosa; How to Solve a Problem, written by Ashima Shiraishi and illustrated by Yao Xiao; Polio Pioneer, written by Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Lisa Anchin; Attack of the Underwear Dragon, written by Scott Rothman and illustrated by Pete Oswald; Wild Symphony, written by Dan Brown and illustrated by Susan Batori; Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote, written by Kirsten Gillibrand and illustrated by Maira Kalman; Littles and How They Grow, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by AG Ford; and Wordy Birdy, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Dave Mottram.
Advice to illustrators:
Work to develop your own personal style/voice—your uniqueness will set you apart. Also, think quality over quantity for pieces in your portfolio.
[Nicole critiques portfolios]
I am an editor of picture books, graphic novels, and novels that center marginalized voices. As a Black woman, it is important for me to find stories that center around radical joy and the magic within all of us, instead of trauma. After working in marketing for two years, I found the opportunity to get on the switched to the editorial path, where I support expansive lists of picture books through YA in all formats, in addition to my acquisitions. I’m happiest in 78 degree weather near the people, plants, and animals that I love. And thanks to my degree in French, I can read in two (deux) languages! Find me on Twitter @jessharold
Publications worth an extra mention include LAND OF THE CRANES by Aida Salazar; KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES by Kacen Callender; LOVE AND THE ROCKING CHAIR by Leo & Diane Dillon
Advice to writers/illustrators:
Don’t put all your focus into one project; make sure your portfolio is wide-reaching and eclectic!
[Jess critiques PB, MG, YA, illustrator portfolio]
Associate Agent, Stimola Literary Studio
Allison has known what she wanted to be when she grew up—ever since the age of eight when she read in the back of a Baby-Sitters’ Club book that the author, Ann M. Martin, was an editor before she became a writer. She had no idea what the word “editor” meant—but she knew it had to be a person who read a lot, and she knew she wanted to work in publishing. She’s so lucky to say that she has only ever worked with books—a journey that has taken her from a library, to a bookstore, to a publishing house, and finally to the Studio—and books, particularly those for children, have been her lifelong passion. She believes there is simply nothing better in the world than putting the perfect book in a child’s hand. But there is something extraordinary in nurturing a book from the start, and seeing it find its place in the world. She has worked with many award-winning and bestselling authors, including Zack Smedley (Deposing Nathan), Karen McManus (One of Us is Lying), and Courtney Allison Moulton (Wardens of Eternity). To Allison, being an agent is a bit like a treasure hunt to find the books that speak to her most easily. She finds herself drawn to voices that speak for themselves, stories that only the author can tell, and books that reflect the lives of every child—especially the ones told least often.
Advice to writers/illustrators:
It sounds really cliché, but the best advice I could give an author or an illustrator, is to really love the project you are working on, to write what pleases you, and don’t worry about trying to follow trends, or pushing yourself to conform to a popular genre or style. If your work is genuine, it will stand out. Be the trend-setter, worry about what you do well, not what you think will sell well.
[Allison critiques PB, MG, YA, NF, Illustrator portfolios. Open to most genres—but please no high fantasy or paranormal]
Senior Editor, Versify imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Weslie Turner is a Senior Editor at the Versify imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She has edited books for all ages, including the Dactyl Hill Squad series by New York Times-bestselling author Daniel José Older, A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney, and the anthology Vampires Never Get Old, edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker. She loves identity-specific stories from creators from underrepresented backgrounds and especially enjoys original speculative fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.
Advice to writers/illustrators: Seek out and listen to
conversations about diversity, representation, and equity happening in the industry. Listen
to people asking for more / better representation, listen more than you talk, and then
when you think you have something to say, listen more.
[Weslie critiques PB, MG, YA, and graphic novels]